The Surprising Way to Make the Most Out of Life
If you’re like most people, your goal is to live your best life. However, what you may not know is that living your best life doesn’t mean that everything has to fit into a neat, little box. Sometimes enjoying a fulfilling life means allowing some room for uncertainty. That’s the lesson that author Allison Carmen imparts in her latest book, The Gift of Maybe. Carmen spoke with The Cheat Sheet and shared her journey toward embracing the uncertainties of life.
The Cheat Sheet: What inspired you to write The Gift of Maybe?
Allison Carmen: It all started in the self-help section in a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan about five years ago. I was early for a meeting down the block and I thought I could escape the rain and read for a bit. I pulled a book off the shelf written by one of my favorite authors and started to read it. As I was reading, I did not feel very inspired and then by accident, I sneezed in the book. For five minutes, I went back and forth trying to decide the proper etiquette for what I should do. I thought to myself, ‘Do I actually need to buy this book that is not inspiring me just because I sneezed in it?’
Of course I bought the book. But as I left the store, I thought to myself, “I bet if I wrote a book about ‘maybe’ and someone sneezed in it at Barnes & Noble, they would be more than happy to buy it!” I gave myself a good laugh and left the store, but the seed was planted. A few months later at a business lunch, a publisher made me an offer to write the book. That deal did not work out, but as I started to write, I realized how many people I could help by publishing a book about the mindset of ‘maybe.’ For me, it has always been about helping people alleviate their suffering and I think this book has some great tools to do just that.
CS: Why is it important to leave room for uncertainty in your life? Why do you say in your book that uncertainty is a gift?
AC: I often meet with people when they are having a hard time with something in their lives. It could be a problem with their jobs, financial difficulties, or an issue with their children. When confronted with challenges like these, they become frightened that their lives are not working out as they had planned and that the future holds little hope for things to improve. It is in these moments that we can choose to embrace the uncertainty in our lives as our friend. It is in the unknown where opportunities exist for a new job, improved financial prospects, or solutions for challenges facing our children. We may not see the answers to solve our problems in those moments, but the unexpected holds the gift of many new possibilities in the future. It is just a matter of embracing a mindset that allows us to stay open to all that is available. The mindset of “maybe” is the perfect tool to be resilient and hopeful even when times are tough.
CS: What does letting go of the past have to do with embracing uncertainty?
AC: Most of us have had experiences in our past that were unpleasant or did not work out as we expected. In order to try to protect ourselves from experiencing similar pain and disappointment, we can limit what is possible in our lives going forward. If we can find a way to let go of the fear and pain from our past, we can look toward the unknown with an open mind and heart and expand our lives with new opportunities.
CS: How is the present a true gift? How can we remember to stay present?
AC: For many years of my life, I was not able to enjoy the present with my family and friends. I was consumed with growing my business and solving all of my problems. However, when I solved one business problem, another would appear in my business or a different part of my life. At some point, I realized I might always be facing a problem or two at any given time, and I needed to find a way to enjoy the precious moments of my life. Even with this realization, I could not calm my mind from all my stress and worry and be present.
When I discovered the mindset of “maybe,” I was able to look at the problems in my life differently. I saw that nothing is fixed, life would keep changing, and maybe everything would still be okay. It put my mind at ease that the future had hope and possibility and I became very present to enjoy my life as it was happening. In fact, one of the greatest gifts of my new presence was that it allowed me to become more creative and innovative in response to the same problems that I had been dealing with for a long time. But the greatest gift was to be able to enjoy the people around me with a clear and peaceful mind.
CS: Why are so many people afraid of uncertainty?
AC: Uncertainty scares many of us because we treat the unanswered questions in our lives as our enemy. Not knowing is equated with worry, unhappiness, and the thought that things are not okay or won’t be okay in future. We seek certainty because we want something to hold on to that feels solid and secure. Yet, in this search for certainty, we forget that if we knew everything in life there would be little excitement, creativity and growth. If we are willing to accept and embrace uncertainty, we will suffer less and find more presence and joy in our lives
CS: What do you want readers to take away from this book?
AD: My goal in writing the book is to help people find hope and possibilities during uncertain times. If we fear the unknown, it is sometimes hard to find the courage and strength to pursue our dreams and change our lives. We see the unknown as another obstacle standing in our way. Yet as we start to embrace the idea of maybe as explained in the book, we see that the unknown is a place where new possibilities exist and our lives can be different.
We understand that just because we don’t know the answer today, it doesn’t mean things will be negative or not work out in the future. We open up to thoughts such as: maybe things will get better, maybe a new opportunity will present itself soon, or maybe we are exactly where we need to be in this moment. Maybe is a perspective that carries us through the twists and turns of life with the hope that we can still have the life we desire. Based on the positive response from many readers, I believe the book is helping people shift their relationship with uncertainty and find more hope and opportunity in their lives.
CS: Anything to add?
AC: The Gift of Maybe is a great book for anyone who worries or is anxious about the future. Sometimes it is hard to calm our minds when we are concerned about job security, our relationships, the well-being of our children, or the state of the world. With our minds filled with constant thoughts of worry, it is hard to see how life will change and what possibilities are still available for us. The Gift of Maybe shares my journey of being addicted to certainty and how the simple word of ‘maybe’ became a tool to alleviate my stress and worry and find more hope and opportunity in my life. The book also shares experiences of my clients, as well as tools and techniques that can liberate us from the pain of the unknown and help us find more joy and opportunity. It comes down to one simple word and maybe it changes everything!