Posts Tagged ‘fear’

Reasons to be Cheerful… part 3!

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Today, in the heart of the worst economic crisis in 80 years, Tesco posted record profits of ?3b.  Now I’m not a wholehearted fan of Tesco or their methods, but they are a great example of what is possible if you proceed with a sense of possibility and not despair; if you make it happen.  At a more local level, two of my clients have had both achieved record performances.  The first had a the best year ever last year and the other has had a record first quarter this year, hitting sales of 3-4 times those they were achieving when we first started working together.

Every situation presents opportunities, opportunities for someone.. we have to decide if that someone is gong to be us!  If you allow yourself to be imaginative, to be playful, to have fun with silly ideas, you’ll be surprised by what you might uncover.  Then, having spotted something, don’t let the counsel of fear persuade you that it is all pointless, that you’ll fail, what’s the point?

Today is the best possible day to make something happen!

“It is often hard to distinguish between the hard knocks in life and those of opportunity.”  Frederick Phillips

“Seize the opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.”   Bulgarian Proverb


Reasons to be Cheerful … part 2

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

I don’t know if you were around in the 70’s or remember the Doors singing “Been down so long, that it seems like up to me”   That may sound like a cold comfort, but whilst I’m sure that we still a have a few unpleasant surprises to come, for most people, most of the bad news is on the table, and globally the stock markets etc can really only go up here.  This isn’t financial advice so much as the recognition that now is the time to invest; invest your time, invest your energy, invest your creativity to dare to be hopeful!  Flowers grow on bomb sites and someone else’s bad news can be your opportunity to break through.

People need / want to save money now so they are willing to talk to new, lower cost suppliers; big businesses are suffering too and now are no longer seen as the automatic supplier of choice; there are lots empty properties and god knows interest rates are low!   Don’t listen to the council of fear….!

The song says:

“Well, I’ve been down so Goddamn long
That it looks like up to me
Well, I’ve been down so very damn long
That it looks like up to me
Yeah, why don’t one you people
C’mon and set me free “

I would suggest that no one else can “set me free”…. if it is going to be, it is down to me!

Resources: Listen to it here

Fireworks & Remembrance

Sunday, November 9th, 2008

Last night we were surrounded by huge bonfires and a sky full of fireworks celebrating the death of Guy Fawkes and the failure of his plot to blow-up Parliament, to win freedom for the Catholics.  Today we commemorated the dead of two world wars who died amongst much more deadly explosions to ensure our freedom.  History is full of examples of people trying to win  freedom for one group at the expense of another. 

The thing is that freedom can never really be given or taken by another, as Viktor Frankl observed “Everything can be taken from a man but … the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  And he tested this in the extreme crucible of Auschwitz. 

We have so many reasons for not doing things that we justify dwelling in a virtual prison of our own making.  Perhaps today is a good day to consider removing a brick or two from the walls we have built and asking ourselves what is really stopping us from doing what we feel drawn to, and living our lives to the full.

How to deal with those little jobs we never have time for

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Most of us go through our lives perfectly adequately, achieving all manner of things in our daily lives, rushing hither and thither, finishing our days feeling exhausted. We are alive, we are supporting ourselves, and perhaps our families, we are successful.

However, there is another way to look at our lives; look at the things we somehow never find time for, the jobs that never get started, or perhaps abandoned part way through. Look at the calls we fail to make, the things we keep forgetting to do. It is true that in our busy lives things will get forgotten but, I suspect, if we were to review these things honestly, they all have something in common. They all are in some way fearful; they pose a threat or risk, even if it is just the threat of the unknown, or loss of control.

We probably know that other people would have no problem with getting these things done and sometimes we sidestep them by delegating them or buying in outside help. Both of these are valid strategies in terms of getting the work done, but leave unanswered and unaddressed the question of why do we fear them?

If we can just make the time and the space to be with the problem, perhaps just to consider it as a series of smaller steps, perhaps it will allow us to engage with it. It might show us which bit it is that spooks us. The advice of about how one approaches eating an elephant (one bite at a time) is hackneyed but applies too. Just being in the same space as the feared task can help dispel some of the fear. We may never be good at this thing, we may never enjoy it, but if we can learn that we needn’t fear it either; this knowledge removes so much clutter and dross from our lives.

Our minds make these barriers huge and insurmountable, but the reality is that they seldom are anything other than just another unpleasant thing. Bringing light to these shadowy realms makes our world a bigger, better place.

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”  Douglas Adams  

” I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”  Jerome K. Jerome

"When you are down and troubled".. you’ve got a friend

Friday, October 31st, 2008

James Taylor once sung“When you are down and troubled, and you need a helping hand”, he advised “Close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there.” It was a bitter-sweet song that left a note of hope. So often, when we are feeling lost, we pull into our shell and wonder why we are alone and unseen. At times like this we need to reach out and let it be known that we’d like a hand.

Talking to friends, asking for help, praying are all valid responses, but if it was that easy there would be less people around who felt this way. The hard thing is to be seen as vulnerable and struggling and unable to cope, in need and worthy of help. We are brought up to stand on our own two feet and hate to seem or feel weak. And yet strength is like the tides, it comes and it goes; people’s luck and health and situations change. Think of some of those millionaire bankers who were riding high a few months ago.

Allowing oneself to feel these feelings and not to go out of one’s way to hide or deny them allows others in. Today maybe a good day to say, when asked “How are you?” to be a little more honest in your reply.


Resistance: Stepping into the Unknown

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Yesterday I explained that there were many real reasons why people resist Change. I thought it might be interesting to explore these in a little more detail. So today, “Why standing still is never an option”.

If you think about it, the idea we can avoid Change is ludicrous. It is happening all around us all the time. Look in the mirror and you will probably notice the odd change or two; look in your wallet next time you fill up your car; turn on the TV and see what kind of shows are on today. Change really is a fact of Life and is avoidable.

However, and here is a key element, in order to feel safe, we need to feel in control. Control equals choice. So if I am able to choose not to do something, I must be in control and the world is a safe place!

When Cortes landed in South America, to claim it for Spain, he burnt his fleet of boats to ensure the men were ‘motivated’ to go forwards. Interestingly, if you ever need to lead a horse from a burning stable, you have to blindfold it to get it to move to safety. Burning platforms can work, but they have to be relevant and compelling for the individual concerned.

The Flight / Fight mechanism will keep us locked up and static, till our fear threshold is lowered enough that we can respond rationally to what is being asked of us, so quoting logical facts and figures before the emotional baggage is ditched is doomed to failure.

So step 1 in Change, is deal with the emotions, help people to feel safe.

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Marie Curie
“Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop.” Usman B. Asif

It is a Conspiracy!

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

con·spire (kn-spr)

con·spired, con·spir·ing, con·spires


1. To plan together secretly to commit an illegal or wrongful act or accomplish a legal purpose through illegal action.

2. To join or act together; combine:

To plan or plot secretly.

[Middle English conspiren, from Old French, from Latin com + spirare, to breathe.]

Isn’t it strange how a word that originates from the Latin words meaning breathing together has evolved to mean something dreadful and fearful? English is like that; it grows and changes like the living thing it is. So we start with ‘breathing together’, and this gives us ‘acting together’ and then all of a sudden we are ‘plotting’!

We can mimic this process in our own minds. We see something, we don’t understand it and then we project our fears upon it and va-voom! They are talking about us! It / they are a threat! We can then live in that imagined ‘reality’ and build up our fear, which leads to hatred and suddenly our world has two more people who we don’t like, or another thing that we are afraid of.

Fear and ignorance do amazing things to us. They generate and project more images than a Hollywood studio!

Don’t let your fears and insecurities turn good things to neutral and neutral ones to bad…

“The complete lack of evidence is the surest sign that the conspiracy is working”

“The popularity of conspiracy theories is explained by people’s desire to believe that there is – some group of folks who know what they’re doing” Damon Knight

Zen & the Art of Lawn Mower Maintenance ..Lessons learnt

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

I wrote yesterday about my adventures with my lawn mower. It was a little voyage of discovery that I’d like to share. As I mentioned, I am not exactly Johnny Mechanic! However yesterday was an interesting lesson in the various forces that either hold us back or drive us forward. I was aware of being somewhat alarmed by size of the potential bill of getting the mower fixed (the last time cost more than the car!) I knew I was operating outside both my comfort zone and competence.

Yesterday was an interesting example of what we are capable of if we just follow the trail of bread crumbs and keep moving forwards. It seemed to me there were a number of learnings:-

  1. Instead of being daunted by the size of a challenge, and all the things we don’t know, act on what we do know and take the next step. We don’t need to know where it leads to, we just have to move forwards
  2. Take one step at a time; with each step, we learn something more, can see a little clearer what our options are. This creates momentum and with that we feel better, stronger, less of a victim
  3. Ask for help. Ask any and everyone, if they don’t now, as them who might. Once again, it is about taking action and putting positive directional energy out there
  4. Take a risk; we know we don’t like the place we are in, so moving into the unknown stands a chance of being better
  5. Be brave! Others have done it before us and there is a good chance we can too!

It was a process of learning by doing, and with each step I could see more of the whole and how things worked more clearly. Random patterns of wires and bits slowly resolved themselves into something that made more sense. If you find yourself in a similar place of fear and not-knowing, perhaps my mower has something to teach you too….

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” Sir John Lubbock
“I feel that the most important requirement in success is learning to overcome failure. You must learn to tolerate it, but never accept it”. Reggie Jackson

The Risk of staying Closed

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

My wife came across this quote whilst writing her dissertation some years back, and the other day I found myself posting something very similar, “Change happens when the pain of staying still exceeds the fear of going forward; we all just have different thresholds of pain.”

I think this is true for every person, and each major change we face. If we can understand this balance of ‘forces’ then we are better able to understand our behaviours, and those of others we are trying to guide and support. At present someone close to me is going through just this struggle. They are in real pain, but the pain of staying still is now greater than that of moving forwards into the unknown. Awareness of this tension doesn’t diminish the pain, but it makes it easier to bear.

Whether we are facing personal crises, or business changes, this dynamic is the key to success. In the business world this is often referred to as the ‘burning platform’, the reason to move forwards into the unknown. If you remember the scene in the film ‘Black Beauty’ where they had to lead the horses from the burning stables, they had to deal with the panic and fear the horses felt first, in order to lead them to safety. In the human world it isn’t usually this dramatic or as clear what is going on, but the emotional state of the people in ‘play’ is very similar.

If today, you or someone close is facing this kind of situation, then treat them with love but don’t let them run back into the flames; remind them of the rose they were born to become and enjoy…

“But for us the road unfurls itself, we don’t stop walking, we know there is far to go” Denise Levertov

“I believe one of the hardest things you can do is conquer your fears, but if you have a goal, then it’s your job to open up and let it be real no matter how scary it seems.”

Paranoid… moi?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Two things happened in the last 24 hours that were nicely juxtaposed to make me ponder. The first was connected to someone whom I had reason to be highly suspicious about, this person had apparently failed to follow through with a promise that they had made. The second came as a ‘virtual’ sideswipe from an online source that I would previously have labelled ‘friendly’.

In the first case I followed up, with a certain amount of trepidation, certainly fantasizing about where this might lead, and fearing the worst. The second case I kind of assumed that I had misconstrued the comment and politely asked for clarification. It appears that the party of the first part (here after designated “the party of the first part”) 1 appears to have been let down by some third party and to have acted in good faith. Whereas the party of the second part here after designated “the party of the second part”) appears to have been having a bilious moment and just taken a ‘pop shot’. Makes you wonder who you can trust?

The more serious component of this is that when these kinds of things happen we have such a limited view of what is going on, and we strive to make sense of the limited data we have, we inevitably jump to conclusions, which is fair enough. It is what we do next that is crucial; do you:-

1. Seek more data in a calm and unemotional way?

    • Go to the source of the problem?
    • Ask others who are connected to them for their insight and knowledge?

    2. Wait calmly to see what happens next?

    • Does it confirm your hypothesis or not?
    • Does nothing happen?

    3. Act on your best guess and either:-

    • ‘run away’2 or
    • ‘attack’

    I would hazard a guess that too many of us go straight to option 3, which can often lead to the very disaster that we have been fearing! So if by any chance you find your self in this situation today, or any time soon, remember, that unless it is literally a matter of ‘life and death’, you are probably better to breathe, and opt for one of the first two options. Good Luck!

    “Facts are not truths; they are not conclusions; they are not even premises, but in the nature and parts of premises” Samuel Taylor Coleridge


    1. This is a nod to the Marx Bros “Night at the Opera” contract scene