I decided to take on this topic because in coaching clients during 2020 through today, I’ve noticed it is the sense of the unknown that is the most alarming … not that they or a loved one will get sick … but the unknown. And the lack of control – hello, anyone’s Chief Operating Officer of Control having a field day right now? All the question marks about what will happen tomorrow … and the landscape of what life will look like post-pandemic is disconcerting to all of us.
I have had my share of disconcerting moments in the last year and a half – like – will my book, The Ovarian Chronicles, actually be released on time? Will Barnes and Noble still be around to host book signings? What will the book world landscape look like?
Right now, I invite you to think about a project, dream or goal you have put your heart and soul into – that may be impacted by this unknown landscape we are all in. Got it? Now answer this question:
What is this Unknown provoking in you today?
I love my dictionary, and I find it particularly helpful in times like these. So, I looked up “unknown” and found this definition that I feel like we can all work with: something that requires discovery, identification, clarification.
This definition deflates my panic as the unknown feels more like a quest in looking for an opportunity than a life sentence.
In my book, I dig into what I did to move through many significant unknowns in my life – like my father’s health status from the time I was eight years old to the growth on my ovary, waning fertility, and blown-up relationships.
Each time I’ve dealt with uncertainties and unknowns like that, including this latest pandemic episode-, I put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and dive into discovery via loads of curiosity. Next I sort and order and discern the information to make sense of things – not with my linear mind … but with my intuition and sensing. Then, I clarify what I WANT to experience, if different from what I am experiencing. (And when the unknown strikes, most of us experience all manner of emotions we would rather not stay stuck in! Yet, they are useful indicators of where we have some personal journeying to do!)
What emotion is the most present for you these days?
Step One – Discovery
So – Let’s dive into Discovery with some curiosity. I share in The Ovarian Chronicles that when I first heard the doctor say things like stages and surgery, I PANICKED big time. All I could feel and ponder was the unknown as I digested the news. So after a few hours of staring into a looming unknown, I put on my Coaching Curiosity hat and asked myself some powerful questions:
- First up – what is actually known? (see how we start with the opposite of where our fears are cornering us?)
- Practice that now – pulling to mind that project/goal/dream that you identified earlier and Ask yourself – What is actually known about your goal/dream/project?
What DO you know right now?
When I did this for my book, I saw I actually knew a lot. I knew who was publishing and editing the book. I chose the graphic artist and met with the marketing team. I also walked myself through what I know for my dream of finding love again. – When I live my life to experience my passions and interests, I’ve met the major loves of my life. So, right now it feels like I am supposed to be focused on supporting my clients, community and actively doing what needs to be done for my book’s success.
Funny enough, I also discovered that there were already unknowns regarding my book that had nothing to do with pandemic-related unknowns– like – will it really resonate the way I think it will? Will women give it to girlfriends as gifts? Will it make the difference I so want it to make? Once I saw that there were already unknowns, along with the known stuff, I relaxed a bit. There are always unknowns and knowns.
And remember – as I always say – cut yourself some slack – you will ping pong between the known and unknown – that’s ok. Commit to noticing when you have entered the zone of panic around the unknown – and commit to asking yourself at that moment – What DO I know?
Step Two – Identification – Discern as you Sort and Order!
When we are faced with the unknown, our brain – make that our survival brain – actively seeks known information – meaning, our brain seeks what it already knows because that is comforting.
And let’s not make that wrong or bad – it is survival and can be really good when you are lost – your brain actively seeks landmarks that are familiar – perhaps a certain tree when we were early humans living in caves and today, a certain building or store with a unique sign or architectural element.
Right now – in the land of the unknown – it can be comforting to only take in the information we might “agree” with and automatically reject any other viewpoint. (I keep finding myself there – so really – no making yourself wrong about this!).
Here’s what I suggest – widen your typical information intake directions – read different newspapers, listen to the “fringe” and get curious – what might be true in anything said there? Is there something to discern?
And – here’s my ultimate tool and tip around Discernment – It is a three-legged stool! When confronted with seeming opposites – or fears of worst-case scenario I might ask myself what is the best-case scenario – and then I ask what is likely to happen? The same technique works here – What is the mainstream narrative about COVID 19? What is the “Fringe” narrative of COVID 19? And this is really important – ask – what is the middle? I have found most truths lie in the middle and not the absolutes.
I recommend LOADS of gentleness and love as you move through discernment.
I walked myself through this exact process when deciding whether to bring my mom to my home from her place in an independent retirement community. I looked at the information coming in from all sides and then looked into the middle to discern the truths and what is right for our family. (She has been with me for 2.5 weeks now – and really glad – even though the facility has taken every precaution, a couple who was on a cruise have tested positive.)
StepThree – Clarification
I LOVE this step – and I take this step each and every morning – whether the Unknown looms large or I see blue skies and an agenda filled with delightful activities.
- Ask yourself: What three emotions/experiences do I choose to have?
I.D. them right now and write them down if you can.
- What three emotions/experiences do I choose to have the rest of the day?
Ease, flow and spaciousness, and love are frequently on my list these days! Before I get out of bed, I claim, “Today is a great day!” Then I say: I choose to experience ease, flow and spaciousness, love, and I intuitively name a third thing. This is a powerful, I daresay, magical way to start your day – it is setting an intention in your conscious mind, while still connected to your subconscious mind upon waking. Why not leverage both?!?
I also want to bring something in from my show on March 3rd, I talked about the importance of bookends to our days. Right now, during this big unknown, it is SO important to double down on powerful, inspiring, calm-inducing bookends to your day.
What is your favorite, inspiring way to start your day? A walk? Read an inspiring passage in an inspiring book? Meditating? Journaling? I love to set my emotional / experience intentions, then do meditation and journal, or read an inspiring passage. As I get into bed, I speak my gratitude and appreciation for people.
What would you like to bookend your day?