5 Tips for Giving Thanks for Uncertainty in Life

When you sit around the dinner table with family and friends this Thanksgiving, what will you say you're grateful for? A new job? Safe and delicious food? An upcoming Christmas vacation?

Whatever you say, your comments will probably have one trait in common: they are are all known blessings, whether events that have already happened or plans scrawled in your calendar. This Thanksgiving, though, why not give thanks for something different

casey the college celiac

Keep reading to hear this college celiac's top five tips for giving thanks for the uncertainties in life.

1. Take time to reflect on what you don't know.

When people hear the phrase "holiday season," they may first imagine gifts under the tree, family around the dinner table and festive carols in the air. However, holidays are also known for being busy - so busy, in fact, that we can forget to reflect on the blessings that aren't staring us right in the face. 

I've experienced this "busy blindness" for myself plenty of times this semester. Since August 28th, my life has been packed with non-stop classes, homework, two jobs, eleven grad school applications and plenty of adventures with friends. One week ago, though, I stopped. I took a walk along Sunset Cliffs with music as my only company. 

And I realized as much as I know what is coming when I graduate in four weeks, I still have plenty of questions, like:

- How will I cope having to start all over with making friends, yet again? 
- How will I adjust to the Colorado winter - and living with my parents again?
- Will my anticipated job offer pan out - and how will I like it? 
- What. Am. I. Doing?!? 

Just like you can't answer a question you never ask, you can't be thankful for things-yet-to-come if you never identify your uncertainties in the first place. So step back from the holiday rush, just for a moment, and ask yourself what you don't know. 

2. Acknowledge and accept any fears.

Maybe your biggest uncertainty is whether your Disneyland vacation will be in March or April. Or maybe you're like me and will discover anxieties that have been skirting, but not yet breaking, the surface of your thoughts. Either way, these mindful Loch Ness monsters can be scary - but that's OK.

casey the college celiac
Not knowing what's ahead? Yep, scary.
After all, it would probably be easier to ignore your doubts about the future and celebrate every blessing you already know. But the unknowns in your life may be weighing heavier on your mind than you initially realize. As Tiny Buddha explains, the fear of uncertainty usually stems from a fear of failure. In my case, a small part of myself can't stop wondering if I'll ever make new friends as amazing as my college buddies or if I'm even ready to leave the "Loma bubble" my college provides. 

However, when you acknowledge and accept these fears, you can keep them from paralyzingly you. Instead, you can attack them head-on and try to craft the future of your dreams. 

3. Consider your options - dreams, worst case scenarios and all - and ask, "What if?" 

But how exactly can you decide what actions to take - and, perhaps even harder, be grateful for the unknowns causing these fears? The answer to this question, ironically enough, can be found in another question: "What if?"

What if your fears come true? What if that promotion you've been chasing for years goes to someone else, yet again? What if your new hometown isn't as homey you would like? And, conversely, what if your dreams for the future do actually become reality?

casey the college celiac
World in the palm of your hand?
By identifying the worst-case scenario, you're, in a way, turning on the bedroom light to see that the "monster" was just a stack of dirty clothes. You can consider what escape routes you would have, like applying for a different position in another department or joining a community club to meet more locals. You can also think of what possibilities - or, to phrase it in the old cliche, windows, open from that closed door. You may even be able to turn your predicament into something extraordinary, according to Jonathon Fields, author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance.

On the other hand, by imagining the best case, you can make the "unknown" seem exciting, and even an adventure you can look forward to. Don't forget to talk out your doubts with friends or loved ones, either. Your "what if?" may be their "today," and they could give you an insider's perspective on your best and worst case scenarios. 

4. Know that you will survive - and even thrive - no matter what happens. 

Perhaps the most important mantra to reflect on, though, is that you will be OK no matter what happens. When you determine your fears, you can decide what actions to take to sway the future in your favor. However, there will always be outside factors you can't predict or control. Recognize that uncertainty can be the fuel you need to kick butt and achieve your dreams, and be thankful for that. 

casey the college celiac
Keep walking along!
At the same time, though, also accept that you may need to rely on others for support, help and encouragement along the way. When I imagined what my college experience would be like, I never thought I would:

  • Be diagnosed with celiac disease months before freshman year and be hospitalized only a few days after my eighteenth birthday. 
  • Go from having my parents live only thirty minutes away to be an "out-of-state" student during my senior year. 
  • Fall in love for the first time, have my heart broken for the first time, and find unexpected blessings in moving on. 
  • Become best friends with three random girls I asked to be my roommates...and not talk to 75% of the people from my sophomore year "group" anymore. 
  • Apply to 11 graduate schools, have 99% of my completed pieces of writing published in literary magazine and be working as Senior Editor to a magazine all about empowering women. 
  • Blog through every challenging, successful, joyful and heartbroken moment. 

The truth is, I entered college with plenty of scary "What ifs?" echoing in my mind - and while some of the worst case scenarios came true, I'm still graduating. I'm still happy. 

And I'm so much stronger than I was when I first walked into this campus, because now I: 

5. See that uncertainty includes the certainty of growth. 

We are all facing different unknowns, uncertainties and doubts this holiday season. As we sit around the dinner table on Thanksgiving and Christmas, we may want to focus on all of the certain blessings in life. Yet uncertainties have an aspect of certainty, too: growth

casey the college celiac
No words necessary.
Whatever happens - a promotion or a job loss, connections with new people or a home that has yet to feel welcoming - you will become stronger because of it. You will adapt to new demands, rejoice in new successes and discover previously hidden strengths and weaknesses in yourself and others. 

As Eckhart Tolle once said, "When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life." Along with whatever possibilities become realities, though, growth is guaranteed

And as we spend these holidays surrounded by friends and family, focused on the present but also haunted by thoughts of our past and future, isn't personal growth worth giving thanks for?


What are you thankful for this year? How do you view uncertainties - are they opportunities to be grateful for or not? Tell me your thoughts below!

Comments

  1. Amazing post! I feel so inspired ❤️

    www.ashleyesema.com

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  2. You are so astutely wise - have I said this? Uncertainties are very, very scary. I think they even scare people so much that the remain stuck in one place and never make the changes they want to make. I've never thought about being thankful for my uncertainties... but then I think, how boring would it be if I knew everything that was to come?
    You have so many exciting things coming up. Grab life by the horns and just go for the ride.

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    1. Awww thanks so much for the kind words, dear! You seem to be kicking ass pretty well right now, too. Uncertain future, bring it on!

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  3. I loooooove your take on this. Uncertainties are totally scary but I agree that they can also be motivation. Ive never thought about being thankful for those scary uncertainties but it totally does make sense. Thanks so much for allowing me to see it this way!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Kat! I hope uncertainties will be kind to both us in the future :)

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  4. So much yes. Embracing uncertainty is definitely easier said than done, but you're right that uncertainty has brought plenty of amazing things. Despite not knowing how we'd be doing, we're doing quite alright :)

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    1. I'd say we're both definitely kicking some ass, uncertainty or not. Hope you had an epic Thanksgiving girlie! :)

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