coffee with studio owner dirima cuthbert \\ finding your core values

Based on the old adage that to ‘know thyself’ is to find empowerment; Studio Anthro helps people explore life’s important questions through one-on-one consults, interviews, bookclubs and long table dinners. With her background in Anthropology and Architecture, founder Dirima Cuthbert combines the two unlikely disciplines to help people to find self-empowerment. Her clients walk away from her one-on-one consults with more clarity about their core-values, leading some of them to make career changes, start a successful business or even go back to study.           

How did the idea for Studio Anthro come to be?

Studio Anthro grew from my interest as an Anthropology major, and the idea that there was so many great grains of wisdom that I learned from that, that I thought people would get a lot of benefit from to apply to their everyday life. Anthropology can be of enormous daily benefit to people and so I developed it from what I saw was an opportunity to make a difference in people’s everyday lives.

So your consults draw from your background in the arts and humanities. Could you elaborate on that and how it seems to help people make lasting changes in their life?

Consulting is at the heart of what we do. We start from the idea that you can’t really know your world until you know yourself. The idea being that when you do know yourself, you make better decisions, make less mistakes, you get more out of life and you can give more to others. There’s lots of ideas associated with mindfulness around, and some of them tend to be a bit navel gazing. I like the idea at Studio Anthro, that knowing yourself is the main step towards being able to offer a positive contribution to the world. The idea behind the consults, came from a combination of my degree in anthropology and design. In a way, they’re like a ‘design your life’ concept where we look at how people live and what motivates them to live that way. How that reflects on who they are and from that we get some ideas about how they can live better every day to have less stress.

How are your one-on-one consults structured?

It’s got three parts to it; including an initial meeting where we look at how people live and then we do another one, two, or three weeks later, with more formal questions, to establish how and why they live that way. The whole point of the ‘core-values’ is to find out your core essence and weed out what you do, from who you are. By the end of the second meeting, we have a good idea of some words that can help define what you value most, and we work with our clients to ascertain what they are.

Do you give them a guide of where to use their core values? How do they work in people’s lives?

At the end of that, they know from conversation what their words are and after two weeks they get a report that’s loosely based on what I’d do for an anthropological report. The report shows what we did, why we did it and what the results were. We then meet to discuss the report and make up a little booklet that’s A5 size so you could carry it in your bag and it’s only about 10 pages long, although mostly people memorise their key values.

What kind of feedback have you received from your clients?

I can see the feedback every day. There are people around who’ve got businesses that they otherwise wouldn’t have had, that are thriving and people that’ve chosen to go back to university. It’s not a quick fix, it’s an opportunity to find out who you are and live that with confidence. It takes away a lot of the Q’s of ‘who am I’ ‘should I be doing this’ etc.

What do you think this style of consult offers that’s different from going to see a psychologist or a life coach?

It’s meant to be a way for people who wouldn’t normally see themselves in a problem-stage or needing help, to reflect on who they are. My typical client is someone who is pretty successful, they just need some tweaking. I have turned people away if it seems like they need more from the experience. Usually I can test that quite easily by ascertaining if they’re looking for someone to hold their hand along the way which is not what we’re about, that’s more of a life coach or a psychologist’s job. What Studio Anthro offers is a way to help people get a little bit more on track. As a result, I do tend to get a lot of 40-something women that are wanting to make the next half of their life count.

How do the core-values of Studio Anthro inform your business?

Ours are beauty, kindness, discernment and knowledge. One of the great things about doing my own values, and realising beauty was one of them, was that it helped to put things in perspective. I’d often been conflicted about being attracted to beautiful things, ‘cos it felt shallow or vain, but it was great to do my core values and be able to own it for what it was. For me beauty was a certain honesty. It helped me gain confidence of who I was and Studio Anthro was born from that. It helps us to think about how we look, what our core mandate is, what directions we go, what we offer and I run everything through that process, from our web layout to our conversations.

Was living from your core values something you were already doing in your life or something you honed specifically?

More of the former, Studio Anthro is like me on a page. Clarity comes from not only knowing yourself, but knowing how you react to what’s going on around you. That’s what’s unique about Studio Anthro, because a lot of other businesses might provide one but not the other. They give you this opportunity to go into yourself but they don’t help you deal with how annoying it is that Donald Trump got elected for example. Through that, people realise they’re not alone and this helps to put some of these things in perspective and to cultural context. I think you’ve got to be able to respond well to the chaos in life.

When you know how you’re responding. Say you might get out of control and it might not be a desirable response, how do you reconcile it?

When you know yourself that well you tend to not get out of control. It’s not to say I never have arguments, you do but I guess you do become a lot more mindful about who you are and what you want in a bigger picture, so a lot of the small stuff becomes less important to sweat, because you’re not so prickly to start with. Maybe ten years ago someone might’ve said ‘you’re so vain’ and it would’ve offended me but I know in my mind how its justified. But I’d think, well they might see it that way but they’ve got the wrong understanding of what I think about beauty.

What happens with your core values if you start to change as a person over time?

I’m of the opinion that your core values don’t change that much over your life. People come in and say ‘I kind of know my core values’ you know ‘my family etc.’ But I just say it’s not really a core value, that’s life. But we’re looking at bigger picture values, not ones that come easily to people’s minds. It’s really important with the core values that its relevant enough that people can apply it to every day but no so specific that they can apply it across the board. 

What are the common reasons that your clients that book in for a one-on-one consult? Are they usually in a career transition or a little bit lost?

I think all of the above and also, we have so many choices nowadays, which is a blessing and a curse. So many people are concerned if that they make a choice, it might be the wrong one. Most people aren’t super confused, but they just want to make the next forty years count and get more from life in a way that’s hard to do if you don’t know yourself well. I’m not saying core-values are the be-all-and-end-all, but it’s just another useful thing to put in your toolbox.