Finding Wisdom in Insecurity

It’s impossible to get to new places or risk new behaviors without feeling a bit off-kilter. This sense of feeling seasick as one goes through change is normal and a prelude to growth. However, most people find endless ways to avoid the unwanted emotions attached with not knowing outcomes and therefore stay stuck. Although this push to grow and pull towards safety is most understandable, learning to live with not knowing can be very useful in a life guaranteed to offer change.

Changes happen to you whether or not you want them. Even changes that come out of choice always have an element of fear. The difference between taking control of your life or not means willingness to make proactive change, and this takes courage. Courage is the ability to act even though you are afraid. And of course, the bigger the risk, the more afraid you may be.

Ages ago, when I was young, the late theologian, Alan Watts wrote a tiny gem of a book called The Wisdom of Insecurity. The book reflects his Zen-oriented attitude and beckons the reader to learn to live in the here and now. As Watts says, “When we bind our world to ‘fit the facts,’ we shackle our understanding in dust.” He also asked, “What is the use of planning to be able to eat next week unless I can really enjoy the meals when they come? If I am so busy planning how to eat next week that I cannot fully enjoy what I am eating now, I will be in the same predicament when next week’s meals become ‘now.'”

Change requires that you understand your past in order to help you live more fully in the present so that your future can be different. This process may be especially meaningful for those over fifty as so many of us get stuck in “woulda, coulda, shoulda” scenarios of half a lifetime and forget to live with the joy of the moment – a child’s laugh, a beautiful sunrise, a partner’s hug.

Some tips to learn to live with insecurity:

  • Let your imagination fly.
  • Thoughts and words are conventions, and you shouldn’t take conventions too seriously.
  • At the same time, gather facts and information to develop the structure needed to meet your goal.
  • Be willing to feel your feelings, including insecurity.
  • Ask experts and friends for help.
  • Smile at someone you meet along the way.
  • Laugh with delight at yourself.
  • Remember that despite what you are feeling, you remain special.
  • Know that everything can and will change.
  • Live with appreciation for the present.

Previously Published in 2008