Imagine you are driving in your car down the road on a clear day. You are navigating from point A to point B and can clearly see the road ahead and can anticipate when you need to turn. It seems so easy and effortless because you know this landscape and you trust yourself to navigate it. Now imaging this same drive but instead of a clear day like you had planned, a tornado rips through the landscape which you see in the distance. Fear and panic set it which cause you to be more reactive and less able to respond effectively. As a result, your driving becomes erratic as you try to avoid the tornado’s path. You know you can’t just stop the car, but you aren’t sure which way to go because you can’t predict which way the tornado will shift its path. How far away is it? How fast is it going? How do you know where to go from here? What do you do?
We aren’t aware of how many little, or even big, decisions we make on an metaphorically clear day. These choices become automatic because we know our environment and believe we can predict our path ahead, for the most part. We likely make choices we don’t even have to think too much about because in this place we trust ourselves and we generally trust the predictability of our surroundings.
But then, something unexpected rips through our environment and our trust in knowing what’s next can feel shattered. How can we possibly make a decision when we have no idea what tomorrow might look like, let alone a year of from now? How do you trust which way to go when you no longer know the landscape? It may feel as though there is no way to move forward with any certainty. The questions many people might be asking themselves right now speak to the fear most of us feel when we are trying to navigate something that is unpredictable, threatening, and completely new. Fear and panic make navigating and decision making effectively, feel impossible. We may feel paralyzed in our ability to move forward, struggle to think clearly, and find ourselves struggling to trust our deeper instincts. This can make decision making feel like an impossible task.
However, even on a clear day, our landscape is not perfectly predictable. During a storm, our illusion of control is broken and it is perfectly natural to meet this with fear and helplessness. But what if the storm forces us to make more thoughtful and intentional choices? We can no longer rely on autopilot and we are forced to think about obstacles and considerations we may never have had to before. This can be scary, difficult, and maddening at times but, it can also help us remember the landscape is never as predictable as it seems. Instead of trying to force things to feel calm or predictable for our own sense of safety, we can tune back into our own instincts and trust our own intuition. We may not be able to rely on what was as our environment shifts, however, we can work to ground ourselves and trust our deeper selves.
During times of deep uncertainty, allow yourself to access your deeper values. Acknowledge what is most important to you while keeping your eye on the landscape as well. When you trust your values to guide your choices in addition to what you may or may not see ahead, your decision making will reflect a deeper and more meaningful perspective. Even in uncertain territory, decisions can continue to be made and your life can move forward meaningfully.