Uncertainty is a gift – one which we’ve each been blessed with.
It helps keep us on track by continuously redirecting us to two big truths – one is that we have a certain level of control over who we choose to become and what we choose to do with our lives. We are each gifted with both choice and free will and how we choose to live our lives is a big responsibility and blessing for those of us who know not to waste a single second of life on this earth. On the other hand, it also shows us that we have a very limited control over our lives and that sometimes (more often than not), life may hand us circumstances which we just couldn’t see coming. We may be called to end relationships with loved ones, face unpredictable health crises and are both directly and indirectly impacted upon by global pandemics of significant proportion. None of these are completely within our control.
Although the uncertainty of this control versus surrender can prove anxiety-provoking and fearful, it’s also an opportunity to see more clearly what truly matters for us. Uncertainty helps wipe the windscreens of our minds clean, purifying the lenses through which we view both ourselves and the world. During moments of uncertainty, we come to see what truly matters and how strong we’re capable of actually becoming. Uncertainty tests us because it trusts us. It knows that we have exactly what we need within us to make it through and survive these difficult storms.
Over these past two years, we’ve all been through great uncertainty of global proportion. Prior to this time, I believe that each and every one of us carried our individual challenges. However, the Covid-19 pandemic may have simply brought them to the forefront for us. The pandemic diffused barriers to one singular experience. Although we each experienced it very differently, this group uncertainty allowed us to feel more supported and held by each other, allowing us the comfort and safety in knowing that we weren’t alone.
Last year, I gifted myself with something huge. I decided to join one of my mentors, Tal Ben-Shahar’s Happiness Study Academy which is a year-long course for people all across the globe who want to learn more about what happiness actually is, how we can increase it and how we can achieve it. During one of his classes this week, he shared a beautiful analogy which I wanted to bring to you today. Through this analogy, I realized that the reason why I transitioned through the Covid-19 pandemic with such ease was because I had already integrated these teachings into my life.
He explained the following:
Many of us possess many different types of ‘fake’ certainties – from our jobs, to our families, health and relationships. They’re called ‘fake certainties’ because nothing is really certain. I often like to think of them as the petals of a soft rose. They flourish and enliven our senses when we prune our relationships, invest effort into taking care of our delicate petals and inviting gratitude in, for the many blessings we may have.
When these ‘fake uncertainties’ are threatened (aka when our petals fall to the ground), we are reduced to our roots. These roots help us stand stronger and upright through the difficult storms of life, keeping us steadfast and in faith that we’ll actually survive what we’re going through. Certain roots are watered naturally, such as eating breakfast each morning, showering, drinking coffee, driving to work or listening to the news. However, even these roots can feel shaky and unsteady from time to time.
During uncertain times in his own life, Tal Ben-Shahar’s wife taught him that when our roots feel unsteady, when there exist sparks of uncertainty and when we feel uprooted from the lives we believed to be ours (for example: certain types of awakening, health crises, etc), we dig even deeper and search for our unique anchors in life. These anchors help keep us more grounded and stable, allowing us not to tip over too far and drown in the anxiety of it all.
These anchors are things that we have the ability to be more certain about which we each choose in moments of uncertainty.
For me, it’s gratitude and meditation which I choose to practice daily and which serve to anchor me during difficult and turbulent storms of doubt and uncertainty. It could be anything for you, from playing sport, to jogging, walking, doing yoga or surrendering to more playful time.
Tal Ben-Shahar developed an acronym called SPIRE.
It includes the following elements:
He says that each of these elements is what comes to create happiness at large. They each intertwine with each other and we need all of them to eventually acquire happiness.
Habits cultivated in each of these areas are not proof that life won’t affect us individually, throwing us into very turbulent seas and forcing us to learn how to swim. Instead, they help us maximize what we do have control over. They allow us to dig deeper into the wealth of internal resources which exist within us all, helping to keep us more grounded and in faith that we’ll survive these waves of uncertainty.
A big part of me joining the Happiness Study Academy was me seeking this anchor for myself and having the opportunity of sitting amongst other like-minded and like-hearted individuals who also have a passion for understanding happiness and positive psychology. Joining this academy helped me both become a greater teacher to myself, as well as a more inclined student to life.
Uncertainty may very well be the only certainty for us all and the question which I want to leave you with today is this:
How can you create more habits which help anchor you during your moments of uncertainty, using these SPIRE elements?
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