Living in a Connecticut shoreline community, I periodically have the opportunity to get out on the water. I’m always fascinated by how different the view is from one day to the next. On clear days, I can see more than 40 miles to New York City where the Freedom Tower and Empire State Building decorate the landscape. Other days, the air is so thick and hazy that I can’t even see the few miles across the water to Long Island. Knowing something is on the horizon – but not being able to see it – can be a bit unsettling.
Hazy days can be metaphorical as well. For a variety of reasons, it is common to go through periods when we don’t have a clear view of what lies ahead. Often, these hazy times are accompanied by feelings of insecurity or anxiety, causing us to ask questions such as:
- Am I in the right job? Should I make a move?
- Am I any good at what I do? How can I really tell?
- I know things are going to be changing. Am I ready? Should I be pursuing some new course of preparatory action (take a class, get new training, read/study, etc.)?
- Is my hard work making any difference?
- Will my past mistakes keep me from succeeding in the future?
- How can this situation (illness, infertility, broken relationship, loss, loneliness, addiction, legal dispute, disappointment, etc.) possibly work out?
- How do I ensure that I make a good decision about _________? (schooling, field of study, career change, housing, etc.)
- Does my life have purpose? How do I find it?
It is tempting to believe that we should have answers to all of these questions, and looking around, we may believe that everyone else does. In reality, vacillating between times of certainty and ambiguity is normal. Nevertheless, if you find yourself stuck in hazy days, there are a few things you can do to both ease the discomfort of the unknown and position yourself well for whatever is coming next.
- List everything for which you are thankful. This helps you to focus you on the good aspects of your life right now, in spite of the tenuous time you are experiencing.
- Be gentle with yourself. Even if you feel past decisions have landed you in an undesirable place, beating yourself up will not help. Learn the lessons of the mistake, and then resolve to select a better choice in the future.
- Remind yourself that there is no single “right” path forward. We often convince ourselves that we need to make the perfect choice or everything will go wrong. This simply isn’t true. While choices do take us down different roads, each one will have counterbalancing positives and negatives.
- Assemble a priorities list. Deciding if and when to pursue an option becomes easier when we have parameters by which to evaluate it, so it is important to be able to articulate what matters most.
- Be alert to emerging options. Sometimes an opportunity will come as a result of taking action, and other times opportunities pop up and surprise us. During hazy days, it is helpful to be on the lookout for anything that might be coming into view, even from an unexpected direction.
- Seek wise council and support. Whether it is a friend, a family member, or a mentor, a person you can trust to listen, reflect back what they hear you saying, and offer perspective is a true asset.
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Not all hazy days are bad. After a period of intense activity, having time to reflect might be a welcome break. However, if you are longing for clear and crisp direction, remember that sometimes all you have to do is wait for a front to blow through, and suddenly you’ll be able to see for miles.
Have you gone through hazy days? What did you find helpful?