We started talking about the concept of liminal space in the last episode. If you missed it, you can go back to Episode 110: Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty and listen to it when it’s convenient for you. As I shared in that episode, Thomas Winninger defines liminal space as that space between two points of existence. It’s often accompanied by a high degree of uncertainty. And that leads us to today’s topic: the best actions to take during times of uncertainty.
Your Tendency To Hurry
The problem most of us have with liminal space is our desire to rush through it. I mean really, who wants to hang out in discomfort? Or possibly pain? And we are surrounded by these instances of liminal space, but we don’t recognize them because we are rushing through life.
And that’s terribly unfortunate because this is the place where we have the greatest opportunity. To clarify, this is the space where we learn about ourselves, see how strong we really are, understand how we can do things differently to produce a different outcome, and truly comprehend the things that we value the most.
I’m not trying to be trivial, but I do want to demonstrate how this works in normal, everyday circumstances, and not just the ones that are a major life change. Remember, liminal space is that space between two points of existence where we are moving from where we were, and who we were, to where we are going and what we are becoming.
You run out of gas on the interstate. You were in a hurry AGAIN, and by the time you left your driveway, you were already five minutes late. Now you are going to be late AGAIN. As you whip out your phone and call your best friend, you know that you are going to be delayed an additional 15 minutes while he brings you enough gas to get you to the nearest station. Might as well check Facebook and Instagram, right?! Wrong!
How To Utilize Liminal Space
Do you see the liminal space here? Maybe you can take 15 minutes and evaluate how you got here. Ask yourself some questions like these:
- How are you feeling?
- Do you enjoy this?
- Are you aggravated?
- Do you love your life?
- Does it seem like things always go wrong for you?
- Why do things go right (or wrong) for you?
- Are you happy with the outcomes that result from your choices?
There’s no right or wrong answers, just introspection. What if during those 15 minutes, you came to conclude a general dissatisfaction with being under the constant pressure of running late? Now what? Maybe a change is required.
What if you changed your routine so you always left 10 minutes earlier than needed? That would create time for you to stop and put gas in your car on the way to your appointment. It would free you from the pressure and stress that comes from always being behind.
Or maybe you recognize that you don’t really take time to care for the things that you depend on daily. When was the last time you checked the pressure in your tires? Do you even know where the dipstick is to check the oil or transmission fluid in your car?
You aren’t bad because you don’t, and maybe it’s time to identify what has lacked the attention it deserves and address it. Liminal space affords you the ability to evaluate where you are and where you want to be. The idea is that you don’t make the same mistakes repeatedly.
I know that this might sound funny, but you must think of liminal space as a gift. These transitional periods, thresholds, are so valuable to us. Challenge and question yourself and what you believe about you! These positive questions can lead you to positive results and growth.
Prepare For It
Every year when we lived in Wyoming, the same warnings would come out. These signaled that the winter season was upon us. That snow would start falling soon. And you never know when it’s going to stop.
Snow all the way up until June is not uncommon in the places where we lived in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. People lose their minds when they aren’t prepared. You do ridiculous things when you panic. Panic will cause an intelligent human to seemingly lose every ounce of sanity. And the outcome in adverse conditions is rarely good.
Snowstorms would arrive in Wyoming packing a massive punch. The combination of wind, snow, and horrible cold could take a bad situation and make it deadly. If you traveled anywhere within Wyoming in the winter, you knew that it was important to tell people when you were leaving and when you expected to arrive. If you didn’t show up, then someone would know that something was wrong.
The state authorities always said to stay in a disabled vehicle. In other words, don’t go for help. It might seem like you would die before someone found you, but leaving the only protection against the snow, wind and cold almost guaranteed it. And every year someone would die.
The stories were horribly sad. Many times, folks weren’t prepared for the harsh conditions. They didn’t have a blanket, a candle, a match, a bottle of water, a granola bar, etc…in case their plans went south.
Now, this is where the trouble starts. I don’t know if you knew this, actually, you are so smart and well-read that you probably have heard it already, so I won’t belabor the point. When you are lost, the most important thing you can do (besides not panic) is to stay still, maybe sit down, and think. You are a smart cookie.
Thinking about it first can be a tremendous aid in not ending up dead. And this is wild: when you are experiencing hypothermia, not only will you eventually stop feeling cold, you will actually start feeling hot.
And what do you do when you feel hot? That’s right, exactly what you shouldn’t do when hypothermic: you take off your clothes. They have found hypothermia victims without the clothing they had that would help them to survive. That’s freaky.
Your tendency is going to be to rush through this process. Relax. Breathe. Your body is going to resist this with every fiber of your being. Flight or fight, right?! It’s ingrained in you and adrenaline wants to kick in and take over. Don’t let it!
Force yourself to sit, to contemplate, to consider. You might still make the wrong decision. And if you do, it will be for the right reason: you thought about it and made the best choice you could given the information you had at that moment. You can’t ask for more than that.
Question What You Believe To Be Real
Our brains are powerful, working to convince us that something is real that isn’t – like a mirage where you would swear that you could see a beautiful pool of water in the desert. You can’t believe everything you see or feel. You might need some outside help here, so don’t hesitate to ask others to help you evaluate how you are thinking about things.
Elite fighting forces spend massive amounts of time training their brains to overcome their inherent system defaults. Limitations our brains impose that say you can only get to here and no further. You are capable of incredible things. Yes, you right there. The one laughing thinking that’s impossible. My life is a wreck! You, my friend, are capable of achieving at a level far beyond what you imagined possible.
But it won’t happen if you don’t choose to take control of your life. You will have to question every limit that your brain poses to you. Like those elite men and women, you will have to reprogram how you think about you, about your capabilities, and adjust your attitude to reflect this new path that you are embarking on. Some of the steps are clear and everyone can do them. But not every candidate makes it through the elite training schools.
The ones who do are not miracles of genetics. Unusual physical specimens. Maybe that’s a characteristic of some, but the characteristic that EACH one has is mental toughness. And that didn’t happen overnight. It takes years of effort, but progress is immediate. You start by deciding that you don’t accept the false limits that your brain tries to enforce.
Abandon Fear And Regret
It doesn’t matter what brought you to this point. You can’t change that now. There might be value in trying to identify what steps you can take to avoid arriving here again; however, beyond that, you are likely doing a disservice to yourself. Equally, you don’t want to live in the future. You can not live imagining that It’s all going to be better when I….fill in the blank.
Those experiences brought you here. It’s very possible that you feel paralyzed with fear now that you’ve arrived in liminal space. Maybe your liminal space is of much greater magnitude. Your spouse left you, or you made a monumental mistake and now you have a felony on your record, or the company where you worked for 15 years has suddenly changed its plans and you are no longer a part of those plans. How will you go on?
I heard this quote recently on the Catalyst podcast where Danielle Strickland shared this gem during her talk at the Catalyst West conference in 2018. Her topic? Courage. You can check it out with the link in the show notes. Danielle said this:
“Fear is the currency of oppression. If you are operating in fear, you are a candidate to be oppressed or to become an oppressor.”
Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s that ability to go forward in the face of fear. Given where you are at, it’s taking the next best step given the information that you have at the moment.
Like those elite warriors, begin training your brain to remove the limitations. Train your brain to act instead of hiding out. Do you know what happens to hunters who stay in the cave? They starve. The answer is not retreating to the safety of comfort. You have to charge forward into the uncertainty.
I’m not promising you that the outcome will be everything you could ever have wanted. I’m promising you that you will be satisfied that you did the best you could given your circumstances and what you knew at that moment. You are going through a transformation. You are neither what you were before coming upon this threshold and you are not yet what you will become.
What Do You Want To Be
So think about it. Don’t rush through the uncertainty. What do you want to become? Set a course for that and move toward it today. Don’t tolerate the fear or the limits that say “You could never do that.” or “You could never become that.” Take control and decide that you are pushing past the limits, pushing past the fear because the goal and the outcome are worth the pain.
And there is pain! Not just what you’ve experienced, but I promise there’s more to come. And never has the saying been truer: no pain, no gain. My guess is that the moment you embark, resistance will go off the charts.
Remember Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art? Your body, your brain, is going to fight you on this. Decide now that you won’t allow resistance to deter you from your goal of becoming.
I believe in you. You can do this. Face your uncertainty. Start preparing now. Don’t panic. Slow down and breathe. Question your supposed reality. Abandon fear and regret. Decide what and who you want to be and make a move towards that goal today.
Uncertainty will always be present when you choose to live like this. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you. This wasn’t “Five Easy Steps To Eliminate Uncertainty.” If you are going to grow and progress, you will get to do it in the face of the unknown as you transition through liminal space and across the threshold.
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
The Leader To Leader Podcast Episode 110: Getting Comfortable With Uncertainty
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