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Photo courtesy of Eric Vondy via Flickr

Everyone faces moments of uncertainty in life. Some of us choose paths that seem to involve more uncertainty than others. As a writer, traveler, and incurable wanderlust addict, it seems that every few months I end up standing at the edge of a metaphorical cliff, feeling like I’m about to step out into a huge unknown. Dealing with that has always been a struggle for me, and I often find myself lying awake at night tossing and turning over finances, friends, job security, safety, health insurance, long-term plans…

It’s never easy, but I’ve found a few things that do help when you are living with uncertainty.

Take Concrete Steps Now

There are a million things that you can sit around worrying about, things that can keep you up at night tossing and turning. Instead of worrying about what might happen, ask yourself what you do have control over right now. What action can you take right now to change those things? Maybe it’s submitting some job applications,  looking something short-term to pay the bills, maybe it’s going through your finances and creating a budget, maybe its emailing some old contacts. Even something as simple as writing out a plan and a few back-up options if your main plan falls through. Any action, however tiny it might seem, that will move you forward, is worth a hundred nights of worrying about what might happen.

Make Time for Friends and Family

This one’s difficult, but so, so, SO important. And so easy to forget when you’re stressed and broke, living in your car, subsisting on fruit cups and granola bars. It’s okay. You can let your friends see you like that. They’ll be there for you. You may not be at your best, but you’ll never get to your best without other people around you to help pull you up.

Reach Out

This goes beyond just making time for the people you care about.  It means being honest with them, too, and asking for help.  Don’t pretend everything is great when it isn’t. Talk to the people you trust, and don’t be afraid to let them know that you’re at a difficult spot. If they’ve never faced uncertain times, they’re either lying or must have lived an incredibly boring life.

Reach out to the right people.  It might make you feel better, to talk to someone who tells you everything is going to be fine and then buys you a few drinks.  But the people you really need to talk to are the ones who encourage you to be true to yourself, but aren’t afraid to challenge you and push you to really look at your goals and the direction you are going.

Embrace Uncertainty

Ultimately, all of life is rooted in uncertainty. Sometimes it hides, lurks beneath the surface of the concrete structures we build in our lives. No matter how solid something seems, it can still fall apart. Houses burn down, marriages end, people can unexpectedly be laid off, get sick, die.

At transitional times in your life, at difficult times, all of that uncertainty bubbles to the surface and can seem overwhelming.

That’s not a bad thing. You get to look the reality of life in the face and learn how to live—not just how to cope with uncertainty, but how to live joyfully in the face of it. Because there are probably going to be lots of times when the foundations of your life are shaken or even broken down completely. Treat this particular time as a learning experience, as a chance to develop an internal stability and confidence that will allow you to weather everything that life has to throw at you.

Live in the Moment

I know there have been times when I’ve made the mistake of shutting the world out until things are more certain and my life looked a little better. Really, it’s a pretty miserable way to exist, especially when you’re already struggling. Don’t sit around wishing for this period of your life to be over. It’s still life, and it’s still time that you can spend living, not just letting the hours and days roll by.  Read, spend time with friends and family, watch funny movies and laugh as loud as you can, pick up an old hobby again or start a new one. But don’t let feeling like you are on shaky ground stop you from living—you might find that a new path or opportunity appears in front of you when you embrace life.

Stop Trying to Figure Out Where it’s Leading.

Having a basic plan is great.  But ultimately, you can’t plan every turn that your life will take; why would you want to?  Some of the best parts of life grow out of unexpected meetings, opportunities, and events.

One of my favorite quotes is from Joseph Campbell: “Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.  If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”

You can never know exactly where those doors are going to open up, or what is going to be beyond them.  You just have to keep moving forward, have faith in yourself, and be open to all of the possibilities that life places in front of you.