23rd November 2021

What’s your go-to strategy?

when you feel unsettled

*Image by Mauricio Santanna via Unsplash

It’s natural to want to make sense of things, particularly in time of change. Facts and knowledge make us feel safe and certainty is so comforting.

But what happens when things don’t make sense? When the facts don’t seem to match reality, the apparent knowledge lets you down and the promised certainty disappears?

Aged 30, I was enjoying a rewarding corporate career. I was an intelligent, resourceful individual who loved learning and those traits had seen me through several promotions and glowing performance reviews. I was successful by all the traditional metrics and I was happy!

In the months before my son was born, I played to my strengths and read the books and attended the NCT ante natal classes to absorb as much knowledge as I could. One of my go-to books explained how babies needed routine for their own (and their parents’) benefit. This approach, it promised, would mean that your baby would sleep regularly, feed well and be gurgling and smiling the rest of the time.

Oh, how I loved that book.

And then I hated it. With a passion. (If you know, you know!)

I had made the mistake of thinking that my usual approach of gathering information and reading others’ experiences was all I needed to successfully navigate this new world. After all, it had worked well for me in my life to that point. Why do anything else?

But when it didn’t work for me, I felt lost. And it’s a pretty short step from there to fear (this is going to end badly!) and shame (What will everyone say/think? I should know how to do this! How come everyone else seems to be doing OK?).

It might sound odd but this pattern is something that comes up in coaching conversations about work too. Intelligent, experienced, successful individuals find themselves feeling unsure or unequipped. Their go-to strategies which have served them so well to date, are not getting the results they expected. These feelings are so unfamiliar, they start to question their abilities and confidence dips.

In coaching, what tends to emerge is that they feel drawn to bring (be) more. They know that dipping back to what’s worked before, isn’t what’s required. They are drawn to tap into something they’ve not yet explored.

I like the term “felt knowledge”.

To me, this is about understanding themselves and how much information they already hold. It means connecting with the things they’ve perhaps previously ignored or distrusted; intuition, emotions, feelings, senses, gut-instinct. It means learning how important this information is and how it can be used alongside their learned knowledge to inform and resource them to be able to tackle any challenge head on.

This is NOT a promise of perfection. [In fact, beware of anything that sounds like it is!] We are not wired to be perfect. We are wonderfully complicated, unique, flawed human beings. Growth comes from living, being, trying, failing, reflecting and learning. On repeat. Making mistakes, disappointment and feeling uncomfortable are normal parts of all our lives. But so are joy, clarity, achievement and much, much more.

So, if you feel out of your depth, get curious about what’s going on beyond the fear. What do you sense when you connect with your “felt knowledge”? What’s possible when you loosen your grip on what’s worked for you before?