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What Do I Want? 5 Tips on Navigating Uncertainty


“So it’s clear what you don’t want in this situation.  What DO you want?” my alter ego coach asked me.

I squirmed.  I coughed.  I mentally reviewed the landscape.  I looked out the window.

“I have no idea,” I finally admitted.

Ah, yes.  The messy, soupy place of not knowing.  The vagueness, the restlessness, the wondering and wandering that sets in when we are in a place of uncertainty.

Been here before?

Whatever the domain – relationship, career, creativity, spirituality – when we want to create change, but we can’t yet name what it is we want, we find ourselves in an uncomfortable state of suspended animation.  We’re aware of what’s not okay, yet don’t know what we want instead.

Welcome to the swamp of uncertainty.

Part of the cycle

Uncertainty is painful and disorienting.  There are no familiar guideposts.  Even if answers were provided to us, when we’re squarely in the place of uncertainty we’re unable to decipher clues to lead us out of the swamp and onto dry land.

And yet there’s something available in that place of uncertainty that is precious, creative and powerful.  There’s a richness and openness to living the questions that becomes off-limits once clarity has arrived and decisions have been made.  Hard as it is to be uncertain, it’s an incubator for brilliance.

Brilliance that might go otherwise overlooked.  Brilliance that, for a period of time, is mired in muck.

Uncertainty is central to the creative change process.  We have to swim around in the muck in order to get to the shore.  We can’t bypass it.

The good news is that there’s a deepening and a growing that happens in “living the questions”; a natural part of the cycle.  Holding space for answers to arrive is you sitting patiently with your open heart.  This is a hard practice for sure.  It requires trust, self-love and a willingness to be present to whatever arises.  And to refrain from forcing action before its time.

Our nature is to squirm away from this place of discomfort and to dive onto solid ground as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately, this tactic is like firing in the dark.  We miss the target as often as we hit it.

When we stay in that place of not-knowing for as long as it takes to move through it, we gift ourselves with greater self-knowing and a renewed sense of authenticity.


“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions”  ~Rainer Maria Rilke



Asking for what you want

The only way out of uncertainty is by going in.  Diving deep.  And the question that serves as your faithful guide on this journey is dead simple.  What Do I Want?  As in, what’s missing?  What am I here to learn?  What lights me up from within?

What do I really, truly want?

Sometimes it’s painfully hard to name what we want.  Maybe we’re simply out of practice, having put the needs of others before our own for too long.  Or we know, but are afraid to own it just yet.  Or deep down we don’t feel worthy of asking for it.

If you can’t name what it is that you want, you’ll be swimming in the muck for a long time.


Here are five tips to getting clear on what you want

1.  Frame the question with love

Ask the question What do I want? in a way that invites your true self to answer.  Ask with kindness and respect.   Hold the question close, but don’t smother it with demands.

2.  Don’t be duped by a false answer

Be on the alert for a quick fix, rather than a true answer.  Don’t reach for the ice-cream when it’s sweetness of something deeper you are craving.  Be mindful of your willingness to substitute something superficial for the real deal.  You won’t be satisfied with the fake one.

3.  Notice if your inner critic edits the question

There may be background noise when you ask this powerful question.  If you are bombarded with thoughts like “What a ridiculous thing to want!” or “Who are you to want that?” your inner critic has joined the party.  Politely ask her/him to leave.  Your inner critic does not appreciate you wanting what enables you to soar.

4.  Give yourself permission to want it

Don’t judge.  Even if it seems ludicrous to want at this point in time, allow yourself to want it if it’s knocking at your window.  There’s wisdom in the thing showing up at this time.

5.  Give yourself over to the question itself

Allow it to devour your heart.  Follow its lead, even if it means wandering in what feels like circles.  Let it take you where it will, because the answer to What do I want? will always lead you home.


Over to you:  What do you know about the swamp of uncertainty?  How do you find your way out?  




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  • Web Domain Name July 4, 2013, 8:28 pm

    Excellent post. I am going through many of these issues as well.