I recently asked a number of people what came to mind when contemplating the unknown, surprisingly or not so surprisingly, my inquiry stirred negative sensations.
"A canyon of darkness."
"A pit of doom where all my darkest fears manifest."
"A place of anxiety, where everything is up in the air.”
I’m on a mission to revolutionize how people feel about the unknown. Instead of a place of doom and gloom, what if you dared to see it as a place of growth and opportunity, a utopia of possibility and potential?
There’s a popular quote I love that goes a little something like this:
“When nothing is certain, anything is possible.”
Things might not go your way. You might not get what you want. You might get left holding the bag. Or, you might not. You might get everything you've ever wanted.
But one thing is for certain: the story we tell ourselves about uncertainty is the story we tend to believe.
Choosing to reframe the unknown.
Like stress, you have the power to feel and experience how you want to about the unknown, not the way you think you should feel about it. It doesn’t have to hijack you, or hold an intangible fear over your head. If you want it to, the unknown can be a place of immense growth, where possibility comes out to play and guarantees don’t have to hold so much weight.
@@If you welcome the unknown and step into it willingly, possibility will be there to greet you.@@
In my work as a Possibilitarian®, I help leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs grapple with their feelings about uncertainty. These feelings are messy, but there’s beauty in them. I give them the space and security to walk through it, sometimes for the first time ever in their lives. But at a certain point in our work together, I invite in buoyancy. This lightness is what allows us to open up to uncertainty as a place of “what if my wildest dreams came true?” rather than a place of “what if all my fears came to life?”
Some might call me crazy, but I see the unknown as a place to play and learn. For the first time, there are no expectations. Others don’t have any expectations of us. We’re not accountable to produce, generate, be or do. There are no right or wrong answers. The unknown is your creative space, a private lab to experiment and take risks for the heck of it, intuitively….you crave it.
Embracing the unknown is intuitive to who we are as humans.
It’s helpful to remember that there was always a first for everything. Your first word. Your first step. Your first time playing, rejoicing, or achieving. Intuitively, you possess the ability to not only survive – but thrive – in the unknown. Knowing this makes the unknown a place that looks a lot more familiar than the barren dark landscape we often imagine it to be.
As it turns out, the unknown is a place we’ve been to before — we just take different paths through it each time we visit.
But sometimes, the unknown isn’t somewhere you willingly choose to enter. Sometimes you’re thrust there due to a radical or unexpected shift in our lives. A loved one passes away, you’re fired from the job you loved, or you're asked to take on a different position with a whole new set of responsibilities.
These places might look a little scary, yet they still hold tremendous possibility for us.
As a Possibilitarian®, part of my job is holding this space for others and letting them know they’re not alone. I believe the unknown can be a lot easier when we’re walking the path with someone else, someone who might not know where we’re going but is happy to join us for the good company anyway. As part of this work, I respect the boundaries necessary along the detour we’ve set out to take. I help my clients accept what’s happened, own what’s next, and acknowledge the feeling that we’re in this together. That’s the thing about possibility: you never know what’s waiting until you’re willing to traverse its lowest lows and highest highs. A compassionate partner, I’ve found, makes the journey a bit more bearable.
Failure is a necessary step on the path of possibility.
Most of the people I work with are proud to call themselves high-achievers. They’re leaders in their field, awarded experts, and well-respected for breakthrough work. Failure is one of the forbidden words that haunts them, like a monster under the bed. It lives on in the background, throwing out spooky “what if’s” and making even the most glorious achievement feel like it’s a carpet to be pulled out from underneath.
But I also like to remind these people that some of the best failures were born out of innovative results. What if our most famous inventors didn’t try again and again? What if the first prototype of a lightbulb were still tucked away in a dusty corner of Thomas Edison’s desk, or Alexander Graham Bell decided to hang it up for good?
These inventors — and the innovative minds I work with — know that embracing failure is how you get to the other side of the unknown. Failure is the tightrope that you must be enthusiastic about walking on to get “unstuck” from the fear of the unknown. Practicing failure is the perfect opportunity to learn self-forgiveness, too, something you only get to do in a place of uncertainty.
We will slip up and fall down, but how we speak to ourselves when we get back up is an important indicator of how far we’re able to travel in life.
And although many of us sit in the seat of self-judgment, you must be brave enough to be louder than the voice inside your head, and instead use that voice to help you conquer your fears in valiant ways.