A Coaching Power Tool Created by Josh Hersh
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand. – Neil Armstrong
It seems the older many of us get, the less mystery we’re willing to accept in life. Instead of continuing to embrace the adventure and playfulness we wholeheartedly embraced as children, wondrous mystery melts away and all that’s left is dreaded uncertainty. Will our job be secure for the next year? Will the economy go up or down? Will we be able to find a good school for our children? Will the pristine environment be here for the next generation or not?
From the standpoint of the present, it’s easy to look into the future and to paint a portrait that is often bleak, grey, and filled with doom and gloom. Thankfully, we have a choice of how we perceive the future. How we choose to see it. We can either get bogged down and overwhelmed with uncertainty or we can choose to open up our hearts, minds, and imagination to the mystery of what could be.
Remember that first kiss or that first date. The fluttering of butterflies. The mystery of what may come next. Remember stepping into that brand new school on the first day. Oh, the possibility. Oh, the mystery of what’s yet to come!
Mystery is the great ‘pull’ that took man to the moon and continues to make discoveries in technology, science, and beyond. Humans are a species of discovery and pushing life to its very limits. When you’re looking at the future with mystery, there’s an element of wonder and curiosity. A sort of excited expectation of what’s around the bend. Think of those cold, crisp Christmas mornings, as you run down to the tree and take in all of the presents wrapped. The possibilities of what each treasure may be just underneath that thin piece of paper.
When we look at our own future with mystery, there’s a sense of trust in the outcome. That ‘all will be well’. We’re swept up by a lightheartedness that sets the imagination ablaze. What could be? What might be? It’s a sort of ‘wait and see’ posture or approach to life. There’s no need to know the precise final destination. You’re content with basking in the present, picking up little hints and clues along the way of what’s to come. A fog or lack or clarity is just fine. You don’t need to have every detail, step, or answer nailed down in this present moment.
What’s creeping around the next corner of life? Could danger be lurking nearby? What if the job, that relationship, that vacation doesn’t work out? What, then, will I do?
Right off the bat, this concept of uncertainty presents itself in the negative, beginning with ‘un’ (which means ‘not’). Fear swirls around as our imagination paints a horror picture. A future to be afraid of. There are lingering doubts that if this thing goes of the rails, then where will I be? When we live in a place of uncertainty, there’s a looming anxiety about having it all figured out.
From our vantage point, in the present moment, we put pressure on ourselves to have every last detail figured out. There’s usually a “right” way and a “wrong” way and we’re afraid about not doing things by the book — even though none of us knows what that book exactly says.
Uncertainty brings with it a narrow, periscope perspective of life. We believe we know how it will all play out. Creating such a vivid image of the future (and it’s usually negative), we believe everything is set in stone. So, there’s no peace in the present. Only frustration and fear about what we thinking is coming down the pipe.
Jason was in his late twenties, working in a job that was less than inspiring. Even though he was unsatisfied, when he got home from work each night, his mind kept going to the frightful possibilities of the future: Would he get fired? Would his position be dissolved? Would he still be in this miserable role five years from now? Is this just how life is going to be? Uncertainty was so consuming and powerful that he found it difficult to appreciate what he had in the moment or to even dream of what could be different down the road.
One afternoon, as he was filling out the usual, mundane reports, he remembered how he played with LEGOs as a kid. He’d build these bright, unbalanced structures, reaching as high as he could get them with the pieces he had. Stacking one piece upon the other, he never knew exactly what the finished product would look like, but he knew it was going somewhere. He could see it so vividly in his mind. There wasn’t pressure to build a perfect skyscraper or to make everything tidy and color-coded. This play time was both a joyous moment and an extension of his creative abilities. It felt easy. It felt effortless.
Snapping back to the present moment, he began wondering about different paths he could take. Fantasizing about a job that could be next. A person he might meet that could connect him with a job he loves. He didn’t necessarily know what he’d be doing 10 years from now, but he felt this tugging that there’s more. That there’s hope and excitement in the mystery that is the future. It may be a little tough, but he wanted to embrace that mystery, even if it was a little bit scary. His previous worries shrank smaller and smaller, while his dreams grew larger and larger. He made a commitment to himself that day to see a brighter future. To let curiosity and mystery take the wheel.
At times, you may spend so much mental energy trying to “figure out” and calculate how the future will unfold. Instead of investing in our imagination, setting wondrous goals, and creating intentions, we tighten up and have very little joy in the present moment. Everything is a crisis. The day-to-day is incredibly serious and we become overwhelmed.
None of us has to see the future as a nasty, bully-like beast that is constantly hovering over our life. That’s what happens when we invest in stories of uncertainty. Our mind is unleashed and usually creates the worst possible scenarios. Rather, we can take a breath and a step back and start to see the future as a mystery. Taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. Preparing as best as we can, but then letting go to see how it all unfolds.
We begin to sit from a point of view of curiosity and keen interest. Once we do this, life begins to fill up with interesting and unexpected moments that make us go, ‘hmmm…I didn’t expect that’. Rather than fearing the unexpected, we start to see this mystery as an exciting gift. We start to see potential where there used to be a constricting view of the future. Our imagination becomes more expansive and limitless instead of limiting. Mystery becomes the key ingredient that spices up our life!
Questions to ask yourself
- How can I be okay with or even excited about mysteries that come my way today?
- In what area of my life can I be more lighthearted about the future?
- What if I saw every morning as the chance to excitedly ‘unwrap’ a new day?
- Who would I be if I embraced mystery once and for all?
- Describe how the ‘worst case scenario’ in your mind never came to fruition.
- When was the last time I really used my imagination in a playful way?
As a coach, it’s important to use active listening and really pick up on how our client views the future. If uncertainty is associated with fear, risk, and is scary to them, this could be a significant blockage that needs to be addressed in the coaching process.
A client may try to plan and think out each and every little step in their life, way into the future, and find themselves frozen from overwhelm. Helping to shift a client from uncertainty to mystery is all about creating space so the client can imagine a positive future.
This might be simply talking to them face to face or giving them activities that spark that imaginative side of their brain, such a drawing or painting or doing some guided visualization activities. These activities can re-train their mind to paint much brighter, encouraging, and hopeful portraits of the future. Where they used to see gray skies, they may now see bright colors and illuminating possibilities.
- If you believed your future was bright, vibrant, and fun, what might that look like?
- What if you decided to be lighthearted about your next professional step?
- How might uncertainty be holding you back from what you really want to do?
- How would you look at your life if you were more like a curious cat?
- What if you were to let go of this need to have all of the answers at this very moment?