Uncertainty or opportunity?
There has been a lot going on these past few weeks. While there may have been many warning signs of a pandemic, it certainly seemed to have dropped onto us causing quick changes with schools and businesses closing, people working from home, practicing physical distancing, sometimes completely quarantined. Seemingly overnight, everything has changed from the way we work to the way we grocery shop. While it sometimes seems like there is absolutely nothing going on, it also feels like everything is happening all at once. It’s a lot to process and there is a lot to deal with.
Much like everyone else I'm sure, my life and emotions have felt like a roller coaster. I’ve flip-flopped between feeling the impending doom of losing everything to the excitement of wanting to know how the new world will be improved.
Flip-flopped between the fear of uncertainty and the inspiration of opportunity.
And then I had a thought.
Perhaps it will feel better if instead of having to fear uncertainty OR feel good about opportunity, maybe I can just embrace both.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years coping with grief and one of the things I did was come to terms with the “negative” emotions. Importantly, I learned to view all emotions as neutral – neither positive nor negative. Emotions are context dependent.
Is fear always a bad thing? No. Fear has saved my life. It has also alerted me to what is outside of my comfort zone and given me to opportunity to decide whether or not I want to pursue certain opportunities. In a negative sense, it sometimes prevents me from doing things I want. Jealousy has made me hurt people when I didn’t know how to process the emotion properly and it has shown me what I want for my life and motivated me to make positive changes. It depends on the context and how the emotions are processed. Anger shows me what is important to me and helps me identify situations where my values have been compromised.
Is happiness always a good thing? No. I was not genuinely happy when I was grieving the loss of my partner. I tried to force it and it prevented me from feeling my true emotions. In those days, I was truly grateful in those moments when I could embrace true happiness, when it was a good thing. Again, context dependent.
If instead of labeling uncertainty as “bad” if it is just considered a thing, then being open to opportunity in a time of uncertainty doesn’t seem paradoxical. It’s not a battle of good vs. evil. It just is.
I 100% acknowledge that there is a lot of unfortunate events going on in the world right now. There are parents separated from their children, people are very ill, many are becoming increasingly unstable financial.
And I acknowledge that there are some good opportunities. Some people have recognized the value of people and things in their lives. Material things they can live without, friends that they miss and would never want to live without. We’ve creatively found new ways of being, new ways to approach old problems, and new ways to connect.
I have to admit, one of my biggest fears is that we are so uncomfortable in this uncertainty that we will run back to the old normal, though I think even now, we may already be too much changed that it might not even be possible.
I hope that out of this uncertainty comes new opportunities for innovation. Greater respect for the people we interact with daily. I hope that out of this uncertainty comes a new humble approach to our way of being on this earth. A greater respect for nature. I hope that out of this uncertainty comes new opportunities for understanding. Of ourselves, our mortality, and the importance of living authentically so that we can express and share our unique gifts with this world to make positive impacts.
I know that hope only goes so far in this world. Chances are if you have read this far, you are at least contemplating the importance of opportunity, so I’d like to share with you a little tool that may be helpful if you have some tough decisions to make. A friend of mine shared this with me and it is apparently from (or adapted from) the book Retreat and Grow Rich by Darla LaDoux. I use it in my own reflective practice and have been using it a lot over the past little bit.
It is essentially a pros and cons list, but you also separate your pros and cons by those based in fear and those based in love. Let’s keep it as a nice light example and imagine I’m deciding whether or not to hire a coach for my pole competition. My list may look something like this:
Since this is an example about pole dancing, which lights me up, of course most of the arguments either way come from a place of love. If this example was currently about something a little more uncertain, such as finances, I would likely see a lot more of my arguments in the “fear” section.
It is important to keep in mind that this is a helpful decision matrix to bring you AWARENESS of how you are thinking and making your decision. You always need to make the decision based on your own values and your own intuition and it may be a shared decision with your partner or family, if applicable. As I had mentioned above, fear is not always bad, so you should not automatically disregard any arguments that come from a place of fear. Fear can be a very important warning sign. The matrix is simply a way for you to organize your thoughts so you can act from a place of clarity and understanding. You may only have one argument that comes from a place of fear and it may be valuable enough for you to make that decision.
This tool helps me to see how uncertainty and opportunity can go hand in hand. It helps me to make rational, values-based decisions when my emotions are running wild. We will never know if we’ve made the “right” choices. But if we are thoughtful in our processes, we can make sure we listen to fear without letting it take full control. We can choose to embrace uncertainty and be open to opportunities. We can make decisions that "make the most" out of this pandemic.