5 Ways to Embrace the Unknown

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Photo Credit: http://casheefoo.deviantart.com/art/in-the-magic-forest-453403398
5 Ways to Embrace the Unknown
Overcome humanity’s greatest fear.

The unknown is terrifying. 

Our human brains operate on predictability. Our minds seek patterns in everything, especially our lives. So when we come across something in life that our brains couldn’t have predicted, that we can’t make sense out of, naturally, our minds do everything to make sure we don’t experience the unexpected again by making us afraid of the unknown.

Of course, life is naturally full of surprises. We won’t ever be able to predict the exact outcome of everything, especially our lives. Therefore, having a fear of the unknown can actually wind up doing more harm than good.

Here are a few tricks to help overcome that fear and embrace the unknown:

  1. Practice Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the state of present awareness and focus. When you’re practicing mindfulness, you aren’t predicting the future with reminders from your past. You simply are, exactly where and when you’re standing. It takes time to cultivate this sort of presence, which is why it’s called a practice. But the benefits are beyond amazing. You can find many good articles on the practice of mindfulness here.

2. Expect the Unexpected.
If you can’t find it in you to stay present, if your brain just insists on trying to predict the future, learn to expect the unexpected. I used this technique while navigating a haunted house this past Halloween. I told myself to expect a trained actor to terrify me every time I turned a corner. Sometimes this expectation was accurate, and other times it wasn’t. But that’s life. When you expect the unexpected, expect surprises, expect the unpredictable, random events of life to happen, it’s much easier to embrace them than if you try to predict an exact or specific outcome.  Be flexible in your expectations. Allow life to happen.

3. Establish a “Ruminator’s Routine”
When you find yourself stuck in your head with spiraling thoughts that aren’t taking you anywhere constructive, you need a “ruminator’s routine” to fall-back on. This is basically the activity or two you do whenever you need to force yourself out of your head and into present action. My “ruminator’s routine” is listening to music or doing yoga (or both at the same time). Yours could be reading, or running, or rewatching your favorite episodes of your favorite television show. Really, it’s anything that’s guaranteed to make you feel better and is easily accessible, no matter the time or weather. Find yours, and then use it when you need it.

4. Voice your thoughts/fears out loud.
Say what you’re thinking. Right now. It helps to voice your fears and thoughts to another person, but I understand vulnerability isn’t exactly anyone’s cup of tea, so take some baby steps and just speak your thoughts and fears out loud, quietly if you have to. The important part is that you get your thoughts out, literally. Oftentimes, just hearing our thoughts out loud is enough to get a new perspective on them and quiet them. Try it. It works.

5. Keep a dated journal that you log daily.
Life is full of ups and downs. You know that. You should also know that the up and down periods can’t always be predicted. In fact, they are rarely predicted. However, by keeping a daily journal and making sure to write down the dates for each entry, you’ll have a better ability to remind yourself of how temporary each life situation is. When you’re in a “down” period, you’ll be able to flip back to the last stressful situation, and remind yourself that you’ll be okay again. The “up” period is right around the corner…or on the next page. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even be able to find a pattern to your life.

The unknown doesn’t have to be terrifying.

Learn to embrace it. Learn to expect it. Nothing in life is ever black-and-white. It’s all in full, surprising color. And that’s a good thing.

It’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out.  Nobody does. The people who think they do are only fooling themselves.

So embrace the unknown.

Life is much easier when you stop fearing and start living.

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