One of the most powerful lessons I learned from Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower is that “God is change.” Change is the only thing we can truly rely on. Whatever is certain is only momentarily so. And yet our fixation on certainty and stasis is an honest human desire. We fear the unknown. We tend to cling to the illusion of certainty. And certainty is only ever that: an illusion.
The fact of the matter is that uncertainty is uncomfortable.
Whether we like it or not, we live in perpetual uncertainty. Everything is always changing. Nothing in nature stays the same for long, and though we often forget, we humans are part of nature. Stagnation goes against our deep capacity for change that’s written into our DNA.
It’s still fascinating to me that I feel like this state of murkiness or uncertainty is novel. When in reality, I’m living in uncertainty all the time. Those instances of clarity can be so grounding, yet they are always fleeting.
But even knowing that this is simply the way of things and not the result of something I did wrong can be soothing.
While being in the midst of uncertainty has yet to feel particularly cozy for me, what I have also discovered after being in that state, is that the power of choice can be that split-second catalyst that emboldens me to see another possibility.
How to Honor the Choice Point
As I was chatting with Helen Tremethick recently, she made a beautiful statement that has stuck with me; it was around this idea of, “How striking it can be when we finally acknowledge the power of noticing that there is a choice point.”
For me, the choice point is that moment in which I finally decide to not let the uncertainty, or overwhelm, or panic, or insert-whatever-challenging-feeling-you-may-be-feeling-here, to have power over me and become my main narrative. It’s that realization — that power of noticing that Helen mentioned — that I can indeed make a choice to do something different and/or relate to the circumstance in a fresh way.
So when we realize we are at a choice point, what do we do?
With uncertainty can also come overwhelm. Not knowing what to do or what to do first. Honoring the choice point means letting go of the fear of making the “wrong” choice. I can choose to allow it to be an experiment and simply gather data. No judgment. Just is. Barring a very obvious wrong choice (which is easy to avoid because we see that freight train coming), we can’t really know where a choice will lead.
In that way, I have come to deeply value the choice point, as I see it as an opportunity for me to check back in and realign with my values.
Choices are almost never permanent. You can always make another choice. You may not be able to go back in time and undo your choice, but you can make another decision to move to a different path.
You can choose to work with that client and welcome the financial stability they bring.
You can choose to take the leap and move from a 1:1 to a 1:many model even though it may come with a period of suspension before you gain traction. Or you can transition more slowly, or maybe try both approaches and then ultimately decide to return to your original model.
You can choose to pivot and let go of the subject matter you’ve been talking about in your business and start addressing something you feel really passionate about.
The point ultimately is — there are no right or wrong choices here.
Mindset Shifts for Uncertainty
I’ve got to be honest, things in business recently have felt… murky. And as I write those words, I’m not entirely sure of a time when things felt especially clear. There always seems to be a hint of doubt or the niggling feeling of uncertainty lurking just out of arm’s reach. I think those moments of clarity are merely that — moments, flashes, blips.
Then, inspiration occasionally strikes like a lightning bolt on a dark night. I can see the destination, but after that split second, I’m back in the thunderstorm wading through the dark in that general direction.
It seems like that is the case for many of us High-Conscious Entrepreneurs. We get the clear inspiration, the intuitive hit, and then we begin the fraught journey of making it happen that is filled with rumination. This is a cyclical process that calls me to realign again and again.
When uncertainty begins to creep into my business, my initial response is to self-blame. I reflect and question everything, assuming it was something I did (or didn’t do) that resulted in the present state of unease. I can certainly wallow in this self-deprecating space for a good while. What I have learned over the years is to allow myself to feel the full discomfort of not knowing, and in so doing, in that initial acceptance, I begin to open myself up to the next realization. Which brings me to…
Mindset Shift #1: Change is an opportunity.
A choice point is like the fabled crossroads, where we’ve come to a place where we can go no further without making a choice. We can choose to stay the course, or we can decide to pursue a more values-aligned path. This is a point that calls us to reclaim our power. These are pivotal moments that periodically call us to check in with ourselves and take a closer look at where we are, how we got there, and where we want to go.
The key is to notice when you’re standing at that crossroads and see the gift there. Sure, it might not feel like a gift. In fact, it might feel really, really hard and scary. But there’s always power in choosing.
Even though we might agonize over whether we’re making the “right” choice, it’s actually simpler than that. In this article, Sarah Wilson explains how we can make any choice the “right” one simply because we decided and then can make a solid plan from there. As she says, “There is never a perfect decision. The best option transpires only because a decision of some sort was made that served as a stable base from which to build and create an end result.”
The point? Sometimes you just have to make a decision — any decision — and create from there.
Mindset Shift #2: Watch out for victim mentality.
It’s so easy to think, “This is happening TO me,” when we’re in the throes of challenging moments and/or uncertainty. And even though I still struggle with this mightily when I am in those periods of precariousness, feeling nothing but despondency and powerlessness, upon reflecting on each instance, I am reminded that by simply making a choice — any choice — I invite in movement.
I don’t want to diminish the very real challenges many of us might be facing here. Uncertainty may come with financial worry and very real threats of temporal insecurity, and I want to honor that. It might feel like there is no good choice if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s not my intention to peddle bootstrap ideology or belittle struggle.
However, the oppressive systems we battle against daily are emboldened by feeding us this narrative.
A victim mindset makes us feel even more powerless and unable to tolerate uncertainty, and we need our power to guide us through the murk.
And, periods of uncertainty, no matter where those converging paths might lead, call us to take a stand. Even if we are called to make a choice we’d rather not make, we can do so in a way that aligns with our values. Often, it’s the internal journey more than the action itself that connects to our real values.
Mindset Shift #3: Notice how and when you check out.
When the uncertainty gets too uncomfortable, most of us will check out and fall back on old patterns and coping mechanisms. Notice what this looks like for you, and realize that this might lead you to the point where you are able to make an empowered decision.
For me, when I feel powerless in the uncertainty, my first reaction is to get hyper-busy and do all the things. By trying to fill the void by filling my schedule, I don’t have to sit with the discomfort of being in a challenging moment.
Then I inevitably tire, burn out, and realize I have no choice but to rest before my body decides for me by getting sick or injured somehow. Once I am able to settle into that pause, I usually am then able to notice my choice point.
We might still sit at that crossroads for some time before we’re ready to start making changes. That’s perfectly OK. There is no right or wrong timeline here. And often the thing that jolts you out of the stuckness trance seems to come from nowhere but always right on time.
When I chatted with Helen, I was stuck in the busyness, but her gentle reminder snapped me out of it. With her wisdom that helped me re-center, I was able to look at my situation with a little more perspective. The fog was still there, but now I had a thread to follow.
Mindset Shift #4: Uncertainty is the only certainty.
Change is simply inevitable, and so is the uncertainty that comes with it. The way we handle change is the way we handle business, and how we experience the world and life in general. Life is change. Business is change. Uncertainty is part of the package.
Changing our relationship to uncertainty is how we learn to weather the storms and is crucial for creating a sustainable business (and life) that makes a meaningful impact in the world.
As uncomfortable as it is, it comes with gifts. Think of it as getting a leg cramp after you’ve sat in the same place for a while. We can’t stay stagnant for long. We have to keep adjusting. And even after we’ve adjusted, it might take a few minutes for the charley horse to go away.
I find that these uncertain, murky periods are a great opportunity to broaden our perspective, to ask new questions, to speak to new people, to rest, to re-evaluate, to realign with what you value and what you are here to do in this world.
So the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stuck in uncertainty, know that you are not alone. And as you are able, may you discover the potent possibilities awaiting you at each new choice point.
Maggie Gentry is on a mission to reclaim and redefine marketing as a grounding, mindful element of heart-and-soul-based businesses. If you’re a purposeful, heart-led entrepreneur seeking a powerful mindset shift in your business, connect with Maggie at www.maggiegentry.com