Embracing Ambiguity

Resilience in the face of adversity as well as patience in the face of uncertainty are two essential skills happy expats have in common.

How can you practice them if you're lacking in the latter department?  

I would suggest that your personality type preferences may play a role, and an awareness of them will enable you to specifically practice those skills.  

For instance, people with a preference for Judging (J) in their type code are known to delight in

  • closing projects,
  • finishing tasks, and
  • checking things off their to-do list,
  • before moving on to the next thing.

Particularly when combined with a sequential orientation to time (one thing after another - not multi-tasking) and a preference for methodical approach to managing projects, not knowing what's next may delay getting anything else even started!

I know this was definitely the case for me when we were in the Canary Islands and hubby started the application process to move to Mexico. Mercifully, things moved rather quickly and I wasn't left up in the metaphorical air for too long. 

People with a preference for Perceiving (P) in their type code are known to delight in

  • starting projects,
  • experiencing and brainstorming options, and
  • staying open to the information-gathering process,
  • before making a decision.

Particularly when combined with a synchronic orientation to time (many things can happen at the same time) and a preference for handling issues as they emerge, these lucky ones may not experience too much anxiety over uncertainty at all.

On the contrary, their anxiety may get triggered if things are moving too fast and decisions need to be made on the spot. During ambiguous phases of waiting, they most likely keep busy by exploring all the potentially interesting neighborhoods they could move to in the new country, new hobbies they can try out, new places they can go, or new people they can meet. 

As ever, it is important to honor your type preferences.

If uncertainty makes you anxious, see if you can break down the long list of things you don't know and find little items that you do know that you can act upon. For example, whether you know you're moving at the end of the month or not, start cleaning out your clothes closet and get rid of any items you no longer need. This will have to be done anyway if you move, and even if you don't, you'll feel like you accomplished something (plus you'll have space for a new pair of shoes you'll reward yourself with regardless).  

If you're handling the vagueness well and your superior uncertainty management skills annoy your J-loving spouse, be kind. Involve them in your exploration expeditions, and soothe them if they start to feel frazzled. Remind them that this phase, too, shall pass, and soon enough decisions will have to be made. 

Either way - remember you are a team. Ideally, your skill sets complement one another. If both of you are of the same persuasion, I challenge one of you to try on the other preference for a day. That way, you'll make sure to have all the bases covered. 

Image by Alexander Duret-Lutz, Flickr, Creative Commons License.