Every single part of me is a planner. I rely on set plans, clear expectations, and a clear 'next step' at all times. I'm not sure if anyone loves uncertainty--if you do, I certainly have something to learn from you--but I absolutely despise it. I've found that life, however, seems to love uncertainty. It seems to love pushing us to our limits and encouraging us to avoid what's comfortable. The past couple of weeks, I've really struggled with uncertainty. Everything I've planned has seemed to go a completely different way. Everything I've needed to do has seemed to be pushed off to the side or completely forgotten. Everything I've prioritized has become a little less important. As a result, I've been frustrated--not frustrated with the people or outcome, but with the situation right in front of me.
Maybe you've felt this way, too. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like many of us have had to re-direct our plans. If you're anything like me, that probably caused lots of anxiety. Anxiety seems to thrive in areas where we feel uncertain, so it's my hope that this article will help us all re-direct our thinking. Yes, uncertainty is uncomfortable and frustrating. It's challenging and difficult to understand and a huge inconvenience a whole lot of the time. By all means, be truthful with yourself and think those things. However, be mindful that you don't stay there. I've realized that uncertainty can also teach us things, but it can only do that if we'll let it. Here are four ways to release the pressure to prove and plan and take hold of your current circumstances, no matter what they are.
1. Reflect on why you rely so much on a plan.
Yes, I know this is probably not the most exciting first step. I'll be the first to admit that this step is a whole lot easier to write than it is to execute. I would encourage you to spend some time thinking about why you rely on a plan. For me, I love plans because they give me a sense of security. When things don't go according to plan, it's like I'm surrendering control, and that's especially challenging for me. Really dive into why plans mean so much to you, or if they don't mean all that much to you, you can think about that, too. For those around me, I've noticed that plans often serve as a reminder that they are living according to schedule or that what they're doing is good. I feel both of those things, too. I've realized that most of the time, my frustration over not having things go according to plans has little to do with the plans themselves. In reality, I know that plans change and things can be rescheduled. What I don't like is that nudging in my soul that maybe what I'm doing isn't good enough or 'on time enough' or enough of anything. That's the heart of the issue for me. For you, it might be similar or completely different. Regardless of the situation, I would encourage you to dive deep into that lie or area of discomfort and seek the truth. To do that, you have to be aware, so take time to understand and give yourself grace.
2. Take time for yourself.
A lot of the time, our deeper issues reflect areas where we don't dedicate much of our energy, or perhaps, where we dedicate an overwhelming majority of our energy. It's helpful to take a step back and realize that a to-list can wait. A schedule or a timeline can often wait, too. What can't wait, however, is your own health and well-being. Something I've noticed is that when people ask how I am, I'll often give them a default response or answer in terms of how other people or situations in my life are doing. I've realized that even when people ask me how I'm doing, my default is to talk about anything but myself. These past few weeks, I've really been pushing myself to surrender control. That's something that's incredibly difficult for me, so I've tried putting more emphasis on one thing each day that I can control. An overwhelming majority of the time, this thing starts and ends with me. Maybe for you, that one thing you can control is your attitude or your routine. For me, it's taking time each day to do something for myself and not feeling the need to apologize for it. For me, it's trying something even if I'm not sure I'll succeed right way because I've controlled my ability to show up and try. For me, it's surrendering to God and going to bed. All of these things are hard for me in their own way, and maybe the way you take time for yourself is, too. Regardless of how difficult life is, I would encourage you to come to terms with yourself and focus on one thing that is going right. Focus on one thing that is good, even if it's hard for you.
3. Understand that it's not your job to understand everything right now (or at all).
When our plans change, our first instinct is often to understand why things changed and what we can do about those changed plans. Many times, we try and understand the 'why' of our situation instead of the greater 'why' of what the circumstance will teach us if we surrender. A common misconception is that surrendering is all about giving up or stepping away and accepting defeat. Although that might be how our society defines surrender, I refuse to consider surrender in that way. For me, surrender is accepting that it isn't my job to understand everything going on right now, or perhaps, at all. It's taking a step back from controlling the outcome and staying in the present. One of my favorite reminders is to "stay where your feet are" in life. So often, we look towards the future or even to the past to understand where or how a given situation fits in. When we don't understand it right away, it's normal that we feel frustrated or defeated. What I would encourage you to do is to ground yourself. Stay where your feet are. Where you are in the present moment is enough. Embrace it. There's no sense in changing that because it won't improve the situation. Stay where you are in the moment. Let it teach you something. Odds are that it already has taught you something, even if you don't understand it quite yet.
4. Keep showing up.
Yes, this is probably the last thing that you want to do when things stop going according to plan. Maybe you're fearful that more things will go wrong if you keep showing up. Maybe you think that you're the problem. Maybe you're afraid to show up for yourself. Maybe that fear extends to being afraid to show up for others, too. I've found that the best way to silence fears is to show up. Maybe you'll fail, but maybe you'll succeed. Even if you do fail by the world's failures, you'll find a victory. One of my favorite quotes says that "There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win." There is so much truth in this statement. Detach yourself from the pressure to prove, and yes, that includes the pressure to prove things to yourself. Step into grace and trust. Yes, this is an area that I struggle with more than I care to admit. There isn't one quick or easy fix to dealing with broken plans and unfamiliar circumstances. Don't let that discourage you, though. Each and every day, you have a choice. You can stand in the corner of uncertainty and let it win, or you can whisper truth to yourself. You can whisper to yourself that you can do it. You can whisper to yourself that where you are doesn't define who you are. You can whisper to yourself that sometimes our situations are liars, and it's our job to proclaim truth. Each and every one of these whispers is a call to show up. It's a call to be seen. It's a call to grow. Most of all, it's a call to be human to the fullest. Being human is hard, but it's also necessary. Show up. It's the ultimate assurance that the best is yet to come, no matter our current circumstances. Show up. Show up. Show up. That's the first step to the rest of your story.