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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

Can a "guru" help you deal with uncertainty? [Wise Wednesdays]

Coronavirus is playing on most people’s nerves at the moment. The more it spreads the greater the fear, the greater the fear, the more intense the desire for guidance and certainty. But the outcome of the epidemic/pandemic is difficult to predict because there are so many interacting variables, not least of which is human behaviour.

The paradox is that we desire certainty and answers when they are the least available. When life seems unmanageable or a change is taking place that you feel you have no control over, having access to a “guru” (whether it’s a mentor, coach, wise friend, therapist or someone you admire) to give you the answers can seem desirable. But is it what you really need?

It depends on what you mean by guru. If by “guru” you mean an external source of authority who can give you fixed answers, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. If by “guru” you mean someone who has gone further than you have and holds relevant knowledge and experience, then you may be able to get unstuck and make the process of change smoother and faster by interacting with them. But certain safeguards should be in place.

Having spent some time in India recently, it was illuminating to see up close the benefits and dangers of the guru model. It was useful to draw distinctions around the helpful transformational aspects and the unnecessary or disempowering harmful ones.

Here are 4 principles to make sure that you have a healthy, non-addictive relationship with whoever you’re getting help from in times of uncertainty:

[Read on or watch the video below]

1) You retain your own authority

Abdicating your responsibility for your decisions and wellbeing is only appropriate in one situation: childhood (and that’s only because you have no choice initially). It’s a parent’s job to help a child own that responsibility. Thereafter, learning and life should always be self-directed. It’s OK to question one of your beliefs, let go of an opinion and consider a different perspective or course of action, as long as you’re doing it by choice.

2) You feel safe when you show vulnerability.

Too often, relationship problems arise because we ignore our intuition (the red flags and the green flags). Something doesn’t feel right but we can’t put our finger on it. In a safe relationship, the “guru” will help you articulate this and make sense of it. You may not feel comfortable speaking up and they should help you do so. But if you try and you’re shamed or made fun of, something is wrong. If you share something that you don’t feel proud of hoping for help and it’s used against you, something is wrong.

3) You can question their approach or the reasoning behind their suggestions.

Cult leaders (and probably many corporate and other leaders) cement their status by making it impossible to question their actions or statements. They might shroud their pronouncements in an aura of mystery or complexity. But you should be able to hold them accountable for their statements and understand how they are making decisions, especially if they are about you!

4) You are learning to be more of yourself not more of who they are.

The mark of a truly healthy “guru” or other growth-oriented relationship is that you generally feel a greater sense of peace and clarity about who you are by interacting with them. You’re not trying to be like them and they’re not trying to mould you into a mini-them.

Ultimately, a guru has only one job: to point you back to your own inner-guru. Their skill is in doing this gently and effectively against a background culture that tends to cut us off from our intuition at a very young age. Yes, specialist information and personalised insights can help but only you know what’s ultimately best for you. So you don’t need a guru but you can choose to have someone help you along in times of difficulty and point you back to your ultimate source guidance – you.

Have a great week,


p.s. Join me and Aidan Kearney for the next webinar on March 25th 6pm UK / 1pm EST. We’ll dive into transformational coaching principles to break down the fear generating mechanism that can sabotage collaboration and impact at work. More info and registration here:

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