Life is unpredictable and that's OK ...

… or at least, we need to find a way of feeling OK about that if we’re to be free of anxiety.

Thanks to Tim Urban from for the cool graphic.

Here’s a true story that illustrates this perfectly. It happened in just the last few weeks to someone who I’ll call Sam.

Sam is a great guy. He’s 34, good hearted, funny, kind, hard working, a practicing Buddhist and a manly man. After a fun filled, hedonistic youth, he’s ready to work hard at a career that will see him through to the end of his days 

He spent the last year working long hours everyday, and usually on weekends too, at a job that he thought might be that career he was looking for but turned out to not be a good fit for him on lots of different levels. He’d had high hopes for the job and felt disappointed. So he gave notice to his boss and started looking for another position.

He found something that he was excited about – he was shortlisted from literally hundreds of applicants. His current boss gave him a fantastic reference and his interview went really well.  Then they asked the boss for a second, more detailed reference – a good sign – and again he gave him what he thought would indisputably land him the job. In the meantime, Sam’s notice was completed and whilst he was waiting to hear back about the job he was temporarily unemployed. But he was confident it was in the bag.

You’re probably already guessing what happened. That’s right, they emailed to let him know he was unsuccessful.

Of course, this was a massive blow. It shook his faith in life, in himself, in Buddhism and he felt very low for a few days.  But, Sam is one of nature’s optimists and by the weekend he was beginning to feel a little better.

Then on Sunday evening something really strange happened. He started to have a seizure. The whole right side of his body kept going into powerful contractions that made it impossible to speak. This went on and on and showed no signs of stopping. So of course we took him off to emergency at the local hospital where they gave him some medication and the attack stopped. In all it lasted about 45 minutes.

Well, if Sam thought he was feeling down before, now he was really in a pit of despair.  In addition to feeling like a loser, he was now feeling like a loser with some mysterious disease, at the very least probably epilepsy.

Fortunately, the various tests he underwent all came back negative. But he was exhausted – too exhausted to look for another job. There was the suggestion that he was suffering severe burn out from having worked so hard under pressure during the previous year.

Everyone who knew Sam felt really bad about what had been happening to him.

On a walk one morning the following weekend, one of his friends had an idea pop into her head.  She works at an independent primary school and knew that Sam had always really enjoyed working with children in the past.  He spoke about it last year and hoped to be able to speak to some principals to get some advice, but it was a time of year when they were all too busy to see him. Things were a bit quieter now. Perhaps her principal could give him some advice on whether teaching might be something Sam could pursue as a career and the best way into it for someone with no qualifications.

She booked Sam in to visit the school that week, just to see first of all if it was a style of teaching that he might be interested in and managed to squeeze in a quick meeting for Sam with the principal after his visit to the classrooms. On Thursday, whilst Sam was watching the classrooms in action, she was in a meeting with the principal. The principal mentioned that they were having some trouble finding staff for the afterschool care program. She told the principal that Sam might be a good person for the role. She told him that he didn’t have any qualifications but that he was a hardworking, motivated, good person.

To cut this story short, within 24 hours of meeting the principal Sam had not only a job, but also training set up in a program that was beginning next month, for the first time in our city and may never be run here again, that would set him on the path of becoming a fully qualified teacher at the school!!

This whole story happened within the space of three weeks. Up, down, up, down, down even further, up – totally unpredictable…

During these same weeks, I found out that a woman younger than myself, whom I knew and liked and, if I’m honest, 20 years ago probably envied for her great lifestyle, career, marriage and the fabulous mansion in which she lives, is suffering from cancer and has been given only two or three months to live.

What does it all mean? I really don’t know – except that it is very clear it’s a complete waste of time to worry about the future. It’s also a waste of time to compare our own lives to others’.  Of course, we need to set goals and have plans to work towards them. We need to take care of ourselves. We need to care for others. We need to do our best in each present moment and let the future take care of itself.

We have no idea what’s around the corner and … that’s OK.

Back to articles