A few weeks ago, Thom and I attended a Sunday brunch hosted by a longtime friend. Both Joanne and her husband are in their seventies. Yet, you’d never guess their age by their bright and curious minds. Nearly all their guests were as old or older, but again, everyone was curious, open-minded and talkative. At some point, the conversation touched on how, as many grow older, most seem to shrink back as the years add up. Instead of trying new things and being willing to experiment and explore, there is a strong tendency for seniors to resist the unfamiliar. Many seek safety and comfort rather than possibility and opportunity. Of course, this isn’t just limited to seniors. Lots of people seem stuck these days. So once again it was highly synchronistic when I received a review copy of a book that challenges that outlook, regardless of our age.
One of the best things about being willing to do reviews here on SMART Living, besides getting a free book, is that I am offered books that I doubt I would have ever found otherwise. Thriving Through Uncertainty—Moving Beyond Fear of the Unknown and Making Change Work for You by Tama Kieves applies. Although Kieves has authored four other books and speaks at conferences worldwide, I was unfamiliar with her name or reputation. But as it often happens, this book was exactly what I needed to be reading at this point in my life.
My takeaway? First and foremost, I was reminded that life is about so much more than safety and comfort. Big into constant growth and an evolving self, Kieves says, “Every moment of one’s existence, one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit.” This message and most of the reminders in the book apply to every person, young and old alike.
As a consummate life-coach, Kieves spends the majority of the book cheerleading us into believing we are born for an incredible life. At first, it seemed a bit over the top—but by the end of the book she had me rooting along with her. I can especially see where anyone who is dealing with a major life transition—like losing a job, a spouse, or anything we perceive as deeply important to a quality life, could use this book to work through the situation in a positive and self-empowered way. But regardless of whether you are facing a major challenge or simply changing times, this book can potentially awaken anyone to reach for their heart’s potential.
Although thriving appears to be the destination that Kieves is asking us to pursue, it is actually a more heightened self-awareness. She says, “Thriving is a practice. It’s a way of living. It’s the cultivation of a mind-set that allows you to engage with every minute of your life and make inspired, imperative choices.” She also makes it clear that her version of thriving is a verb and not a noun. We will never be done. Just like eating. You might feel full and satisfied for a while, but after a time you’ll feel hungry again and it will be time to reach for something new.
A very real key to thriving is getting not just comfortable with, but embracing uncertainty. In no uncertain terms she calls uncertainty a “superpower.” Why? Because according to Kieves our spirit craves growth, and growth can only come from taking risks. Instead of seeking safety or predictability she advises, “I’d say forget about your idea of what is safe. Choose a life of meaning.”
Using a number of illuminating personal examples, Kieves quotes a line from A Course in Miracles to illustrate how we all have the choice in how we perceive uncertainty. That line is, “I don’t know what anything means.” In other words, we make up the story of meaning in every circumstance. Are we making up a story that supports our moving forward or huddling in the corner in fear? We do hold the choice.
When it comes down to it, Kieves believes, “We do not fear uncertainty. We fear our certainty—as we become ‘certain’ about what things mean.” We usually scare ourselves into believing the worst will happen. But by the same turn, we can also learn to tell ourselves that everything will work out for us even though we don’t know what lies ahead. Instead of telling ourselves we have to control things in order to be safe, maybe it’s time to tell ourselves that something greater than us has our back and that our good is just around the corner. After all, as she says, “The real quality of our life is the quality of our inner life. “
Kieves believes that when we trust ourselves, no matter what choices we face, we will know what to do. But, “Listening to your inner voice requires honesty, integrity, and courage.” A big problem is that most of us only listen to our inner voice when it says something we like and agree with—or one that is socially acceptable. Actually, the role of our guidance is to sometimes tell us things we don’t want to hear. That’s why she recommends that we pay attention to the motivation behind the suggestions offered. Does it sound like a loving voice or a fearful voice? Critical or kind? The feeling behind the voice is often the key.
However, it isn’t just that we should listen to our inner wisdom and all will be well. She cautions with, “It’s really hard to trust yourself when you don’t want to be yourself.” Self-distrust makes us very susceptible to following other people’s advice rather than following our own. Plus, when we aren’t convinced of our own worth we compare ourselves to others and “long to live someone else’s life.” She wisely says, “I remind myself that when I live my undiluted life, I will want for no other. I’m on a journey of healing. It’s not a race. It’s not about external appearances. It’s a story of how I break open my own heart and discover the pomegranate seeds and red juice of magic…It’s a story of coming home to my own astonishing capacities.”
Another strong theme is the book is a form of radical honesty with ourselves. Kieves says, “I am meant to succeed through wild love, not fear. I am mean to take inspired direction, not control every detail and pound out results. I am meant to fly, be lifted by something dynamic and true, not to crawl and fight for every crumb. I don’t want to succeed because I am a superior monkey who can jump through more hoops while still living in chains.” She goes on to say, “I am no longer interested in living a hollow life, even if it looks good on paper or to others…. It’s not about getting everything ‘right.’ It’s about knowing everything is already all right and choosing to act from there.”
Every now and then I think it is helpful for all of us to be reminded that what makes for a “audaciously inspired life” has very little to do with how it looks on paper, how others judge us, that we are in control, or feeling we are “right” and have all the answers. It’s also important to remember that we can’t hide-out from life trying to be safe because, as Kieves says, “Hiding is withering, because risk is a vitamin and without it you die. “
This book is filled with great one-liners and tips that inspire. I also found her to be laugh-out-loud funny at times. Yet I found it equally important that the author doesn’t minimize the difficulty or pretend that she has conquered all her fears and always triumphs over uncertainty. Instead, she continually reminds her readers that the answers we seek for our lives lie within us, and if we have the courage to live those truths we will be living an audacious life.
As I mentioned above, I believe this book will benefit anyone facing a major life change. But it can also be inspiring to any of us who want to be reminded to trust ourselves to a greater degree. It’s tempting sometimes to believe we don’t need another motivational message when things are going well, but I think it’s SMART to never forget that an inspired life hinges on our willingness to thrive, live with uncertainty, and trust ourselves—365!
Okay your turn: Do you ever catch yourself shrinking down or holding back? What helps you resist the temptation to just play safe and be comfortable? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.