The Merry-Go-Round of Reaction: Choose One Wise Step

You have questions about living in a world of COVID—and there are no real answers. HSD offers questions to explore the unknowns that challenge us.

“I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned.”
                                                                                            ― Richard Feynman

In the past we have shared a tool to explore patterns when we face uncertainty. That tool, Questions in Uncertainty, invites you to observe and experience your uncertainties from a number of perspectives. We have generally explored those questions in the abstract, using hypotheticals and anecdotes. I’d like to share those questions again, applying them to a specific challenge. What are the challenges we face as we find ourselves embroiled in this next surge of the COVID pandemic?

Different countries—even different regions within countries—experience their own, unique challenges. Even locally, unique aspects of the pandemic have an impact on your community, on your family, on your own health and wellbeing. This post offers a way of using our Questions in Uncertainty to provide you with additional perspectives that may inform your own responses.

Note of caution: There are no answers here. Except for the most global and science-based answers, like wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands, there is no one set of answers. The complexity of the challenges we each face in our day-to-day lives in this pandemic make each individual’s experience unique and beyond the scope of any one set of answers.

What you will find here are questions that may help you consider your next wise action for surviving in these strange times. Remember that, as it states on the HSD website, “Inquiry is a key to building adaptive capacity. When answers are few, questions are your wisest path forward.”

I offer this post as a guide to reflection for you to consider your own situation. Use it to complete your own reflections. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. Don’t try to “answer” every question. Just hold the questions posted here as you consider their meaning and impact. Then use the downloadable document to record your reflections and formulate your response. When you’re finished, let us know how it went, and how we can make the tool even more useful.

Questions in Uncertainty

The following questions engage you in continuous Adaptive Action cycles of observation, reflection, and action. You don’t have to do a thorough deep exploration of everything you know in each cycle. That would only hold you in a swirl of analysis. 

You will see some patterns in your swirl. You will understand how those patterns affect you and others. Finally, you will choose a single action that will move you forward into the unknown. You can choose where you want to focus and what you want to do. Make it something important. Make it a wise action. And then do it.

What are three most important things about the present?

This question asks you to think specifically about the moment you find yourself in right now.

What is important to you as you consider the COVID pandemic and your response to it? Here’s a starter list to consider what’s important. What else would you add?

  • You and your connections in various areas of your life
  • Your health today and over time
  • Your financial security today and in the future
  • Risks you face
  • Opportunities you face
  • Other aspects of your present reality you might consider

What do you want to be same or different in the future?
Considering the three things you listed about your present experience of COVID, it’s important to consider how you want that future to look in a world where COVID is a fact of life. What will best inform your planning and decision making in the days, weeks, and months ahead? Consider what you would you do in future that might be the same or different?

  • What is the best case? What is the worst possible?
  • What are your aspirations in those important areas?
  • What would move you toward a healthier, more resilient life in uncertain and turbulent days?
  • How do you want things to be the same as they are now?
  • How do you want them to be different from what you experience now?

What is for sure, and what are your questions?

Maybe sometimes you find yourself spending time with your head spinning around questions, considerations, possibilities. You can get confused and frustrated by the distractions around you. Here is a way you can begin to stop the spinning and bring some focus back onto what you can do.

  • Record the things you know to be true about the issues you have explored. 
  • Record the questions you have. What do you not know that you need to know?
  • Categorize those questions to help you calm the swirl.
    • Which questions are known to you already?
    • Which questions are currently unknown to you, but there is a way to find the answers to those questions?
    • Which questions are unknowable and keep you in a swirl?
  • Focus your thinking to identify actions you can take.

What contradictions do you see?

As you review your responses to the first three questions about your focus area, what contradictions do you see? What are the parts that just don’t fit together? Ask yourself,

“On the one hand, I see ­­­­­­_________. On the other hand, I see ____________.”
What patterns do you see in the contradictions you see?

What has surprised you recently?

Sometimes it’s the surprise in life that points to important information, and often you ignore it because it’s so out of the norm. Take a minute to consider surprises you see at this point. Consider why you were surprised. Were you unprepared? Were there signals you missed? How can you leverage today’s surprises to plan for the future?  

What is one thing you can do to make a difference?

The earlier questions helped you see and understand patterns. In this last question, you turn your attention toward action. As you reflect on the patterns you have revealed, what might you do to make a difference? Brainstorm a list, as you reread your answers to the questions. When you have listed at least five actions, consider them all. How easy or hard will each one be? How much information or other resources will each require? Who else has to be involved? What excites or intrigues you? Pick one thing to do; go take that action; see what happens. Ultimately return to this reflection to see what’s next.

We invite you to try this out—even at that single area or scale. Find one thing you can do, take that step, and let us know what comes of it. We look forward to hearing from you. Be healthy, be wise.


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