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Review of "Embracing Uncertainty"

By Susan Jeffers
St. Martin's Press, 2003
Review by David M. Wolf, M.A. on Nov 14th 2003
Embracing Uncertainty

For busy professionals, overworked parents, the over-stressed and the worried, and everyone else who cannot find time to study and experience the wisdom of eastern traditions, Susan Jeffers has intelligently woven the best of those insights into Embracing Uncertainty. She has also provided nearly fifty exercises to make the learning practical and long lasting. She's unabashed about "spiritual" growth as a part of her message; she is as enthusiastic in her style and presentation as you might expect from the author of the best-selling Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.

  The book gets stronger later, not sooner. In fact, it stumbles just a bit getting out the gate. Jeffers seems unsure at first, and downright ingenuous about a few things, saying, without laughter, that "the only thing certain is that life is uncertain," and "so on and on" (like Kurt Vonnegut does in Breakfast of Champions), and even believing for part of a chapter that she's uncovered a new method for coping in, "I won't think about that today, I'll think about it tomorrow," seemingly without the least awareness that she's just been quoting Scarlett O'Hara in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind.

  But no matter! Scarlett was on to something no doubt, and Jeffers mixes and matches any idea she finds sufficiently delectable, takes even the most dauntingly profound, intellectually difficult wisdom and expresses it in language both accessible and plain. That in itself is well worth the reader's investments of time and the purchase price. And there is a great deal more.

  With warmth and increasing command after the first two chapters, Jeffers explores how to live well in a "maybe" world by coming to terms with our "attachments" and by letting go of the many rigid ideas that dominate life in our culture. She talks about her heroes and, drawing on the work of one of them, Victor Frankl the famous death-camp survivor, author, and therapist, offers a long list of ways to enrich life with meaning and purpose. In fact, if one were to press the question, "How do I embrace uncertainty, Dr. Jeffers?" her most essential reply is, "Find your meaning and purpose."

  Find meaning and purpose and put them fully to work--that's the spirit of this book. The exercises are not an after thought, but the meat and potatoes (vegans should use a better metaphor) of every chapter throughout. Jeffers designed this work to be read and used over and over again, and this reviewer gets the impression she knows her readers well and has their real interests very much in her mind and her commitments.

  Good heart is a quality too often missing (or faked) in today's writing, and it's a welcome thing to find it displayed consistently and vibrantly in Embracing Uncertainty. One of Jeffers rules is to live "without expectations," but it just might be true that readers who buy this book can expect, in the end, to have a new friend, one who offers authentic insights for transformed living. You can find her website at susanjeffers.com.


2003 David Wolf 

David M. Wolf, M.A. studied philosophy of science for the M.A. with Prof. David Hawkins at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and also read advanced philosophy at Trinity College Dublin. His undergraduate education in Philosophy was guided by Prof. Mason Gross. Wolf is certified in philosophic counseling with the American Philosophic Practitioners Assoc. and earns his living in management consulting, where he is distinguished in writing strategic plans and advising in organization development and career counseling.