QUOTES & WISDOM
TOP OF THE MIND
QUOTES & WISDOMfrom the Top of the Mind
QUOTES & WISDOM
Top of the Mind
Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL
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Dealing with The Unknown
As I travel around the world sharing my information on clarity, confidence, and creativity with organizations and individuals, I always like to start by giving my participants an opportunity to tell me about their perspective on the problem. In other words, what are the types of situations that trigger their stress, anxiety, frustration, worry, etc.? And, without fail, someone always mentions the unknown.
Of course, this makes sense, because when we know what is going to happen and are prepared for it, we do indeed feel better about our chances for success, and we are less worried or anxious. However, have you noticed how much of life is truly unknown and unknowable?
For example, we might make some guesses as to what will happen in the future, and they could even be well-informed guesses. Regardless, however, they will always be just “guesses”… we can never know the future. And, for those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know why this is so problematic.
Our middle brain (limbic system) is always scanning the environment looking for signs of danger, and it interprets the fact that we don’t know what the future will bring as something that we need to worry about, and throws us into the part of the brain designed to deal with danger (the brainstem). This can happen when we are dealing with major life decisions around careers and/or relationships, or small things such as whether the wreck on the freeway will make us late for a meeting.
Unfortunately, trying to deal with the unknown and unknowable from this reactive brain only makes the ambiguity of the situation seem worse, and we can find ourselves trapped in a cycle of stress, anxiety, frustration, and worry.
So, what’s the answer? I suggest that we deal with this reality (that we will never know the future) from the clear, confident, creative part of the brain, the neocortex (what I call the “Top of the Mind”). This means that we start with clarity, not about what is unknowable, but about what we do know and what we can control or influence.
Initially, this refers to the qualities and characteristics that we bring to life. In fact, I suggest that people make a list of twenty qualities and characteristics of them at their best, and carry this list around with them and read it over until they have it memorized. Because, once we have this clarity, or once we are clear about who we are and what we bring to life, we can have more confidence in dealing with the unknown.
In other words, if we are confident in the fact that we are people who care about the quality of our work, and bring this conscientiousness to everything that we do, this clarity allows us to deal with the unknown more successfully. Further, if we are also confident that we care about those that we love, and purposefully bring these qualities of love and compassion to our relationships, this makes us better parents and better relationship partners. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we will never make any mistakes in these areas. However, because we are clear about who we are at our core (versus seeing our mistakes as failures or indications of our lack of worth), we can learn from what doesn’t work and become even better.
The bottom line is that dealing with the unknown always starts with the known, or clarity about who we are and what we bring to life, because as Robert Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.” So, let’s make our plans, for sure, but always remember that our happiness and success is not about what happens in the future, but who we are now, and what we bring to dealing with the unknown.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill