We are an anxious nation…in fact, we are an anxious world. There is no question that uncertainty seems to have increased dramatically in the last few years. We worry about terrorism. We worry about war. We worry about losing our jobs. We worry about the dangers confronting our children. And on and on and on.
This worry is understandable, given the state of the world at the present time, but there is no question in my mind that, with the right tools…
All of us can rise above any situation that life hands us.
All of us can live a fulfilling life in the middle of the turmoil.
All of us can find a sense of peace and purpose.
In my newest book, Embracing Uncertainty, I provide the tools that I have found most effective in helping us see the world in a more life-affirming and powerful way. Here is a taste of a few of the many tools I include in the book.
1. “Un-set" your heart. Un-setting your heart means letting go of your picture of how you want it all to be. It means letting go of trying to control things over which you have no control. One of the prime causes of our suffering is our wanting things to be different than they are. Yes, we all want a peaceful world instead of a world filled with weapons of mass destruction. Yes, we all want health instead of illness. Yes, we all want healthy, happy children instead of children who break our hearts. But sometimes life doesn't hand us what we want. And when we un-set our hearts from our needing it all to be a certain way, we can breathe a sigh of relief and open the door to a more powerful way of living.
2. Create a "wondering" life instead of a "hoping" life. It helps us un-set our hearts when we replace the words "I hope" with the words "I wonder." Let me demonstrate. Instead of "I hope the war ends quickly," make it "I wonder if the war will end quickly." Instead of "I hope the stock market goes up," make it "I wonder if the stock market will go up." Instead of "I hope I keep my job," make it "I wonder if I'll keep my job." Notice the relief in this simple shift. Even with difficult situations in our lives, substituting “I wonder” for “I hope” keeps our hopes from being dashed and opens up the possibility of our learning and growing from whatever happens.
3. Choose the path of trust. When you fully understand that you have little control of the external world, you then have two choices: you can choose to see yourself as a "poor-me" victim at the mercy of circumstances or you can choose to develop the trust that, no matter what happens in your life or in the world, you will have the inner strength to create something good from it all. Hopefully you will choose the latter!
So when the "what-if's" are driving you mad, simply cut them off by saying over and over again, "Whatever happens, I'll handle it!" You'll feel a sense of confidence wash over you. "What if I lose my job? I'll handle it." "What if my children have difficult times? I'll handle it. Whatever happens in my life, I'll handle it!"
5. Collect "heroes" who have learned to "handle it." Heroes to me are people who have created much good in this world as a result of horrible experiences in their lives. A few heroes come to mind: Christopher Reeve, who created so much good as a result of his paralyzing accident; Viktor Frankl, who created so much good out of his experience in a concentration camp; Ram Dass, who created so much good as a result of his debilitating stroke; Marc Klaas, who created so much good after the murder of his daughter. As you collect heroes, you understand this important thought, "If they can learn and grow from their experiences, I certainly can learn and grow from mine!" As you collect your heroes, your trust grows and your worry about the future gets smaller and smaller.
6. Focus on the learning that can come from any situation in your life. Yes, you can learn and find strength from anything that happens to you, just as the heroes mentioned above have done. I certainly learned from and found strength as a result of my own experiences with cancer and divorce. If you see ALL situations in life as a way of learning and growing, it helps you let go of your need for things to be a certain way.
War............a way of learning
Peace..........a way of learning
Illness..........a way of learning
Health..........a way of learning
Poverty........a way of learning
Wealth.........a way of learning
Depression.....a way of learning
Joy.............a way of learning
So despite what is happening in your life and in the world, constantly remind yourself "I can learn from this." When you can see the opportunities inherent in all situations, good or bad, it truly helps you embrace all the uncertainty in your life.
So when things seem very difficult in your life or in the world, just keep repeating this reassuring statement until it becomes an automatic part of your thinking. This always helps me to have trust, not only in myself, but also the Grand Design.
8. Focus on the blessings. I have learned from my heroes that, no matter how horrible life may seem on the outside, it is so important to focus on the beauty. As we go about our daily lives, we take so many wonderful things for granted. It's now time to notice. Strangely, this is hard to do, especially when we have our eyes focused on the bad. It sounds ridiculous, but we actually have to train ourselves to notice all the beauty in our lives. And train ourselves, we must…because focusing on the blessings is an absolute necessity for diffusing our fears about the future.
A suggestion: As you go about your day, stop for a moment and notice when something wonderful happens. Then say to yourself while still in the glory of the moment, "I have had this." This is the acknowledgment that "No matter what happens tomorrow, I have had this today." It is in the noticing of the little things that you truly get the feeling of a life well-lived … that wonderful hot shower, that kiss from a loved one, the fact that your car started, that great dinner you are eating, the warm rays of the sun, a candy bar, a wonderful television show ….
9. Get involved. Positive action has an amazing effect on our psyche. As we take action, we begin to feel more powerful and our fear about the future decreases considerably. Keep repeating to yourself: "My life has meaning and I will do whatever I can to make this a better world."
Then ask yourself, "What am I called to do?" Make a list of what comes to mind, and begin taking action. When you remember that your life has meaning, it makes it so much easier to push through the fear and live a life that matters. And your self-esteem grows and grows. Just as importantly, you will have found the secret of creating a joyous and fulfilling life.
As you make these tools a part of your daily life, you experience a whole new sense of purpose and power emerging from within, and you look forward to the future with an attitude of great possibility -- for yourself and for your world.