Since it’s impossible to have all the answers, there’s real benefit in becoming more comfortable with uncertainty.
So here’s a recent epiphany from my Sunday Travels that could help diffuse a good deal of angst during uncertain or challenging times…
The Magic of Uncertainty – My Weekend Epiphany
I recently spent a very happy Sunday enjoying the Northern charms of Sheffield where my eldest son is at university.
We were celebrating the final days of his final year – the end of an era, as he finishes his last exam and embarks on his summer adventures – and then, the rest of his life.
As part of our celebrations, we stopped at a fabulous Cuban place for tapas. (Delish!) After our meal, a man appeared at our table asking if he could entertain us with his magic tricks.
For the next 15 minutes, he baffled and delighted us with card tricks, disappearing tricks, a few (well-worn) jokes and an amazing mind-reading game that involved a surprise phone call from the Prime Minister. (Possibly.)
After our impromptu magician left us, we spent much of the afternoon chatting about his tricks, trying to figure out how he’d worked his magic.
And it was so fun to wonder – how did he do that?!
We were all baffled by the unanswered questions – yet at the same time, our magical interlude was so entertaining and appealing.
And I realised that it was all so intriguing precisely because we didn’t have a clue how it was done.
It got me thinking about how (sometimes) puzzles, confusion and mystery can be a delight, a source of wonder and awe, rather than a problem to be solved.
The skill of a magician is so mesmerising because their tricks seem impossible, incredulous, unbelievable – yet we can’t deny our own eyes.
The fact that we’re confused adds to the charm.
There is, literally, magic in the uncertainty.
The Creative Hero’s Journey
My musings about the magician were reinforced by a contrasting scenario – one that involved the disappointment of certainty and the dullness of answered questions.
I was halfway through my latest bedtime read, and at that point in the story, the heroine had conquered her challenges, married her Prince Charming and secured all she ever wanted.
And I wondered – where is this going to go?
What’s the story?
Where’s the suspense going to come from?
When will the heroine begin traversing pitfalls, facing foes, and winning against the odds?
Without any uncertainty or exploits into the unknown, there was less engagement or excitement.*
Though in real life, it may seem that Happily Ever After is the ultimate goal, when it comes to the stories we enjoy the most, there’s very little to capture the imagination when all the questions are answered.
Compare this with the baffled joy of the inexplicable magic tricks, and it shows us an interesting paradox of our marvellous minds;
We crave stability, certainty and answered prayers, yet that’s not what delights and engages us.
In the midst of challenges, the prospect of contentment may seem appealing – and I’m a huge advocate for the benefits of feeling happy in the present moment – but is that where the magic is?
Is that the end of the story?
Or do we need more?
Do we need challenges and unanswered questions?
Are we more alive with a degree of uncertainty?
Creativity & Uncertainty
I began to wonder how this idea applies to our creative endeavours, and the uncertainty we all face at the beginning and even in the middle of any project or plan.
We naturally strive to tick all the boxes and find solutions to the problems, and it seems we are hardwired to do that – our marvellous minds can’t resist trying to solve puzzles.
But given that this is the nature of the creative process, does this journey of seeking solutions always need to be one of frustration, anxious confusion or despair?
Is it possible to find delight and wonder in the puzzle, to enjoy the magic of the uncertainty?
As my son graduates in a few weeks’ time, he faces a whole world of unanswered questions – he will be at a pivotal crossroads in his life and career, navigating a great deal of uncertainty about his future.
And yet, I can’t help but feel how exciting it must be – to have a blank canvas, and the freedom to choose the first brushstrokes of the work of art that his adult life will become.
Yes, he is facing a whole spectrum of uncertainty, but alongside that, he is on the brink of so much potential and discovery.
Embracing the unknown
These musings sparked by our restaurant magician have helped me to see my own life and creative journey in a new light – one that can help to transform any previous frustration around unanswered questions into a more positive and creative approach.
It’s helped me to reframe some of the uncertainties I’ve been battling into opportunities for potential and discovery.
And it’s been a reminder of something children instinctively know – that there is delight and wonder to be found in the puzzle.
There’s the joy of story to be found in every creative hero’s journey.
There is, potentially at least, magic in the uncertainty.
What will we do when we have the answers to all our current questions?
We’ll ask new questions!
Because we are creative beings, here to grow, evolve, discover and bring to life the ideas that flow through us in a never-ending stream of newness and novelty and unchartered territories.
And would we have it any other way?
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Can you reframe it as an exciting plotline?
Can you open to the delight and wonder of discovery?
Can you become more comfortable with the magic of uncertainty?
Because life seems to be a series of continual challenges to be met, a never-ending journey into the realm of uncertainty.
Yet it also seems – that’s where the magic is.
Wishing you a healthy, happy and creative week,
This is something I’ve been working on for a number of years, and happily, I’ve found a whole range of simple remedies for making the process a little easier and a lot more fun.
So, if you’d like to feel more able to embrace uncertainty and its potential for magic, creativity and delight, I’ve compiled my most successful strategies into The Creative Faith Collection and you can get more details more details here.
“Uncertainty is the fertile ground of pure creativity and freedom.”
~ Deepak Chopra
How to make peace with unanswered questions:
• Imagine you’re the hero of a story and the best plotlines are yet to come
• Remember the delight you found in the unknown as a child
• Reframe your challenge as a fun puzzle to solve
• See if you can find delight in the magic of the mystery
• Know that all questions are answered, one way or another
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