A Coaching Power Tool By Bart van Grinsven, Life Coach, Business Coach, SPAIN
How to Turn Suffocating Uncertainty Into Empowering Curiosity (Uncertainty vs. Curiosity)
In most people’s lives, there comes a moment in which they feel like the current situation no longer serves them. Sometimes it is for obvious reasons: they have reached a plateau in their career, or their situation has changed…
In other instances, it is a vague, nagging feeling that something is out of place, but it is difficult to lay a hand on precisely what the cause is. Even when things seem to go well on from the outside, they do not feel quite right on the inside.
The Jungian Analyst, Ph.D., and author James Hollis describe this experience in his book “Finding meaning in the second half of life” as an insurgency of the soul, the overthrow of the ego’s understanding of self and world, and a rather demanding invitation to live more consciously in the second half of life.
When arrived at this point, one can feel “stuck”, and thus the response can either be to choose to accept the situation and lead a life that feels incomplete in a way or actively explore where this feeling comes from and what it is trying to tell.
The Covid pandemic has made all of this even more apparent for so many of us, resulting in what is now being called “The Great Resignation”, as people are massively thinking of leaving their current jobs to find something that is more purposeful.
However, wanting to change is nothing new, the scale at which this currently takes place is.
Uncertainty vs. Curiosity Definition
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, uncertainty is“a situation in which something is not known or something that is not known or certain. It is also described as the feeling of not being sure what will happen in the future.”
Wikipedia describes uncertainty as “the lack of certainty, a state of limited knowledge where it is impossible to exactly describe the existing state, a future outcome, or more than one possible outcome.”
The root cause of uncertainty can be traced back to children’s early anxieties and the need for safety. These are primitive anxieties linked to infantile hunger and fear of dying, combined with anxiety about abandonment and separation from the caretaker.
When adults find themselves in anxiety-provoking circumstances such as a situation of uncertainty, these childhood feelings of helplessness and powerlessness can replicate.
On a personal level, the natural reaction to uncertainty is often to withdraw and stay in the known, avoiding risks resulting in inertia, limiting growth, and leaving a void which is then often filled by external material compensation propagated via advertising, and social media, peer groups, etc. In extreme cases, this void is filled by addictive behavior, in which case coaching might not be the appropriate tool.
The dance between our innate need for safety, certainty, responsibility towards others, and the avoidance of risk, on the one hand, and the feeling that the place we find ourselves in no longer aligns with our values and needs, on the other hand, can lead to a lot of confusion and restlessness.
And in the meantime, the clock of life is ticking…
When you are in this situation, the fear of letting go of old certainties, the guilt, and shame for not being satisfied with your current life, although it seems to tick all the boxes, narrows down your view and deprives you of the clarity and imagination needed to envision another path that ultimately will lead to growth and self-realization.
I found myself in this situation a few years ago, with a thriving business but also with a somewhat predictable future, the sense that all the options had been explored and that I had given up my dream to move abroad and have a more adventurous life connecting with people from all over the world as well as doing something more meaningful professionally. It felt like I needed to shake my old skin off.
Having a family which was entirely dependent on the income generated by our business made it scary to think of alternatives a consequence was almost sure that we needed to change our lifestyle drastically, and there was no plan other than we wanted something different.
It was a tumultuous and exciting time.
Most everything you want is just outside your comfort zone – Jack Canfield.
What helped me move on was to get clear on what exactly was causing the uncertainty and fear. Once you better understand where these feelings come from, you can start working on taking a different perspective on them. Some of the feelings they might have no rational ground of existence anymore. Others can be dealt with or explored to reduce them to the right proportion. Other feelings remain a part of life, no matter what direction you choose to take.
Possible questions to start exploring the uncertainty are:
- What is the worst that could happen?
- What would that mean?
- What is important to you in this matter?
- What is the likelihood of a negative outcome?
- What do you have today that you can start working with?
- Who could support you in this?
- What lifelines are available in case of an unfavorable scenario?
Once the uncertainty is mapped out, we can look at what we can do to imagine our desired future and how we could deal with the discovered hurdles that we might need to take. This is the exciting part that will lead to taking action.
Curiosity (from Latin cūriōsitās, from cūriōsus “careful, diligent, curious”, akin to cura “care”), as mentioned on Wikipedia, “is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in humans and other animals. Curiosity is heavily associated with all aspects of human development, which derives the process of learning and desire to acquire knowledge and skill.”
So, to tackle the mind-narrowing feeling caused by an uncertain future and outcome, you can start to analyze what is essential to you thoroughly. To investigate and explore the desired outcome that might be the driving force in the first place.
Curiosity helps a great deal in a positive and open-minded way. This is how we have learned and acquired knowledge and skills from childhood on, but all too often, we have lost the ability to look at things from this perspective when becoming adults.
Coaching can play a beautiful role in re-igniting the curiosity by identifying the perceived and actual hurdles, limiting beliefs, challenging assumptions, and offering a path towards a new perspective, ultimately leading to a breakthrough that allows the client to go through the rabbit hole.
In the non-judgmental space offered in a good coaching conversation, one can freely explore and start to design a new chapter of a life that is ultimately more fulfilling and satisfying.
And once on the other side of this rabbit hole, a whole new land lies ahead full of possibilities, options, and opportunities to grow.
The coaching will guide you to use the power of curiosity to explore this new chapter of your life with a positive mindset and walk a new path feeling empowered, strong, and ready for action.
There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you. – Richard Branson
Some questions to initiate the thinking and evoke curiosity about the future are:
- What would you do if money wasn’t an issue?
- What would a week in this life look like?
- What is important to you about this?
- What will you regret not having done at the end of your life?
- What is stopping you from doing that?
- What if you could shape almost every aspect of your life?
- What would that look like?
- What positive impact would this have on your loved ones?
- What is the legacy that you wish to leave behind?
- Does this align with your core values?
A visualization exercise can be beneficial to go one step further and genuinely start to own your future. It will allow you to connect with the feelings surrounding your dream life.
When life sends you a message in the form of a burn-out, a quarter or mid-life crisis, or another life-shaking event, it is worth it to pause and search for answers.
Because at the end of the process, you will come out stronger, wiser, and with more clarity, and as you only have one unique life to live…
You deserve to fully own it and make the most out of it.
Find Meaning in the Second Half of Life, James Hollis