Yes, I am starting with that old wisdom that is also a cliché.
So here is what I don’t mean.
It is not a good idea to make up that you know what you don’t know.
People have a bias in that way that we can reach for certainty when, in fact, is it not available.
It’s a little like the weather. I get up in the morning and one of my kids tells me it’s going to be a nice weather day. I ask her how she knows and she tells me she has looked on her weather app. You don’t need me to tell you that being 100% accurate with weather forecasting is still some way off. ‘Best estimates’ and ‘most likely’ is what we can say about weather forecasts.
What has this to do with getting out of lockdown?
Well we are in a place where no one can actually predict what is the correct thing to do based on the information we have.
So when we are informed that we can now reduce social distancing to say 1 metre, this does not mean that doing so removes all risks. And yet we are unable to resist the temptation to believe that that is what is meant by the instruction.
So let's jump to the coaching process.
When we work with people to change themselves and their lives, we are working within a human system that is not able to have 100% certainty about anything at all. The best we can do is estimate the odds based on information available.
There are two classic exceptions to this rule of course. First it is 100% true to say that everything will change and is changing. That is life. Second it is 100% certain (at least in the foreseeable future) that your body will cease working and you will die. Notice I am not saying that you will cease to exist in some other way, dimension or form as that is possible!
So, you and I and our clients are working with best estimates, educated guesses, biases and choices that we can only make from a place of ‘most likely’ as opposed to definitely.
Uncertainty can be brutal for us when we can’t live with it. This is why we make a belief in certainty a construct that we keep in front of us as much as we can. To manage the anxiety and existential dread.
So as we come out of lockdown we have to decide how to proceed from the perspective of self responsibility and self care. Taking the following approach helps me and those I work with.
1. Start with the question.
Is there anything we know to be absolutely true about the risks of coronavirus? What is the data?
If we feel we need more data, where are we most likely to find the most reliable source? This is tricky as we also have biases in this realm. So again we are not looking for the source of data that is provably 100% correct because that does not exist. Look for most likely to be right. So impartial scientific sources are good bets. Also reading what the most experienced doctors and scientists say is another. They may not be right yet as they too do not have enough data but they may well be closer than a random on Twitter or the front page of the tabloids and of course politicians.
2. Decide what data and information sources you are going to absorb and listen to.
Talk to your coach or encourage your client to talk to you about how they are making these decisions and choices.
3. Spend some time exploring your feelings. Usually this means talking through your relationship to anxiety.
The main aim is to understand what your personal current tolerance levels of anxiety are. Ensuring you don’t stretch your anxiety too far is important. This scrutiny of your feelings will help establish and maintain feeling somewhat in control of your actions.
4. Finally we come to the title of this blog.
The final step, once you have explored your trusted sources' data, is to go inward and ask yourself at a deep level what feels like the right decision.
Before you do this and, if you are coaching a client around this, recall that as no one can absolutely guarantee that you will stay or be safe, the decision rests with you and not them. This is the heart of self responsibility where we understand that we have to make the final choice in the knowledge that it may not be the right one.
This sound tough? Don’t we expect that someone else will tell us what to do? That we don’t have to make decisions ourselves and hold ourselves accountable? Well many of us do want to off load these kinds of responsibilities but we can’t even though people pretend they can.
I would not ever guarantee the weather to anyone because I cannot ever be 100% certain. In cases we can get really close, say 99.5% but then it is up to us to decide if we will take those odds.
This simple but powerful way of approaching decisions around stepping out of lockdown can foster a feeling of control and centeredness that is important for us to feel.
And our inner wisdom is a real thing with real application. Tap into it!