“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”
– Vietnam War. Admiral James Stockdale
Do you want to know the one reason you’re not happy right now?
It’s because you’re hoping for something different.
It’s as simple as that.
By wishing for something different your perception of what reality should be crashes against what is. This friction is the source of all your suffering.
You cannot alter reality. Only your perception of it, your acceptance of it.
Reality is perfectly happy being the fucked up place it is because it can’t be anything else.
It was just as fucked before you were born as it will be the day after you die.
Stop hoping for something different.
Either Act Or Accept.
These are far better choices than hoping.
Do you want to know why you’re in the mess that you are?
It’s because you were sold a dummy by a society that has glorified hope.With the movies and TV shows you watch. The super hero who swoops in to save the day at the final hour. You cling to that, waiting for your knight in shining armour to save you.
It’s true to say hope can serve as temporary relief from your current pain, but that’s about all one can say.
How have those things worked out for you in the past?
What has hope really done for you?
It’s another form of avoidance, of distraction.
What happened to your hope when coronavirus fucked up all your plans last year? What happened to your hope when governments repeatedly failed you?
Is hope going to get us out of this mess?
You’re the super hero of your own reality. You control yourself, your thoughts and the way you look at the world.
Hope is an excuse not to do what you can.
Hope is an excuse to say these problems are beyond you, to say they are beyond all of us.
Hope is saying all will be ok when I die and go to heaven.
Hope is what led you to hopelessness when the world didn’t live up to your expectations.
And let me tell you, living in hopelessness is an equally terrible place because that isn’t based in reality either.
Act or Accept.
Those are your choices.
I’ll say one more thing before I wrap up.
Giving up hope isn’t about being overly pessimistic – it’s about coming back to reality and seeing it for what it is.
Hopelessness is being overly pessimistic.
If you have clothes on your back, food on the table and a roof over your head. If you can breathe…!
I’d say there is more right with you than not.
The best things in life haven’t changed because you lost your job or your wife left you.
Taking a shit or having a wank is just as wonderful with zero dollars in the bank as it is with billions (sorry, I meant feeling the cool breeze on your skin or listening to the birds chirping in the morning – yeah those things too).
Will this message inspire you in some way?
All I can do is my best to reinforce the narratives that help me and see if it helps others.
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t.
Either way, I’m not holding onto any hope.
(Thanks for reading ladies and gentlemen. I hope (ha) you enjoyed it. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I take an extreme position on a topic simply to challenge myself (and you) to think differently, even if I don’t agree with the argument. Do I really think that hope is such a terrible emotion? No, of course not. Hope is a very important emotion designed to inspire action. But here is what I did take from this post – hope must be tied to action otherwise it’s dangerous. Hoping for things out of your control (as I learnt the hard way this past year) is truly awful for your mental health. Hope only for yourself, for the things that you can control. And then take action to make it so. For everything else you can’t control – I suggest you practise acceptance instead. With that said I’m curious what your thoughts are on the topic of hope? As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions. Wishing you well, AP2 🙏)
As the dust settles on the US election my feeling is not jubilation. I’m not happy that 70 million people still find Trump an acceptable leader. I’m not happy that a man whose flagrant disregard for the safety of his fellow Americans has cost hundreds of thousands their lives. I’m not happy that in death, the Trump campaign still has the audacity to attack the freedoms that millions have died for. I knew it was coming, but it still hurts. It hurts enormously.
I broke down and cried when Biden won. A cocktail of difficult emotions coming to a head following weeks of anxiety, depression, anger, shame, hatred… I’ve felt them all this year but not as acutely as I had in the 2 weeks preceding. In the end it was too much.
The question I have is where do we go from here? Biden is a gift during a year that’s been desperately short of them, but it doesn’t detract from my feeling that we are nowhere near where we need to be. We cannot continue on our path of wilful ignorance. We cannot continue to turn our attention away from one another or from the marginalised of society. We cannot continue to let our fear get in the way of doing what is right. We must bring greater integrity back into our lives. We must live for our values, not our pride.
We must also start finding common ground and working together. For me that common ground has to be the freedoms for which democracy stands. However we have a massive problem if we can’t agree on what reality is anymore. Perhaps this is the larger consequence of our vote 4 years ago? Where we have become so desensitised to lying that we are willing to accept it as fact. Where we are willing to believe whatever we want because it’s easier or because it’s more interesting – because the “facts” exist to support any cockamamy conspiracy theory out there.
We’re clearly addicted to the drama. It feels like we want life to one big conspiracy. In the process we have isolated ourselves from our own reality. In much the same way we refuse to accept the parts of ourselves we dislike, we have pushed the other side away. But in doing so we have only given them strength. We have only deepened the divide. Eventually we will reach a breaking point where we can no longer avoid the other side – those parts of ourselves. In that moment we have choice. We can let pride seal our hearts or let shame break down our egos.
As I write this tears are rolling down my face. I look at my 2-year-old boy and my wife who is pregnant with our second. I think about what I want my children to understand as they grow up. I desperately want them to understand that decency and character matter. That the truth and honesty matter. That morals and integrity matter. That responsibility matters. But I also want them to understand just how much forgiveness matters. This is where I have been failing.
The truth is I find it difficult to forgive those who still support Trump. And I get it. I understand why it’s the right thing to do. However it’s far easier to say the right thing than to do it. And let’s be honest, would you be able to forgive those who voted for Trump had he actually won? If you’re a Trump supporter do you forgive me? It’s much easier to forgive someone when you don’t have to sacrifice your pride. I recall that I wasn’t in a very forgiving mood four years ago. Maybe this is why so many of us refuse to accept the outcome? Not because we can’t accept reality but because we can’t forgive? It occurs to me that pride holds way more value in our society than honesty. It also occurs to me that I must swallow mine if I’m to forgive those I disagree. So let me do it. Let me say how truly sorry I am. Let me admit my shame publicly.
4 years ago I didn’t vote. I’m not talking about the US election. I’m not American FYI. I’m talking about the Brexit referendum in the UK. I didn’t pay attention living here in Hong Kong. I naively assumed we would never leave the EU. I assumed I didn’t need to go through the trouble of voting. Then I watched in disbelief as we voted to leave. And then, as if to teach me the cruelest kind of lesson, I watched on as the rest of the world seemed to follow. A series of backwards political movements that followed me home, culminating in the loss of autonomy here in Hong Kong. A loss that has meant a genuine fear of what I can say publicly. A fear that now has me writing under a pseudonym. And now I watch on in horror as the very legitimacy of voting comes under attack in what might be one of most treacherous acts from a sitting president in the history of American democracy. All for the sake of fucking pride.
And it is pride that Trump has successfully used against me. He understood that pride can be used to stoke the fires of rage and hatred in my heart. In all our hearts. And he has. He’s made me angrier than any other politician, or indeed few other people, ever have. I believe this is the main reason I cried when I found out Biden won. There was a part of me that needed to be broken down. There still is. That needs to mourn the passing of a previous self. The part that thinks it’s somehow better than others. The part of me who is unwilling to forgive those for the same mistakes I’ve made in my own past. For being human. So for my arrogance, for my wilful ignorance, for ignoring the other side, for avoiding the difficult conversations and for my pride, I am deeply sorry. I will do better.
Let me finish by telling you about the shame I’ve felt since that period in my life 4 years ago. What I’ve learnt from it and why I’m owning it now. Shame is demonised in our society yet pride is glorified. I call bullshit. Pride is a means of avoiding shame. Often the very shame we need to feel in order to change – to become a better person. Shame isn’t the bugbear that everyone makes out. Of course you shouldn’t cling to it. You need to forgive yourself, but I believe you do need to feel it. You need to process it. Shame allowed me to really see the error of my ways. It allowed me to see why I must never take my freedom for granted ever again. Why I must protect it for my children. Shame has undeniably made me a better person.
Of course I understand that pride has its place and that shame for the wrong reasons is very damaging, but if you asked me to swallow one and accept the other – if pride came in form of a red pill and shame in the form of a blue one (you’ll have to excuse my choice of colours) – I would swallow my pride. I would choose to feel shame. It’s by far the harder choice. It’s not hopeful or inspiring like pride is. It’s difficult. It’s brutal in fact, but it hurts because it’s meant to. That’s what makes you change. That’s what makes you a better person. Right now, if you care about freedom and democracy, at the very least, I believe you need to swallow the red pill as well.
Thanks for reading everyone. I might have given you a bit too much to chew on there! I also appreciate many of you might have had your fill of politics recently… Still I’m curious to get your thoughts on the relationship between pride and shame. Do we use pride as a shield – as a way of avoiding shame? As a means to avoid reality even? What do you think? As always I welcome ALL opinions and thoughts.And please don’t worry – all is forgiven.
Hello lovely readers and welcome back to another one of my life-altering monthly newsletters – where I take the time to digest how my month went and look at what areas I feel the need to ‘course correct.’ At the bottom you’ll find a list of everything I’ve written about this month. As always I hope you can draw some inspiration from my words.
Let’s get into it.
On Dealing With Anger:
The big thing that’s been bothering me this month – something that has come up a number times this year – is my relationship toward anger.
Historically it’s not an emotion I’ve had much of an issue with. I’ve never believed myself to be an angry person – certainly not one who reacts to it when he is.
Anxiety has always been the big black wolf for me.
Yet, as I continue to shake off the hangover bought on by years of depression, it seems that anger is the emotion I’m having the most difficulty with.
The question is why?
Now I’m not a psychologist, of course, but what I think might be happening is this.
The problem for those who don’t stand up for what they want and/or need, for fear of upsetting someone or challenging the part of your ego that likes to think ‘they’re a nice guy,’ is that their anger gets left unresolved. Over time, of course, this can build…
What I suspect might be happening, as a result of repressing my anger for so many years, is that it has finally started to surface. And when it has I’ve found it difficult to deal with simply because I’m not used to it.
As a result I’ve had several periods this year where I felt, to put it bluntly, pissed off at the world for seemingly no reason. This has resulted in my flying off the handle a couple of times.
One such example of this was when I wrote this rather angry blog post (while expressing my anger in response to another doom and gloom article about the environment) at the start of the month.
Of course I had a very good reason to be angry but the way in which I expressed it wasn’t, perhaps, the most skilful. After all swearing off the world and everyone in it is not terribly useful when it comes to inspiring action – which was the main gist of the article.
Still it was an interesting perspective – an unfiltered look at what my anger does for my writing when in full-on hulk mode!
It also got me thinking.
At the end of the day I believe honesty is the best medicine and that’s what you got – an honest look at my emotions in that moment, if not a well reasoned and balanced argument. The truth is that’s exactly what I want this blog to be about. I don’t want it to be another sugar-coated site about how amazing I am. I’m not. I’m flawed, just like everybody else. I want you all to see that.
Although I might regret the way in which I expressed my anger that day, the result of bearing my soul in the moment – of allowing myself to really feel and use that anger – has been very interesting indeed.
Let me run you through a few personal changed that I’ve made since then.
For one I just published a children’s book with a message about mindful consumption at its core. In an effort to put my money where my mouth is I’ve decided to donate everything I earn from it (because I don’t need it) to a charity that works with companies to redistribute surplus food to people in need. I also decided to volunteer for the same charity this month during my time off.
In terms of politics, because I believe nothing else will matter if we don’t sort it out, I’ve decided the environment has to be my number one factor when considering who I vote for. This makes things much simpler and quite frankly I need to simplify my thinking in areas like politics.
Anger, it seems, can certainly be used to exact positive change!
If that wasn’t all, what displaying my anger did, first and foremost, was generate some very honest and humbling responses from all of you lovely readers. This has, unequivocally, helped me tremendously!
Thanking My Readers:
With that in mind allow me take this moment to thank those who did.
Not withstanding those who saw through the vulgar language I used and agreed with the message or those who reminded me that my language was a bit strong, I’d like to make special mention of two in particular.
First up, Wayne – a good WordPress friend of mine, (if he doesn’t mind me saying) – called me out on it and rightly so! It also inspired him to write this brilliant blog post – Human Nature: The Caveman in all of us – which I can highly recommend reading.
Second, a young lady lady by the name of Janelle who took the time to respond to my angry post in a profoundly mature manner. I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing her comments here – what she said was this,
Please don’t ever feel like you can’t express your anger, sadness, frustration. Because then it’ll only build up in you. But you also can’t be so hard on yourself, you can’t blame yourself for everything, just like how at one point I blamed society for how I grew up, how I’m growing up. But at the same time, I have to agree, adults have left a world for us to fix, but you can also see it in a different light. And because we’ve been left this, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, you can look at this and say that this is our generation’s version of a hard time. Maybe before it might have been poverty, or general society not accepting other people. But it’s something that will allow us to grow! I know this is such a happy spin on everything, and I know history shows such brutal truth, but I also know that the world we live in wouldn’t be the same without it. But yes. Be angry. Be mad. But do it for a reason. Don’t blindly be angry for nothing. Be mad so that you can change something for your children. And I know I’m still considered a ‘child’. But I know that we also look up to the adults in the world. The ones that have succeeded. The ones that inspire. The ones that change. The ones that show that you can do anything if you just try. What you wrote might show the flip side that no one might agree with, but it needs to be said. It can’t be ignored. And nothing is silly. Nothing is ‘bad’. Nothing should be considered ‘bad’. It just is. This is getting long, but continue to do what you’re doing, you’ve made it this far and I know you can continue to do more! Just one step at a time.
What Janelle did was cut through my anger with a level of compassion rarely demonstrated by most adults. For her to take such a positive outlook – to understand the massive potential for meaning and purpose that can be harnessed during such trying times… This is exactly the king of resolve I hope to instil in my children as they grow.
Her message immediately made me regret the way in which I wrote the piece – not withstanding the language I used or because I expressed it – but because I did so blindly – lashing out unfairly at myself and the world. She made me pause. She made me think. She made me a better person.
To Janelle and all of my regular readers who have done the same – thank you from the bottom of my heart.
The Direction Of My Blog:
So moving on and thinking forward. What’s my vision for this blog, my career, my family and the world?
I’ve been experimenting a lot over the last six months without worrying too much about the direction of my blog. Now however I do want to make it more niche – to concentrate on something you lovely readers can depend on when you stop by.
So I ask myself what can I give – what stories and lessons can impart? What do you want to hear? More importantly, what do I want to write about?
As I head towards my command I realise it’s my story – about a child who always doubted his abilities, his strength, his intelligence, who then got bullied for years during his adolescence, who also struggled with drugs and intense feelings of anxiety, all of which led to years of depression – to then go on to become a first officer for one of the world’s best airlines – to overcome those issues with anxiety and depression…
This continued quest for building greater confidence and emotional resilience as I chase command in the years ahead is what I really want to focus on. To one day tell the story of how a fearful boy turned his life around to become an airline captain, a published author, an environmentalist and activist for positive change, a loving father of two and committed husband to one.
I do hope you’ll all stick around to hear it dear readers because, I guarantee you, it’s gonna be one heck of the ride.
Thank you so much for reading. As always I love to chat – feel free to drop me a line in the comments section below. I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. This is a very much a free state! Wishing you all much courage, resilience, love, compassion and resolve in the months ahead. God knows we’re gonna need it and each other – now more than ever. X (P.S .- see below for list of posts I wrote in September).
Fear is part of what all of us should be feeling at the moment. It’s a good thing too! If fear didn’t play its part we’d have become extinct a long time ago. Self preservation is paramount to keeping all of us safe. However if this is the only reason, if all you’re thinking about is the I, it’ll wear you thin quickly. Fear on this level isn’t designed to keep you running for months or years at a time. It certainly won’t be what sustains you during this pandemic.
To find motivation for long term action, for maintaining integrity, for anything, you have to consider love. Why are you doing it? For the elderly and the sick, the most vulnerable in society, your loved ones and your friends, your grandparents and your parents, your brother and your sisters, your children and your grandchildren… Why are you doing it?
I want to stress that listening to and acknowledging your fear is important. It’s telling us something. ie there’s a snake over there – I better walk the other way. Or, there’s a deadly and highly infectious disease outside, maybe I should stay indoors or wear a mask…
However our fears are often based on clinging and attachment – a fear of losing something – whether that’s something you have, control of a situation, other people’s behaviour, how society and governments should function, etc.
Fear is telling us something about reality we wish were different. It’s telling us to act and to make it so! What’s often lost on people is what exactly needs to change. I can tell you, far more often than not, it isn’t reality that needs to change. Reality is perfectly fine as it is, because it can’t be any other way. It’s your expectations of reality.
If you’re feeling angry that’s coming from you. It’s your emotion to deal with and take responsibility for. The same applies to anxiety and depression. Emotions I know well. They are my responsibility to deal with. Whether that means I need to take time to meditate or seek therapy – I need to work out the why. I need to understand before I can change – before I can accept what I cannot change.
Ultimately fear is asking for us to change something or accept something. With regards to situations we have little or no control over, acceptance is key. You will never find peace in the moment, if you don’t accept it as it is. If it happens to be a situation like the coronavirus pandemic, as much as we might wish it to be different, if we cannot act, if we cannot change it, we must learn to accept it. That means to accept your fear of the situation. This isn’t easy of course. But I do believe, by acknowledging your fear, understanding it as a shared feeling that millions of others are also experiencing, you are actually coming from a place of love and compassion. It is this, that will lead to acceptance.
Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance, said it beautifully: “When we understand our pain as an intrinsic gateway to compassion, we begin to awaken from the imprisoning story of a suffering self. In the moments when we tenderly hold our anger, for instance, we cut through our identity as an angry self. The anger no longer feels like a personal flaw or an oppressive burden. We begin to see its universal nature—it’s not our anger, it is not our pain. Everyone lives with anger, with fear, with grief.”
She goes on, “Understanding that the pain in our life is an expression of universal suffering opens us to the fullness of Radical Acceptance. Rather than being a problem, our depression, fear and anger are “entrusted to us,” and can be dedicated to our awakening. When we carry our pain with the kindness of acceptance instead of the bitterness of resistance, our hearts become an edgeless sea of compassion.”
Even in the grip of fear, pain or depression, we can act from love. In fact it’s possible fear can stir in us far greater compassion and love, than we otherwise knew we had.
Here’s a definition of courage for you:
Courage is acting from a place of love, doing what you know to be right, not in the absence of fear, but in spite of it.
Let me ask you a question.
If you see a child, let’s say it’s your child, step out onto the road into oncoming traffic and you take the courageous decision to run out to save his or her life. Was that decision to save your child’s life based on love or fear? Have a long think about it. Most will answer without thinking. Love. But was it? Consider the crucial part fear had to play in this scenario. Fear of losing something you love. Fear of your child getting badly hurt or worse. I believe it was fear that sprung you into action. Don’t forget that fear can come from a place of love too. Fear when really acknowledged and listened to, it can be a powerful gateway to compassion. When you understand the love behind your fear, you will know how you should act.
Back to the present – our only true reality – and the situation of the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re feeling fearful for yourself or your loved ones, if acting out of fear, fear that seems too much to bear, sit with it and be kind. Don’t resist it – you’ll only give it strength. Instead, remind yourself of the love behind that fear. Remember the loving reasons behind what you’re doing. Remember what we all are. It’s such a beautiful thing. It really is. To be part of something bigger than ourselves. Ultimately it’s the love that will sustain you. It’s the love that will sustain us all.
That’s 199 people I don’t know and my mum! Hi mum 👋!
Where do I begin?
Of course it’s been a long and arduous journey since I started blogging, with many ups and downs along the way, but to reach 200 followers is beyond my wildest expectations! (I’m guessing it’s beyond anybody’s wildest expectations!)
Couple this with winning what can only be described as the blogging equivalent of an Oscar last month, one could only conclude this is the finest blog in the entire blogosphere!
But don’t take my word for it, just ask my mum!
Now please bare with me while I try to be serious for a second…
I genuinely want to thank all of you who have taken the time to read my pokey little blog this year.
I started blogging because I wanted to help others in some way, shape or from, while also improve my limited skills as a writer. Having overcome a number of personal issues with depression and anxiety in recent years, I also believed I had something more to offer than simply telling people how great they are (which of course they are).
I’ve no idea if much my words have had any effect, but I can say with absolute certainty your words have helped me enormously. If I got into this because I enjoy writing, connecting with all of you lovely people is what will keep me in the game for much longer.
The sheer number of amazing individuals all trying to help one another become better people is truly inspiring. It really has been a great things to feed off of, especially this year.
To each and every one of you – for helping to teach me, to challenge my very limited ways of thinking, for engaging me with humour, love and compassion – thank you all so so much. You have all been a massive silver lining to the monstrous storm cloud that is 2020.
It was late the other night that my wife told me about her sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things she sets herself to do – of always feeling pushed to do things – of feeling “the need” to do things – that she sometimes feels driven by an underlying sense of ‘not good enough.’
I paused to take in what she was saying, before climbing into bed next to her.
She’s certainly not alone, I thought. I knew those feelings well. I suspect those feelings are probably shared by the vast majority of young professionals driven by certain expectations of society, of their parents, of their conditioning to be the best version of themselves.
As I responded, in one of my rare moments of clarity, I remembered a question that I wrote down from a podcast I heard a few weeks ago. It’s something I’ve asked myself repeatedly since, as a way to guide my actions , especially when I’ve felt a strong resistance to them – like my perceived need to keep up with my own work.
The question was this:
“Am I making this decision because of love or fear?”
– Dr Vivek Murthy
I felt it was such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something – whatever that may be – as you go about your day. The more I contemplated it over the following weeks, the more I realised how powerful it was as a guiding force in keeping the values I hold close to my heart, clear in my mind. After all, I believe all our feelings and actions are driven, on a basis level, by one of these two underlying emotions. This question is a great way of bringing to light, exactly which one of these two emotions is driving your actions at any particular moment.
Am I doing this because of love or fear?
As I climbed into bed I asked my wife what her motives are for doing (she’s a yoga teacher FYI) what she’s been doing? Is it because she believes strongly in the cause, to help others, or does she feel pushed to perform, to be better because of some perceived need to prove something to others or, indeed, herself? Is it from, on some level, a feeling of inadequacy, of not being good enough as she is right now?
I went on to explain something that dawned on me about why my own motivation towards work had stalled so many times in the past.
I never felt good enough. I was scared what others thought. I was scared that I would underperform and not be seen as good enough in the eyes of my coworkers. I was so scared of ‘being found out’ for who I thought I was. Of confirming a long help belief – a false one – that I wasn’t good enough. The same has been true of my writing.
Thinking back it’s no wonder my motivation died. It’s no wonder when I sat down to do the work I needed that it was such an enormous struggle. It felt like walking through quick sand as I ploughed ahead while fighting the stress, anxiety and sometimes, full blown depression, that had consumed my heart.
If only someone had shouted, “you are good enough you fool – you know this – you’re just doing it for the wrong reasons!!”
Alas, I know that wouldn’t have helped. True insight and understanding has to come from within and that takes time. It has taken years to grow in my heart. It still is.
LOVE AS MOTIVATION FOR WORK & LIFE
The last six months – since the world of aviation has been brought to its knees because of the coronavirus pandemic – have given me, like countless others, plenty of time to reflect.
With regards to work I have come to realise that framing my motivations, to be clear that they are coming from a genuine place of love, is what I need to do. Whipping myself into shape doesn’t work in the longer term. It’s too hard.
As I explained to my wife, when I sit down to prepare for work, for a flight or simulator check, whatever it may be, the question I have started asking is, am I preparing from a place of fear or love? And, if I am feeling fearful, what is it that I’m really afraid of? Why am I doing what I am? If it’s because I feel the need to prove something, then I know I’m coming from the wrong place.
Of course preparing so you don’t fuck up in such a way that the flight ends in catastrophe is one way to think about things. Ultimately that’s our goal – Safety absolutely, rightly, comes first. However there’s a big difference between preparing or working from a place of all consuming fear, versus love. Even if you still feel fearful, if you’re coming from a place of genuine love, that will give you strength to carry on. To stare down the eyes of the beast.
I relayed some of those loving motives, as they applied to me in my work, to my wife.
To honour and protect my fellow crew members whom I owe it to perform at my best as I know they are. To do my best for every single passenger we transport – to make sure they arrive at their destinations – that they make it home safely to their loved ones. To remember I am providing for my own family through this job – that gives us everything we need to live a happy, healthy and secure life. To remember I love myself – self preservation because I want to be alive – so I can be around for my family and friends. So my wife has a husband to love her. So my son has a father to lead him.
There’s something else at this moment in time too.
Although there isn’t a huge amount of flying to go around at the moment – I realised the small amount there is, is an opportunity to be part of something, to help in a way most others around the world can’t. To help bring the few people who need to travel for very urgent reasons. To help bring critical supplies, medical or otherwise, to areas of the world who desperately need it. To help the world keep turning to some degree at a time when it has all but ground to a halt! It’s a gift to be able to do something more than simply stay at home during this pandemic. I know millions of others would give a lot for the opportunity to do the same. It’s something to be extremely grateful for.
While these might seem like obvious motivations, I can tell you they are easily lost, or have been for me at least, in a profession so heavily driven by perfectionism – to prove your competency, and that you know everything there is to know. The pressure to prove yourself isn’t part of the the job I relish.
Yet, when I allowed myself to think in these terms, I found myself itching to get back into the righthand seat for the first time in a long time. To be a larger part of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic – even if that means I only get to fly a single sector. I want to help in any way I can. Through my wiring and my profession.
I now realise just how important it is to remind myself of my real motives when I feel anxious, especially when plagued by self-doubt, to help refocus the mind and bring me back to the present.
Am I doing this because of love or fear?
As I relayed these thoughts to my wife that night, it was interesting to hear that for the charity classes she had been organising, from which she earned not a penny, she had felt none of this resistance. She believed in the cause strongly, for a number of reasons including bringing people together from their homes at this difficult time globally. So they too could do something more than just sit at home – to contribute to charities in need, while showing love to themselves. A beautiful act of self-compassion extending outwards.
It’s obvious isn’t it? She had been acting from a place of love and the motivation for doing so was effortless.
Do you have a big problem with no idea how to proceed?
Like whether you should quit the job you hate?
Or perhaps you’ve lost your job and have no idea what the hell you should do next?
Maybe you’re simply having a bit of trouble processing difficult emotions?
Whatever it is, my fine readers, fear not – for I have something that can help you formulate the ultimate solution (no promises)!
Introducing the CLEAR model! An outstanding structured approach for decision making and problem solving in everyday life!!!
(Is it just me or did that sound like a 90’s television commercial?)
Let’s get into it.
The CLEAR model stands for:
C – Clarifywhat the problem is. L – Lookfor information and ideas. E – Evaluate options. A – Act on your decision. R – Review how it is working.
Simple yet elegant I think you’ll agree.
Wherever did you come up with such a brilliant formula?
A great question Bob, thank you for asking.
The answer is, I stole it of course!
As pilots we are taught it as a way to deal with problems we may encounter outside our normal day-to-day operations.
It achieves this by providing a series of defined steps that we can work through in order to (hopefully) achieve a safe outcome.
As the brain is a single channel processor that can only do one thing at a time (yes multi-tasking is a myth), this helps prevents it from being overloaded during periods of high stress and/or workload.
And I think we can all agree that it’s a time of high fucking stress Bob (if not workload)!
The problem with high levels of stress is it may overload your very simple single channel processor (I know it does mine), which can result in one or more of the following:
1 – Tunnel vision (or fixation) – focusing on one input to the exclusion of other vital data.
2 – Unconscious rejection of conflicting data.
3 – Slowing down of your decision making or, in the extreme, inability to make any decisions at all.
4- Impulsiveness – the desire to restore control makes you leap into action too early.
I think you’ll agree those aren’t very helpful responses Bob, especially for pilots.
But why exactly do you think a model designed for flight crew to problem solve on the flight deck of an aeroplane would be of any use to me in my normal day to day life?
Another great question Bob!
I asked myself the exact same one and let me tell you the answer I came up with:
But don’t just take my word for it Bob, let’s examine a working example completely unrelated to the realm of aviation.
Let’s examine how we might apply the CLEAR model to someone who is dealing with depression and/or anxiety – hardly the sort of problem flight crew look at solving on a aeroplane I think you’ll agree Bob!
THE CLEAR MODEL AS APPLIED TO DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY:
1 – CLARIFY
People who are depressed will often state I am depressed or I am anxious. However no one is depression, no one is anxiety. These are merely things one experiences.
One of the big problems so many people with mental health issues have is this kind of identification. They believe it is part of who they are. But this isn’t true.
Already we can see the importance of clarifying the problem.
A much more accurate thing to say would be, ‘I am currently experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ This is a very significant shift in terminology that can help you to step back from your emotions.
If you want to go a step further by introducing some deep Buddhist wisdom (and I know you do bob) you might say in third person, ‘James is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ So as to introduce the idea (and reality) that you are not your ego. The I is not me. (Wow, my simple single processor is on fire!)
Anyway we could go on about how to properly clarify the problem but I don’t want to bore you Bob. At any rate, I think you’ll agree, we’re off to a winning start!
2 – LOOK
Observe. Simply be with whatever it is that is arising. Obviously this will work best if you can find somewhere quiet to sit without distraction. (Yes Bob, that means you’ll need to put away your phone.)
Once you have, be sure to take a few deep breaths and settle yourself. Maybe run through a quick body scan – place your hand on your heart if that helps – and then simply sit and observe.
Remember you’re not trying to achieve anything at this stage. You’re simply trying to observe what is going on from moment to moment. Run through your five senses if that helps. Use this time to gather information about what your emotions really feel like within the body.
If a thought arises, simply note it then come back to feeling your bodily sensations. Ultimately you want to go toward your negative emotions so you can observe them in fine detail.
Don’t resist them bob! Trust me.
This won’t be easy of course, especially if you’re new to the game of meditation but I promise you the long term benefits of having such a practise whenever faced with difficult emotions will pay off handsomely.
Anyway I’m sure you don’t need me to run through a meditation routine with you on here. You get the point Bob. Sit and look.
3 – EVALUTE
This is the part of the session where we introduce some curiosity. Maybe you can ask some questions such as,
What triggered my emotional state today?
What was it that caused my reaction?
What false belief or narrative are driving these feelings?
Moreover what emotions am I trying to avoid that I need to feel?
What are those feelings trying to tell me that I don’t understand?
After asking these question sit back and see what arises. I find this kind of exercise extremely useful for deriving insight whenever I have a reaction to something I don’t fully comprehend.
There are of course many different kinds of meditation practises you could apply to dealing with such emotional states but once again I don’t want to bore you Bob.
4 – ACT
Now this will depend on what responses you derived from part 3 of this exceptional CLEAR model and how bad you suffer from said emotional problems.
It goes without saying that the most obvious thing to do if suffering from any kind of depression or mental health issue is to seek professional help.
Are you a therapist bob? No?
Worth a shot.
Anyway the next best thing, if you can’t afford a therapist or don’t feel you’re ready to face your demons yet (I won’t judge – it took my simple single processor a long time to pluck up the courage and ask for the help it needed) is to talk to your loved ones.
You’re not burdening them by opening up. If they love you they’ll want to know. Trust me Bob. It burdens them more not knowing.
Aside from those very obvious actions the next thing you can do is practise self-compassion. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself, it’s ok. I’m here for you. Let me feel you. Whatever kind language speaks or works for you.
It’s important to state that you don’t fight depression or anxiety (contrary to what so many toxic positivity blogs tell you). You’re meant to accept it.
As Carl Rogers once said,
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
5 – REVIEW
This brings us to the final part of this most astonishing CLEAR model. Review or reflect.
Some questions you might consider:
How did that work out?
What can I add to the practise next time that might help me?
Maybe I can add journalling as a way to write down what arises during such a practise?
Am I still suffering from the same issues and thought patterns that I have for years on end?
If that last one is true then maybe it’s time to concede that you really do need professional help. I strongly encourage all with such issues to do exactly that. At the end of the day all these tools are helpful at managing your mental health but if you have some deeper issues it’s imperative you seek the professional help you need. There is absolutely no shame in this. Remember it is never too late to get the help you need. Never.
That’s all from me today Bob.
I hope this helped.
(Once again fine readers thank you so much for hearing me out. Applying tools from my professional life to other areas such as mental health and vice versa had been of enormous benefit to me which I why I wanted to share this idea with you today. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments section below. Maybe give it a go and apply it to a different problem then let me know how you get on? Otherwise if you know of any other problem solving type acronyms I’d love to hear them as well. I’m a sucker for a good acronym! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog.)
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
When we voted in men we know lied to obtain their positions, what were we really saying?
Did we vote in the way we did because we refused to acknowledge our previous mistakes?
Will we vote the same way because we don’t have the balls to admit we were wrong?
Let me be more blunt.
What the shitting fuck has happened that we allow a man who almost only talks in complete bullshit to remain in office? Who is actively and openly preventing others from accessing the truth?
What the fuck has happened to our values?
When did freedom of speech become the freedom to lie your fucking ass off without repercussion?
You know that boy who cried wolf – who caused the death of all those villagers? Shall we vote him into power?
Great fucking idea.
Should we protect freedom of speech? Yes, of course we should. We should even protect the right to lie. But to allow people – the president of the United States none the fucking less – to lie without consequence?
What the fuck are we teaching our children?
How can we as a democratic society be ok with a man who actively seeks to prevent people from accessing the truth? This is a heinous crime.
I’m sorry for my anger and I’m sorry if you’re offended, but the truth is far more important than your ego. Actually I’m not sorry, fuck your ego. (I say that with love. I really do.)
To ask difficult questions means to confront some difficult truths.
Here are a few.
Democracy isn’t failing.
It’s not the republicans or the democrats fault. It’s not the presidents fault.
It’s our fault.
We together are all responsible. Regardless of whether you voted for that man or not.
Somewhere along the way we stopped trying to understand the other and it became a game of us against them.
In that moment we all lost.
That policeman who killed George Floyd. Who do you think is responsible for his death?
We. All. Are.
None of our hands are clean.
So long as we continue on our path of accumulating wealth while others starve.
So long as we continue to rape the planet will while we sit eating imported steak dinners simultaneously discussing how bad it is for the environment then joking how delicious it is.
So long as we sit quietly while someone with strong opinions talks about how our Black/Hispanic/Chinese/Female coworkers are less able. You know, the type of person who opens a sentence by saying, “I’m not racist but… I’m about to say something very fucking racist.
So long as we continue to think in terms of us vs them instead of a collective we. So long as we keep looking at each other as the enemy. So long as we allow those who we hate to be people we hate. We’ve lost.
I’m ashamed to say I’m guilty of all theses things.
You’re a hypocrite then? Is that what you’re telling us?
Yes. Yes I am. Absolutely. Both hands in the air.
I’m a pampered middle class white man who has enjoyed the privilege without even knowing it. My ignorance has been a disease. In no small way the colour of my skin has been an advantage that allowed me to succeed ahead of others who I’ve no doubt are more qualified, more intelligent and harder worker than I will ever be. All because I’m white and they’re not.
You know what. I don’t welcome it. It’s made me weak and I don’t welcome it. I honestly don’t welcome the easy life I’ve had.
I want a level playing field. And on it I want to compete with all my brothers and sisters regardless of background, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference. I want to embrace them at the end. Win, lose or draw. I want them to challenge me – to be able to really challenge me, so I can grow.
Do you think the athletic world benefited from allowing black people to openly compete with white people? Of course it did. Why the fuck don’t we think that true equality wouldn’t benefit us all? Of course it fucking will.
It will make ALL OF US STRONGER.
You see what we did when we marginalised and made groups of people unable to compete with us on the same level playing field? We made ourselves weaker. We made ourselves weaker because we made it easier for us by making it impossible for others.
Now we’re so fucking weak that equality feels like a burden. It feels like sharing wealth and opportunity is an affront to our being.
I’m wrong. My way of living is wrong. I’m so far from what is right it hurts. But you know what. I’m willing to admit it. Are you?
Are you willing to say I’m wrong or is your ego too fucking precious? We should all be encouraging each other everyday to openly say I am wrong and ask the question, how can I be less so?
Quite frankly if you don’t have the balls to admit you’re wrong, you’re a coward.
Is this making you uncomfortable? I hope so. It’s making me uncomfortable. Which is why I know it’s where I must go. If you’re uncomfortable it’s because I’m challenging your beliefs.
THATS A GOOD THING EVEN IF IM WRONG.
Let’s have the discussion. Let’s have the conversation. Let’s try to understand each other. Let’s move closer together.
And let’s stop giving power to those who aren’t willing to do the same.
Please, I bet of you, for our children’s sake. Let’s value our fucking values again.
(As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions. This is just me venting. Please don’t think I would ever direct that at you. I’m simply trying to get myself to wake up to the ways I can be better.)
I feel we need to be very careful about what we tell ALL children, including our young girls. To make sure the false narratives that have so visibly divided the sexes throughout history, doesn’t continue to be the narrative that writes our children’s future.
It’s a well worn discussion that bears repeating, and for that reason I’ll keep my thoughts and this post short. That said I do want to raise a point that’s maybe been missed in our attempts to rewrite the story for our future girls.
With regards to the feminist movement in particular, we need to be especially careful about how we manage its evolution.
When I think about the way in which mainstream media has started to reflect this changing narrative, I wonder if we are unwittingly going down a dangerous path.
Not because we are telling young girls to stand up for themselves more.
Not because we are telling women they’re every bit as capable as men.
Not because we are telling them to be their own heroines – not to expect that they will be saved by some bullshit knight in shining armour.
These are undeniably good things to teach our young girls in order to find greater equality going forward.
What I’m taking about is something more subtle.
The well worn narrative of what it means to be a man – macho and independent – to not need anybody’s help. Specifically that asking for help is a sign of weakness (Something I talked about at length in my previous post).
I think it’s this narrative that has put distance between many of today’s male leaders and their own hearts. It’s acting in the pretence of what society believes to be strong that is, in no small way, dividing nations and destroying our earth.
There’s nothing wrong with challenging the narrative women are less capable than men which, of course, is complete BS, but to teach our girls the same things we’ve been teaching our boys is not a smart move.
The way we teach girls to have greater emotional intelligence. To pick them up and hold them when they cry. To let them understand the importance of knowing their emotions intimately.
This is a great thing.
We need to teach and show our boys more of this. Not women less.
To teach them not to cry and be like a man, or grow a pair, so to speak, would be a disaster.
A world in which neither sex is able to properly process or access their own emotions – where girls are told ‘not to cry’ – is a world we cannot allow.