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Embracing the Unknown: Staying Grounded in Uncertain Times

by Renée Peterson Trudeau

Are you between jobs, homes, relationships? It helps to learn strategies for sitting peacefully in limbo.

Last week, I hosted a gathering of entrepreneurs in my home. Many shared that they have been feeling a sense of sadness-almost a mourning-that the world as we know it is gone. It feels as if we’re headed toward a brave, new frontier, and are literally creating the tools for navigating this unknown landscape moment to moment.

These days, we’re facing unprecedented levels of change, uncertainty, and chaos. In this post-September 11 era, in which economic volatility has become a mainstay, we’re juggling parenting our parents, managing dual-income households, navigating globalization and living farther away from our families, fighting off digital overwhelm, and, in many cases, dealing with fallout from natural disasters.

In addition to all these outward changes, we’re also being called on to transform internally. We are undergoing huge consciousness shifts, and many of us are feeling the call to evolve, and to embrace a new way of being.

The majority of my friends, colleagues, clients-and even my own family-are all navigating uncertainty and experiencing some type of transition right now:

My husband, John, is in job-search mode after being laid off, and is wondering where he’ll land next, and how he’ll support his family in the interim.

Erin, the executive director of the nonprofit board I just joined, is waiting to hear about a large grant that could significantly change the course of the organization.

Nicole is interviewing for her first job out of school, and is feeling scared, insecure, and unsure about what her future will hold.

Mary and Greg are waiting to hear from a federal agency to find out whether they’ll receive the support they desperately need to assist their special-needs child.

After retiring, Ellen and Steve lost all their savings when Steve got sick and their health insurance didn’t cover his hospital stays; now, they’re exploring how to re-enter the workforce.

Husband-wife team Sonya and Joe are wondering when they’ll receive payment from their consulting clients, and if a check will arrive in time to cover their mortgage and utilities this month.

How do we keep our sanity—never mind our sense of inner peace—in the face of so much change? For many of us, living in the unknown can feel worse than receiving actual bad news. Not knowing brings up the old “waiting for the other shoe to fall” feeling. It can be unsettling, elicit a loss of control, and challenge the illusion we all hold dear: that we’re in charge.

After putting our son to bed last night, my husband and I explored this theme. Yes, we agreed, a layoff can bring up a lot of fear when you don’t know what your life will look like months from now, or if you have enough in your bank account to cover your bills.

But, if you’re willing to keep breathing and stay with this feeling, there is also a place within the unknown that is exhilarating, fresh, and filled with potential and rebirth. If you can move out of “paralysis by analysis,” living in the unknown can be an incredible opportunity for spiritual, personal, and professional growth. Sometimes I think we need the reminder that it’s OK to outgrow your old clothes and try on something you never thought was your style. Who knew there were gifts that could come from times of uncertainty?

Living in the unknown can provide you with the opportunity to

  • Examine your values (what’s most important to you?) and be willing to explore life from the inside out.
  • Practice gratitude, giving thanks for all you do have. A daily gratitude practice can shift your mood faster than anything else.
  • Define what happiness really means to you.
  • Identify your anchors and what you need to truly rejuvenate and deeply nourish yourself.
  • Live more in the present moment (right here, right now is the only truly stress-free zone).
  • Tap your introspective side: Step back and take time to explore your fears and barriers to success.
  • Pause and examine how you see things: Do you play the "what if" up game or the "what if" down game; are you an optimist or a pessimist?
  • Build a support network: Get comfortable asking for and receiving help.
  • Imagine the possibilities: Are you open to expanding into an even better life/job/relationship/business than you ever thought possible?
  • Serve others. Nothing pulls us out outside of ourselves faster that working in a place like a soup kitchen.
  • Embrace your body: Breathwork, yoga, and other conscious movement modalities are essential tools for staying grounded in uncertain times.

I am currently working on my next book, on how to experience sacredness and connection to the divine in our everyday lives. While I have a publisher and a general idea for how this work might unfold, I’m also clear that I’m heading into a whole new, wide-open space of possibility. And I am relishing the deliciousness of this voyage into the unknown!

How about you? Are you willing to explore the gifts that come from being in a state of limbo? Consider reflecting on the following three questions as you sit with uncertainty:

  1. Is there a time in my life when something that appeared to be "bad" turned into the best thing that ever happened to me?
  2. When in my past have I felt most alive? What were the circumstances?
  3. Looking at the bulleted list above, which practice best supports me in breathing through uncertainty and finding my center?

As you journey forward, be gentle with yourself, take baby steps, and keep asking for and receiving help. We’re all in the same soup pot, and it makes the journey a lot more savory to huddle around the campfire in good company. I’ll save you a spot.



Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized life-balance coach, president of Career Strategists, and author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Featured regularly in national media, Renée has been facilitating life-changing women’s events for 20 years. www.reneetrudeau.com and www.careerstrategists.net

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