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Life is about exploring, experiencing, learning, and living. Life is not stagnant and is associated with change, personal growth, and fulfillment. Many of life’s changes are unforeseen and some are undesired. After all, we are people who like to be comfortable, secure, and have a sense of knowing that we are safe and our needs will be met. Such feelings are normal and a part of being human. However, another aspect of life is the reality that we will experience change. Change whether we like it or not is inevitable; it is the one constant we can count on.
Change and living a different way are sometimes perceived as only associated with a disability or perhaps as being a part of another minority or qualifying group (i.e., age, SES, marital status, ethnic background). However, for some us but most likely all of us (should we all live long enough) change in functioning, decision-making, mobility, hearing, seeing, and learning is likely to occur. Some of us experience major and dramatic changes due to an injury or condition, quickly, while others encounter change gradually and over time. Some of us see the changes we are experiencing as something that is “coming” while others do not.
Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology is known for the quote, “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Such a quote, while brief, speaks volumes as it reminds us that we all will go through difficult challenges or life events at some point in our lives and that despite these events, we always have a choice in how we will respond to what life throws at us. At any given moment, we can choose to react or respond. We can opt to let our situations and experiences define us or we can elect to take the reins and be the masters of our fate. We can live a life of oppression or a life of freedom. We can remain focused on the past or we can acknowledge where we are and chart a course for where we are going.
Exploring the unknown is about the latter remarks. Exploring the unknown means that despite our present predicament and set of circumstances, we are choosing to respond with self-respect and dignity, face our challenges and decide the course our life will take, live freely and in peace, and actively pursue the life we seek. Along the way, we may discover, we don’t know the answer to all that we encounter as life is filled with several unknowns, including the presence of a disability or some sort of life-changing event. Yet, we still can commit to making and creating a better life for ourselves and a part of this journey is about exploring the “unknowns of life” and seeking the best life has to offer. Furthermore, it is through difficult life events and changes that we are allowed to explore, learn, and grow. When we open ourselves up to what life has to offer, we position ourselves in such a way that we can receive the good things in life, some of which we may not have been aware of before recent changes.
Exploring the unknown requires willingness and effort. For those of us who desire something better than what we are currently experiencing, a change may be in order. If we find ourselves feeling complacent or “stuck” in our usual way of doing things, finding our way out can seem unattainable. Yet, the reality is that we are only “stuck” if we keep doing the same things over and over that do not work or help us reach our goals. Furthermore, we are stymied when we refuse to consider another alternative or two. When we find ourselves in this spot, we are likely not taking chances or trying new approaches; some may feel as if they are spinning their wheels and digging themselves into a deeper hole. The way out of this continuous predicament is through the course of action, in this case, different action than one is currently taking.
People who have reached that epiphany and pivotal point in their life where they recognize that a different course of action is warranted are encouraged to consider the following six points. While exploring the unknown can initially feel unnerving and downright scary, it is a part of life that brings about many blessings, newly acquired insights, and possibilities many of which we never knew existed within us or were waiting for us until we did something different.
Qualities and actions required to move oneself along this path include decision-making, participation, openness, flexibility, exploration, and personal growth – (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Exploring the Unknown
The first of these is decision-making or deciding to take a chance to try something new. The second requirement is participation as we must be willing to take a step forward and move out of our comfort zone. The third point is about opening ourselves up to new experiences. The fourth quality focuses on flexibility. Flexibility is necessary so we don’t become locked down or fixed on a specific outcome. We sometimes hinder our progress when we feel that situations must be a specific way when in reality something “better” is waiting for us. The fifth point addresses the importance of exploration as it is through this step that we discover opportunities and can experience what life has in store. The final area pertains to personal growth. Personal growth, when we embrace and maximize it is exciting! For some, the process of change may initially make people feel uneasy; however, when we see the exploration process through to the end, we reap the benefits it has to offer; we learn that the process of exploring the unknown was worth the effort, taught us something new, built self-confidence, and re-instilled some faith that better things are out there waiting.
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