Meeting Uncertainty and Crisis with Curiosity

Anthea Smits, TDi CEO

 

I’m going to be honest; I had a rough start to 2022.

 

We endured a bout of coronavirus in January, followed by a series of personal crises. Each of these would have been manageable on their own, but one after the other, at a time when everyone else was gearing up for the year ahead, left me feeling off-balance and unprepared.

Around that time a friend shared her goal for the year – to curate her own art exhibition. I also had two other friends reach out to me with great excitement, wanting to book in a long lunch, to share and reflect together on our goals and intentions for the year.

The long lunch sounded great, and I was thrilled for my artist friend. But our experiences felt so vastly different. With all these reminders about goals and resolutions and intentions, I remember thinking:

What is MY goal for the year’?

I felt caught off-guard by the question, and what came to mind instantly was, ‘Turn up, and hopefully on time!’.

Wow. What happened to Annie the big dreamer, Annie the risk-taking entrepreneur?

Those questions and their answers went straight to the heart of how I was feeling about life in those first couple of months. I was fatigued and overwhelmed – and it was only February! I had started out the year feeling not only a bit messy, but also blank.

A blank journal with grid lines, held up to the sky

 

Now, I know plenty of people spend at least January and sometimes longer, thinking and reflecting on where they want their path to take them for the year. But for me it’s usually not so linear, and it took me until the end of February to truly ask myself again:

‘What IS my goal for the year!?’

At the time I didn’t feel like I could set an intention for the entire year – the blankness I was experiencing was too daunting – but I did feel like I could set an intention for a day, and maybe a week. I felt like I was living in chaos and uncertainty, and I wanted my intention-setting for 2022 to feel authentic to that, rather than an attempt to push it away.

So, instead of having big goals, I decided to go with one of my words: Curiosity (I have four words I use as guiding principles in life: courage, strength, fun, and curiosity,). With that word, I decided to meet the feelings of uncertainty and constant crisis where they were, instead of trying to ignore them or rationalise them away.

 

Read more: “What 10 years and deep curiosity has taught us”

 

I used my principle of Curiosity to craft four questions around how I was showing up in the world, to guide my intention:

 

  • What is today asking of me, and what do I want to give it? 
  • How will I choose to turn up? 
  • Where is abundance showing up for me, and where is scarcity showing up for me? 
  • How am I feeling about what’s happening around me and in the world, and why am I feeling this way? 

Now, I didn’t manage to get to these questions every day, but as I reminded myself, they’re intentions, not rules!  As I engaged with these questions, I found that some were more relevant than others on particular days.

 

My sense of self has grown. I feel like I’m regaining power in places where I’ve felt powerless. The last question has been a doozy. It’s been so powerful for me – I really shouldn’t be surprised! Brené Brown has been telling us for years that it’s important to name our feelings to be able to move through what we’re experiencing. Naming my emotions and staying curious about them has been an incredibly powerful exercise. (Wow, I’m feeling angry, what’s that about?)

So, this is how I have been engaging with intention in the middle of the chaos and uncertainty that marked the beginning of the year! I had to find new ways of turning up in the messiness and ‘blankness’, and I feel like I’m discovering a more authentic way of being me.

Fortunately I soon arrived at an equilibrium, and things became even-keeled again. Of course there is still uncertainty in the world at large, but with the gift of curiosity I am finding myself less battered about by the ever-changing winds, more present with my own feelings and responses, and more capable of supporting and encouraging those I care deeply about: my family and friends, the TDi team, and all our partners and participants.

 

Do you have a set of guiding principles for your life, your business, or how you engage with what you do in the world? Take some intentional time to craft three or four questions around one of those principles, (particularly if you’re feeling fatigued and overwhelmed by the chaos and uncertainty like I was). Put them somewhere you’ll see them every day, and have a go at engaging with them as often as you can. I can’t wait to hear where it takes you.

Annie

 

 

For more on establishing guiding principles or values for your life or business, check out the invaluable resource “Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts” by Brene Brown (particularly Chapter 2: Living into our Values).

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