Dear Why Team member,
I hope this week’s message finds you living well with uncertainty.
One of my favorite all time quotes, suitable for framing, is from Virginia Satir, a well known family therapist. Here is her illuminating quote and the central theme of this week’s message:
“Most people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty”
Now there is an awe-full lot packed into this insight, so let’s unpack a little at a time.
Getting right to it, it is in the uncertain future that we all will physically die. Having a sense of certainty gives us an illusion of control - yet there is nothing like the unexpected to remind us of how little control we do have over the uncertain future.
How’s that for an opener?
The core fear from which all fears originate is the fear of death, it’s why less fear of death leads to more enjoyment of life. Take public speaking for example, a common fear for many. Why? Fear of death. Why?
Because we’re herd creatures finding safety in numbers; the public speaker is all alone on stage, separated from the herd - it’s a primordial fear that can cause a speaker to freeze in a spot light, much like a deer in a headlight. Novice Speakers often think “I could die up there”.
The uncertain future holds unimaginable possibilities AND our physical death – finding the courage to lean more-so into uncertainty brings more possibilities. In a way we must face our death, face uncertainty, with courage if we are to live a full and abundant life.
On the day of my departure to climb my first glacier, a mountain called Mt. Baker in Seattle, I sat down with my three children, at the time ages 16, 14 and 11. I told them that tomorrow is promised to no one, that every time any of us leave the house there are no guarantees of return. But rather than living fearfully, there is an opportunity to live more courageously, filled with curiosity and adventure. I told them where I was going and what I would be doing and that I prepared well with an outstanding professional guide. And then I shared the words I have heard back from my children since:
“I would rather you die living than live dying”. And then I led by example.
I am an advocate for prudent choices, heck, I even built a successful career in the insurance business, but when we live with more focus on what can go wrong than on what can go right, becoming advocates for the devil, repeatedly focusing on “what’s the worst that can happen?” we will miss out on so much of the best things that can happen. Summiting Mt. Baker was one of the most incredible moments of my life - I will absolutely never forget that entire journey. But for that experience to happen, a great deal of unknown had to be faced. Not to mention the risk of falling into a crevasse, a crack in the ice. Oh sure, I would have been safer sitting on my couch, but is that living?
The optimal life as I see it is one that seeks a balance between the known and the unknown. Too much safety means less freedom, often self imposed by our fear of the unknown.
Too much uncertainty can lead us to an over correction, swinging us back to even more certainty and again loss of an optimal free adventurous life.
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” - Christie Wilcox
Life’s purpose cannot be to not die.
To live fully is to develop a healthy relationship with risk, not a complete avoidance of it. Every day brings risk and an over-focus on it is an under-focus on how awesome, abundant and adventurous life can be.
Who wants to live dying - worrying about dying?
Your choices may cause fear in others, but you’re not responsible for how they choose to live their lives, only for how you choose to live yours.
Choosing the certainty of misery rather than embracing the misery of uncertainty has found some to not leave their homes, stay in unhealthy relationships and even sacrificing freedom for safety. Consider your choices and know they are yours. We face the dragon because beneath him is where we find the gold, the richness and abundance in life. Yes, we will all die, but the question is will we truly live?
Make it a great week!