Motivational Mondays – 10/08/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my Motivational Mondays Post! The only newsletter to give you a nice warm hug and a much needed kick up the backside at the same time.

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 

Love to all X


4 x Thoughts From Me:

There isn’t an inverse correlation between success and failure. The more you fail in life, the more you succeed. If you’re not failing it simply means you’re not trying as hard as you should be. If you ask me, the only real failure in life is not trying. You need to put yourself in positions where you have to fail in order to succeed.

Creativity has nothing to do with being the best but everything to do with expressing your individuality. It’s about doing something in a way that only you can. This is what makes the creative process so beautiful. It’s also what makes imitation such a terrible waste of your talents. There will always be someone who can do it better than you but no-one, who can do it the same.

What the world needs from you and what society expects are two very different things. One you need to trust in. The other you need to tell fuck off!

Why we feel the need to map out our entire lives from the age of thirteen is beyond me. Life is meant to be a melody. Yet so many of us get stuck on one note. That’s not a beautiful song. That’s just noise. Or put another way, a really shitty way to live. You have to allow the melody to play out through both the high notes and the low. That’s what creates a beautiful life.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“Your passion is for you. Your purpose is for others. Your passion makes you happy. But when you use your passion to make a difference in someone else’s life, that’s a purpose.” – Jay Shetty

There are so many people who don’t know what they want. And I think that, in this world, that’s the only thing you have to know — exactly what you want.Agnes Martin

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” – Carl Jung


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This insightful Tim Ferris podcast episode with Brad Feld on The Art of Unplugging, Carving Your Own Path, and Riding the Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster. I was particularly interested in Brad’s advice on dealing with depression and how to find the right therapist. Quotes and notes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • “Do your words match your actions?”
  • “Brad, they can’t kill you and they can’t eat you. Suit up.” — Len Fassler
  • “The first day of therapy with a new therapist is worse than the first day of school.” 
  • I was able to break down my shame around depression gradually by talking about it. The more I did the more comfortable I became with having had it. 
  • Having honest conversations with other people who told me that this was the first real conversation they’d ever been able to have about their struggles with depression made me feel like what I had to say had value. This created a positive feedback loop that obliterated my shame. Not lessen it, obliterate it completely! My narrative shifted. I just started to think ok it’s depression – not gonna hide from it. We’re human. We can either deal with it or not. 
  • To be willing to go deep on yourself. To keep recognising we are all flawed. The more we can do this without shame the better. Ask yourself, How are you complicit in creating the conditions you say you don’t want? What it is not being said? What is being said that you’re not listening to? 
  • It’s true for most people. We are in complete denial about the ways in which we create our own unhappiness. 
  • HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT THERAPIST – GET A REFERRAL FOR A REFERRAL. I recommend finding someone – a friend or colleague who has done therapy and get their recommendation (or if you have a GP you’re comfortable with – most of them will have a network of therapists for referral). Go to their therapist for a referral. Get them to spend an hour with you so they can refer to someone that in their professional opinion believe is appropriate for you.

2 – This interesting BBC article – The mindset you need to succeed at every goal by David Robson. The article explores what it means to have a strategic mindset and how you can use that to achieve your goals more easily. Well worth reading! As quoted,

“The construct – called the “strategic mindset” – describes the tendency to question and refine your current approach in the face of setbacks and challenges. While others diligently follow the same convoluted path, people with the strategic mindset are constantly looking for a more efficient route forwards. “It helps them figure out how to direct their efforts more effectively,” says Patricia Chen at the National University of Singapore. And Chen’s new research shows that it may just spell the difference between success or failure.” 


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

This week I get to spend it enjoying the confines of a hotel room in San Francisco! Such are the joys of layover travel during the COVID era.

Anyway, to make me feel slightly less homesick I thought I’d share this short story of when I was learning the ropes as a brand new father nearly two years now. May it serve as a waring for all new parents everywhere…

So I was happily going about the task of wiping my son’s bottom by gently lifting his legs up by his ankles and pushing them into his body (so his knees were pressed into his chest), before he happily let rip!

It seems the pressure applied plus the liquid consistency of his stool created the perfect conditions for something called projectile shitting.

That’s right!

Shit flew all across our windowsill – upon which we had positioned him and his changing table – travelling at least 4 feet from his anus before completely covering our favourite framed wedding picture.

I’m guessing there’s a cruel metaphor somewhere about what his plans were for our marriage. Best to ignore that.


Till next week…

Have a Happy F***ing Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

What’s your best (or worst) projectile story?


(Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)

PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 03/08/20

Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – JULY 2020 – The Importance Of Crying, The Dangers Of Hoping, My Worst Landing As A Pilot and More…

Hello lovely readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter. Included is a round up of what I’ve been writing and reading, plus some closing thoughts from this month. I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do

This post challenges the narrative that only girls should cry and why we need to stop telling our young boys that men don’t. It goes further to talk about the harmful narratives partially responsible for the statistic that men are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, despite being nearly half as likely to develop depression. I’m particularly proud of this one. I hope you can join the debate and be part of the change in narrative we need.

How Parents Can Promote The Evolution Of Feminism Mindfully

This follows on from the above post. It gives a few of my thoughts about why we need to be careful with what we tell ALL our children and how we, as parents, can manage the evolution of feminism more mindfully. As I stated,

“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.” 

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person

The following is a personal story about a particularly bad day ‘at the office’ for me. A story of my most traumatic experience as a young pilot. One that took me some time to recover from. That said, it is one I now look back on as a defining moment in my career. One that led me to seek the help I needed and shape me into the man I am today. I’m not only a better pilot because of it, I’m a better person. If anyone has suffered from depression, anxiety or PTSD, it also tells the story of how I overcame some of these personal struggles.

The Hopeless Nature Of Hoping

A rather one sided piece designed to challenge our perception of hope as an emotion. I believe that if hope doesn’t inspire action it can actually do more harm than good. Of course you have to take this one with a pinch of salt, but much of what I have to say is about challenging ideas and beliefs – not changing them. Even if I don’t completely agree with the argument, I still want to write ideas in such a way they start a dialogue/debate. I hope (ha) you enjoy.

The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation

Can you guess what that is? This post gives my thoughts on how one might better approach a conversation. This was actually my most popular post of the month. Hope you enjoy it too!

A C.L.E.A.R. Model For Problem Solving In Everyday Life

The CLEAR model is an easy-to-use, structured approach designed for problem solving on the flight deck of an aeroplane. Thought I’d share it with you lovely readers and apply it to problem solving – specifically dealing with depression and anxiety – in everyday life. Had a lot of fun writing this one.

If Honesty Isn’t The Value We Look For In Our Leaders Then What Does That Say About Us?

I’m not sure whether I want my blog to be overtly political or not, but with everything going on I decided to vent some frustrations. I mean for most of my words to come from the heart but this one is very much from the gut. I remember feeling angry as I wrote this and decided to go with it. I actually wrote it back in early June following the death of George Floyd but was hesitant to post it then. In the end I decided it’s that very awkwardness we all need to be confronting more regularly. At any rate, I think it brings up a very good point about the need to look for honesty in our leaders.

The Simplest, Most Effective Way To Overcome Writer’s Block

A fun little post to finish. This one’s a doozy. Hope you enjoy.

Motivational Mondays

My weekly newsletter designed to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week and to get you in the mood for the week ahead. Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to in the week that have helped me grow. It finishes with 1 something silly to designed to make you lovely readers smile. The link above was this weeks post. Below are from the rest of the month. Enjoy!

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

So I decided to purchase this e-course called Blogging Bootcamp from the genius behind The Art Of Blogging. To say this was money well spent is a massive understatement. If you want to further your blog, be a better writer and grow as an all round human being, Cristian’s blogging bootcamp has it all and then some. I highly recommend anyone remotely interested in being a better blogging to sign up. I promise you won’t regret it.


WHAT I’VE LEARNT:

Do you want to know why I’m so excited about the time we’re living in? Why I’m so optimistic? It’s because change is happening. Change that is necessary to ensure we don’t go back to what normal was because normal has stopped working. I believe we are about to embark on the great global revolution of our time.

COVID has been one almighty wakeup call but this is just the beginning. Look at how united and politically involved the younger generations are! The change that is coming is inevitable. It’s no longer a debate. We ALL need to change our ways and the way we think about each other. We need to stop thinking as individuals and start thinking as a collective.

As sure as shit one person can eat a bat in a wet market and bring the world to its knees, you best believe that every single thing you do matters. Every single moment, every single action you take has a ripple effect that extents far beyond your immediate self. We are more interconnected than ever before. This isn’t a bad thing provided we can see how hurting another ultimately hurts ourselves. Provided we can see how important and precious each moment on this earth is.

I believe we are nothing if not the people before us and we will be for nothing if we don’t fight for those who come after us. There’s still an almighty storm to weather but together I strongly believe we can get through it. If you don’t want to sink you need to be on the ship.

Thank you for reading guys and gals. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. I’m very interested in having my beliefs and thoughts challenged so I can grow as a person. If you want to stroke my ego I won’t object either of course… Love to all. X

A C.L.E.A.R. Model For Problem Solving In Everyday Life.

Are you lacking direction in life?

Not sure which way you should turn?

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 – Clarify what the problem is.
L – Look for 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:

Why not?

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!

Let’s continue.

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.

Next.

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 agin I don’t want to bore you Bob.

Moving on.

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 I 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.”

Moving on.

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.)


SOURCES:

http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:clear

MENTAL HEALTH HOTLINES/WEBSITES:

HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

The Hopeless Nature Of Hoping

“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. 

Do you know what else achieves the same? 

Taking drugs. Drinking alcohol. Binge watching NETFLIX. 

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. 

Where is your hope now that coronavirus has fucked up all your plans for this year and probably many more to come?

Is hope going to get us out of this mess?

No.

Fuck hope. 

You’re the super hero of your own reality. You control yourself, your thoughts and the way you look at the world. 

Fuck hope. 

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. 

Fuck hope. 

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 and listening to the birds chirping in the morning – yeah those things too).

Will this message inspire you in some way?

Who knows.

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.


(As always I welcome ALL comments and opinions on this blog. What are your thoughts about hope? I’d be keen to get your perspective in the comments sections below. Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope (ha) it helped.)

Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do

Why is it always said, he cried like a little girl?

We never say, she cried like a little boy, do we? 

For that matter, we never say she cried like a little girl either.

Of course I’m forgetting that’s because it’s acceptable for girls to cry! Silly me. It’s just boys who don’t cry!

Except that’s not true, is it?

Last I checked, little boys cry too. 

In fact I know it’s not true, because my two year old boy cries every single day.

And let me tell you something, he’s the happiest person I know.

The. Happiest. Person. I. Know. 

It’s odd don’t you think?

How happy and peaceful children can be, yet we adults have such a hard time accessing those same emotions?

It got me thinking as to why that might be. I wondered, ‘it couldn’t be related… could it?’

Could crying, as one example of allowing ourselves to feel and process negative emotions, be exactly what we need to do in order to access positive emotions like peace and joy?

I decided to do a little research.

My first findings confirmed what I suspected – that crying from time to time, contrary to popular chauvinistic belief, is actually a pretty fucking good thing for you to do.

This article from Medical News Today on the benefits of crying noted,

Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals make people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being.”

In addition the article also noted that crying reduces stress, boosts your mood, aids sleep, fights bacteria and even improves your vision (remind me to tell some of my older pilot co-workers of this fact).

Jebus!

I figured it must help, but I had no idea it helped this much.

I wonder then, does this account for why we adults (and men in particular) have a much harder time accessing feelings of peace and happiness?

Do we not allow ourselves to cry enough?

Thinking about my own life it certainly makes sense.

Years of depression was a result of not allowing myself to feel exactly what I needed. After uncovering some hard truths and facing those demons head on, following months of therapy, I finally allowed myself to break down (or ‘break open’ as my therapist referred to it, which I much prefer).

It was such an enormous relief to finally let go of what I’d been fighting for so many years. Afterwards I’d felt an inner peace I’d not felt for years. I remember sleeping like a baby that night.

Now I understand the science behind why that was.

More importantly though the harmful narrative I’d clung onto for years finally began to shift. My life has been immeasurably better ever since.

Of course this wasn’t purely because I allowed myself to cry, but I do believe I’d never have been able to properly process and let go of those difficult emotions without doing so.

Recently I’ve been allowing myself to cry more often. I can tell you that’s not easy for a man who has been conditioned by society to keep him emotions under lock and key. Yet in doing so, my life is now filled with far more beauty and meaning.

I cried the other day when holding my son simply because I became aware of how precious it was while he hugged me during a quiet moment. I let myself cry in front of him. I wanted him to know that this is both a normal and healthy thing to do.

I wonder if any of you thinks this make me less of a man?

Did crying when my son was born make me less of a man? When I first held him in my arms?

Did crying on my wedding day make me less of a man? When I stood in front of all my friends and family as I read out my vows to my wife?

These were some of the happiest, most meaningful days and moments of my life.

If the answer is yes then I formally request to be a female because allowing yourself to cry, allowing yourself to feel your emotions, is what makes life beautiful. It’s what allows your difficult emotions to pass. It’s what allows you to find greater peace.

Luckily I don’t have to go through a sex change operation to allow myself to cry.

As it turns out – newsflash everyone – men can cry after all!

Not only can men cry, I found out that it doesn’t result in your life falling apart or your penis falling off.

Unbelievable news I know but completely true! I can confirm this, you see, because last I checked it’s still there.

In fact, I’ll double check now for you… Yep, still there.

Phew!

Do you want to know why men cry?

Because it’s not a female thing to cry. Shock, horror… It’s actually a human thing to cry. It’s in our nature to cry.

I mean of course it is! Evolution wouldn’t have up with crying pointlessly. Think about it.

Why are we the only species on the planet to deny our nature?

This is exactly what makes us all a bunch of lunatics.

Anyway I’ve gotten away from the research that backs all these opinions up, so let me get back to it.

When I dug a little deeper for this post an extremely bizarre statistic stuck out for me like a sore thumb.

I assumed that men, being more prone to bottle up their emotions and ‘do it alone,’ would almost certainly have higher rates of depression.

WRONG.

Women have been found to have higher rates of depression by a factor of nearly two.

There are a number of reasons for this including gender inequality but studies suggest biological factors to be the major determinant.

At any rate, without getting sidetracked into another very important debate, that wasn’t the bit I found weird.

What I found particularly bizarre was the finding that men are three to four times more likely to take their own life than women.

Why would men be three to four times as likely to die from suicide if they are half as likely to become depressed in the first place?

Assuming my very rough maths is correct and assuming that those who commit suicide have first developed depression, then a man with depression is actually 6 to 8 times more likely to kill himself than a women who develops depression does.

Of course you have to take that with a huge amount of salt, but even so…

Wow!

Talk about being a man hey? Or ‘manning the fuck up’ as some my friends might say.

Talk about the strong emotionally resilient men we have built as a society.

Clearly we’ve done a great job at giving men the tools they need to process their own emotions right?

Or maybe not.

Maybe, instead, we ought to rethink our narrative.

Maybe, just maybe, telling our boys not to cry isn’t such a smart move.

Maybe, just maybe, telling our young boys to ‘man up,’ or ‘grow a pair,’ or ‘stop being such a pussy,’ actually hurts both sexes, especially men.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to redefine what it means to be a man in the first instance.

What do you think?

I’ll tell you why I decided to bring this subject up.

I overheard someone we had hired to babysit our son tell him not to cry. It was a women, by the way, it case you were thinking it must be a man. She clearly didn’t mean any harm but I had to say something.

I asked her if she’d have said the same thing to a girl, or whether she would, in fact, have picked her up and comforted her?

(FYI Research shows that mothers talk more on average with their girl children, including sharing and identifying emotions, as opposed to their boy children.)

I let her know how damaging I believe telling children not to cry is.

I told her that I hope my son always allows himself to cry if he feels the need and that I will never allow him to be shamed for doing so in my household.

Never.

After going away and giving it some more thought, I realised something else.

A deeper problem that many of us might have with other people crying. And how this problem can likely be attributed to telling our boys not to cry.

I suspect many of our distraction techniques aren’t about helping the child so much as a strategy by adults to avoid issues they themselves have about how crying makes them feel.

I believe it’s the adult who often has the problem, whether they are conscious of it or not.

I know whenever my child cried, early on in the weeks shortly after he was born, it brought up intense feelings for me. I felt like a failure every time I was unable to settle him. I would say, “why doesn’t he like my breastmilk as much as my wife’s?”

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself with that joke.

Seriously though, on occasions he’d cry for long periods, without successfully calming him down, I would get very angry with him (not historically an emotion I’ve had a lot of trouble with). I would get so angry that I had to leave the room. Now I was never going to hurt him, but that anger was new to me.

It felt very intense.

What quickly followed, whenever I gave up by leaving him in another room, was intense feelings of remorse.

How could I treat him like that?

How could I just abandon him in his cot when he’s crying?

Why am I taking an infant crying so personally?

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Clearly I had some serious shit to work through. Yet in a typically male way, I didn’t seek any help, didn’t talk about it, nor did I let myself cry.

I just beat myself up.

(FYIAll of these can be explained as reasons why men have a harder time dealing with depression and why they are more likely to commit suicide – see this article for more details)

It wasn’t until one day when I got home from work that I saw my son playing on the living room floor. In that moment I felt nothing but an overwhelming repulsion to get away from him. I didn’t want to be with him. I didn’t want to father my son. My gorgeous boy.

This time the remorse that came flooding up was too much. I went to the bedroom closed the door and started to cry.

I cried like a little girl.

No.

I cried like a man.

I let myself really cry. When I was finished I remember seeing with such clarity, there was no doubt about what it was I needed to do next. I reached for the phone and spoke to someone. I finally asked for the professional help I knew I’d needed for a long time.

Crying was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

It gave me the clarity to see what I needed.

It gave me the courage to ask for help.

I can’t emphasise that last statement enough.

Crying gave me courage.


CLOSING WORDS

To all men who feel conflicted about their need to cry, it’s important to understand that crying doesn’t mean you’re not capable of dealing with your emotion. It means you are dealing with your emotions. Please understand it’s perfectly ok to do so.

Equally don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There is no shame in this. There is nothing unmanly about asking for help or showing emotions. We all need help from time to time. That’s part of the human experience.

Don’t think you need to ‘man the fuck up,’ or stop ‘crying like a little girl.’

If it helps consider the phrase, ‘man the fuck up and cry.’

In doing so you might just shatter the bullshit stereotype of what it actually means to be a man.

In doing so you might just have a greater understanding of what it is to be human.

In doing so you might give this world something it needs more than another macho man incapable of accessing his own emotions.

(Thank you to all for taking the time to read. I’m very curious to know your thoughts and get a proper debate going. To challenge my views so I can grow. Please help me cry by leaving your comments below. I welcome ALL opinions.)


ADDITIONAL SOURCES/FURTHER READING

BBC Article: Why more men than women die by suicide

Medical News Today Article: Eight benefits of crying: Why it’s good to shed a few tears

Happiness is here blog post: 10 things for parents to say instead of ‘stop crying.’

Janet Lansbury’s blog post: No Bad Kids – Toddler Discipline Without Shame (9 Guidelines)

This study examined gender differences in emotion word use during mother–child and father–child conversations.

This study explores why depression is more prevalent in women

For those who might be dealing with depression and/or struggling with thoughts of suicide it goes without saying I hope you can find the strength to reach out and talk to someone. Coming back from the brink isn’t easy, but it’s never too late. Never. Below is a list of various hotlines and websites in which you can seek help.

HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Local Websites And Emergency Contact Numbers

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/international/global-mental-health

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – MAY 2020 – On Dealing With Depression, A Tribute To A Boy I Never Knew, How To Cultivate A Growth Mindset and More…

Hello fine readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter! 

Included is a round up of what I’ve been writing and reading, plus a collection of thoughts from yours truly.

I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free.

A personal post that looks back at some of my difficulties dealing with depression and anxiety – specifically about how they could be attributed to having had a fixed mindset. I go on to explain how a growth mindset helped to change my life. I wrote this following my reading of Carol S. Dweck‘s brilliant book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Through her research Dweck demonstrates just how limiting a fixed mindset can be in stalling motivation and progress, especially following failure or when facing challenges. Conversely she demonstrates that those with a growth mindset see failure not as a confirmation of being unable or unintelligent, but as something from which they can learn and improve. (Highly highly recommended reading).

In Honour Of A Boy I Never Knew

Another personal post I wrote shortly after hearing some extremely tragic news about a young boy who committed suicide close to where we live. As I wrote:

‘Living with a depression that drives people to take their own lives is something very few of us will ever be able to fully comprehend. What I can say with some degree of certainty, however, is judgement won’t help those in the battle to save their own lives. They need our love, compassion and understanding. They need our help.’

At the bottom of the post I left links to a number of mental health support lines and websites.

9 Golden Rules For Cultivating A Growth Mindset

Following on from the above post: How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free, I decided to put together this list of 9 Golden Rules for Cultivating a Growth Mindset, that I compiled from my notes of Carol S. Dweck‘s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Why A Basic Understanding Of The Mind Helps To Let Go

A short post on some thoughts about why a basic understanding of how the mind works can help to let go of difficult thoughts (or any thought for that matter).

Happy Silly Mondays

A new weekly newsletter I’ve started putting together in an attempt to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. It contains 3 thoughts from me, 3 quotes from others and 3 things I’ve been reading, watching and/or listening to during the week. It finishes with something silly to hopefully make you lovely readers smile. 

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury

Great book that dishes out indispensable parenting advice on dealing with difficult toddler behaviours while fostering a respectful relationship at the same time. It argues that respectful, calm and confident parenting that acknowledges and accepts children’s emotions and experiences, empowers them to come to terms with own development.

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace is Every Step is a beautifully written book on the power of living mindfully, being fully engaged with the present moment. Whether sitting at traffic lights, eating, sitting, or washing the dishes, Nhat Hanh demonstrates that peace and happiness is available to us at any time. He provides exercises to increase our awareness of our own body and mind through conscious breathing, which can bring immediate joy and peace. It’s the second time I’ve read this book. I’m currently in the process of turning my notes into the subject of a future favourite toilet book post. Stay tuned!


RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM MY JOURNAL:

Every moment is an opportunity to put yourself back on track. Every moment! This is an amazing thing to think about when you start to notice yourself drifting from the present. Simply take a breath and then smile as you exhale. Coming back to the present is coming back to life.

Strength of character is simply the ability to remain true to yourself when things are going against you.

The most important resource that you’re giving away and that gets stolen from you every day = attention. 

Success isn’t achieving something. Success is enjoying achieving something. Win or lose. Success is about enjoyment. Not money. Not titles. Not prestige. Not being right. Not fame. It’s enjoyment. It’s loving what you’re doing. If you truly do, the other stuff won’t matter. 

Seeing your reality as it really is, is a skill you have to practise. 

Having a routine = A commitment to improvement everyday.

Praise is the enemy of progress if handed out thoughtlessly. Praise should be earned through hard work. Not because someone is naturally good at something. That will prevent them for working towards greatness.

Often our feelings – especially those based on insecurity – want nothing more than to simply be acknowledged.

In not addressing our own suffering we cause it in others

You can never be perfect but you can always be better

If you live in the present moment you realise the problem you have in your head is either something you can do about or it’s something you can’t. In either case continuing to worry about it achieves nothing. Act or let go. 

Don’t make the mistake in thinking what others want from you is what you want to give. 

You might never change someone’s mind on the spot, but by having the conversation you can, at least, plant the seed. It often takes a long time for a seed to sprout let alone blossom. Keep having the conversation

I would argue that the single biggest problem in the world has nothing to do with politics or religion, the environment or disease. I would ascertain that the single biggest problem we have, a problem we need to solve if we are to overcome all the other ones, is one of the mind. Specifically the dangerous condition we have to fix our beliefs. 

The best thing you can do to honour life is pay attention to it 

If you keep increasing demands on yourself you’re going to stall. You need to find the optimum amount of lift in your life without adding too much weight. 

In Honour Of A Boy I Never Knew

I found out today what you did.

I never knew you yet you lived so close.

Just four floors above and yet you might as well have been on the other side of the world.

We must have passed many times – side by side in the elevator – and yet I never noticed.

Did I smile?

Did I show you kindness?

Or did my preoccupations blind me from seeing you?

I’m sorry if you thought the world didn’t care. If the world didn’t pay attention.

I shed a tear for you today.

I never knew you, but I’ll never forget you. I’ll never forget how you must have suffered.

I want you to know your life was not in vain.

In your honour, I will be better.

In your honour, I will strive to keep my eyes and my heart open.

To really see the people I pass by. To see the people I don’t know but are every bit a part of this shared world.

In your honour, I will be kinder.

In your honour, I will strive to be the best version of myself.

In your honour, I will love my life to fullest extent possible.

In your honour, the boy I never knew.

May you rest now in peace.


Those who have never experienced the darkest corners of their mind, will never be able to comprehend why someone would contemplate suicide. 

I myself can’t, but from experience I believe I can, at least, appreciate how it might lead there. 

To those who might label them as selfish – who are quick to judge – I would ask you to think for a second and consider this. 

If a man were burning alive and you handed him a loaded gun, would you judge him for shooting himself?

Living with a depression that drives people to take their own lives is something very few of us will ever be able to fully comprehend.

What I can say with some degree of certainty, however, is judgement won’t help those in the battle to save their own lives.  

They need our love, compassion and understanding. 

They need our help.

Be kind and if you think someone might be suffering, reach out. 

Something as seemingly simple as asking for help, is anything but easy when you’re drowning. 

You never know just how powerful a lifeline you might be offering.

To those who are suffering, who don’t know how to ask, who can’t seem to find the strength, please know there are people waiting to embrace you when you do.

There are people who still love you and know you have what it takes to come back from the brink. 

If you can find the courage, I’ve left a list of links below where you can seek help.


HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Local Websites And Emergency Contact Numbers

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/international/global-mental-health

How A Fixed Mindset Led To Years Of Depression And How A Growth Mindset Set Me Free.

“A few modern philosophers assert that individual intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protect & react against this brutal pessimism… With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgement and literally to become more intelligent than we were before.”ALFRED BINET (early 1900s)

I’d lived with a fixed mindset for years.

It was a mindset driven by a deep seated belief of not being good enough. Not being smart enough.

Simply not being enough.

I told myself all sorts of lies based off this. Lies that sounded so strongly I became crippled with depression and anxiety.

My mind tortured my heart until it shut off completely.

I’m happy to say I’m in a much better place now.

I’m more productive than I’ve ever been. I’m calmer, more confident. My thinking is clearer. I trust in my heart again.

I’m beginning to wake up to who I truly am.

One of the reasons, I believe, is an understanding that nothing is fixed. Nothing is permanent.

Through true insight gained from asking for help, I’ve been able to gradually change the harmful narrative I’d spent over a decade strengthening.

I didn’t realise it then, not in these terms at least, but one of the major reasons I managed to overcome depression was because I started to cultivate a growth mindset.


For those who’ve never heard the termonolgy before, Maria Popova from her blog post: Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives explains it well:

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behaviour, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.[1]

Much of our understanding on the idea stems from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol S. Dweck as outlined in her brilliant book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Through her research Dweck demonstrates just how limiting a fixed mindset can be in stalling motivation and progress, especially following failure or when facing challenges. Conversely she demonstrates that those with a growth mindset see failure not as a confirmation of being unable or unintelligent, but as something from which they can learn and improve.

At the crux of her argument is the idea that those with a growth mindset understand just how valuable effort is over any sort of innate talent.

They understand effort = intelligence, and so fall in love with the process of improvement. On the other hand those with a fixed mindset are so worried about what failure might say about them, they come to dread doing what they have to in order to succeed. In extreme cases they avoid doing all together so as to avoid the pain of failure.

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

When I began to think back over my own life in these terms, I began to see how damaging a fixed mindset had been throughout my life.

Failure to me was confirmation I was one.

I hated doing certain work from a young age. Languages, in particular, were difficult for me. I was led to believe, by many teachers nonetheless, I wasn’t good at English and/or Languages.

The result?

I didn’t bother putting any effort into those subjects. I remember thinking what’s the point. I’m not any good so might as well concentrate on what I am.

The trouble is it worked in reversed too!

I was regularly told how good I was at math – that it was something I should pursue because it will open many doors. This was drilled home to me.

The result?

I completely lost interest in a subject I once loved. I still managed to scrape an A during my GCSE’s, but much to my father’s disappointment, I decided not to pursue it as an A level. I didn’t want people to find out, that if I put in the effort and failed, I might not be that good after all.

My parents, who I know believed were doing the right thing, didn’t realise how harmful praising my natural abilities were. It turns out that praising a child’s natural ability, or telling them how clever they are, is extremely damaging because it fixes a child’s mindset.

As Dweck notes,

“The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent… In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.”

I’ll tell you a story of another teacher who never made mention of my abilities in English. She had me moved into her English class for the top peers in our age group (even though I belonged in the bottom). She made sure I sat at the front and paid keen attention (she was somewhat terrifying which helped). Despite not putting much effort into my coursework during those years, because of her, because of what I learnt through the effort I was forced to put in, I achieved B’s in both English Language and Literature.

You might think so what?

Well given my coursework material, which counted for a large percentage of the final grade, averaged between a C and a D, I must have aced the final examinations. I would also point out, before I joined her class, I was far, far behind the rest of the pack. On top of which I was going through some very difficult times in my life (I’ll get to that shortly). To this day they’re my proudest grades from secondary school.

Forgetting the grade, however, what she proved was far more important, even if it didn’t fully register till years later. She proved that if I chose to apply myself I was more than capable. She helped plant the seed for developing a growth mindset that would bear fruit many years later.


Image Source: https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/29/carol-dweck-mindset/

Prolonged bullying can instil a fixed mindset. Especially if others stand by and do nothing… Victims say that when they’re tortured and demeaned and none comes to their defence, they start to believe they deserve it. They start to judge themselves and to think they’re inferior.

I would love to say from this point everything got better. That I understood and moved forward with a newfound belief and started to grow.

But it didn’t.

I didn’t.

It got worse. Much worse.

My problems stemmed from many variables, but bullying played the biggest role. Those years of secondary school were brutal for me. I was bullied every day at school for years.

This was compounded by the fact my parents couldn’t see what was happening. I was at boarding school halfway across the world. They didn’t know.

They couldn’t.

The trauma of being bullied repeatedly hardwired my response to withdraw from everyone and everything. I shut down as a way to repress the overwhelming emotions I didn’t know how to process. It was depression in the making.

Ultimately this was a major problem because it prevented me for doing what I needed the most.

Ask for help.

What followed makes perfect sense to me now.

When my first love of two years broke up with me during University, I fell apart. I had no confidence I was capable of being on my own. No belief I was lovable, or that I’d be capable of finding it again.

Similarly, when I messed up a landing so badly during my early Junior First Officer training as a pilot (that the Captain had to take over and go around), it felt like my whole world had fallen apart. I put on a brave face but when I got home I broke down. The feelings of inadequacy came flooding up. It was too much for me.

(For those who don’t know in aviation, a go-around is an aborted landing of an aircraft that is on final approach.)

Carrying on afterwards, whenever I faced failure of some kind, was extremely, extremely difficult. Difficulties would often trigger a bout of depression that could last for weeks if not months at a time.

What my fixed mindset always wanted was to give up. To retreat into my shell. To shut down rather than fail and confirm what years of bullying had led me to believe.

It took everything I had to see the light at the end of the tunnel. To understand these were just lessons on the road of life which all of us go through.

Still, something in my heart kept my head above water.

The small voices of a growth mindset, planted there by various people including my parents, my high-school English teacher and my wife, to name a few, who all understood I really was capable, were enough in the end to pull me through. To all of them I am, and always will be, extremely grateful.

Yet it was all much harder than it needed to be. The major problem wasn’t my fixed mindset, but that the depression and paralysing anxiety it caused, prevented me from reaching out for help. I knew I needed it but for years I simply couldn’t find the strength.

It wasn’t until after my son was born, when I came home from work one day consumed by a regular bout of depression. As I sat with him and looked into his eyes, I realised I didn’t want to be around him.

I didn’t want to father him.

The familiar feeling of wanting to runaway and hide, to withdraw into my shell, to shirk all my responsibilities – including that as a father – broke me. The remorse and guilt was too much to bear. I left the room and the tears fell.

I let the sadness consume me.

I cried and cried. I cried until nothing was left but a strange peace. Something inside me changed. Something that said this time I couldn’t let depression win. I won’t. I didn’t think about what to do next. I simply picked up the phone.

I reached out.

I asked for help.


“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives”

I rate it as both the most courageous and important decision I’ve ever made. Since then the changes have far exceeded what I thought possible.

Am I out of the woods yet?

No, not a chance.

But I can honestly say after I sought help, after over a decade of suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as long-term depression, I’ve not had an episode since.

I still struggle with anxiety and other emotions that surface, especially in the face of adversity. However the difference is they don’t consume me like they used to.

I’m acutely aware of where those emotions and the false narrative are coming from. This has helped me to gradually let them go.

I also realised through the flooding of my subconscious with positive thinking and reading (the same way bullying can flood your subconscious with negative thinking), you can change the narrative in your head. You can literally grow out of a fixed mindset. You can literally grow out of depression!

Of course I don’t want to underplay how difficult this all was or, indeed, still is. To this day being bullied remains one of the most difficult topics for me to talk about personally, let alone publicly, but I now understand the need to do so.

In not facing your demons, you only give them strength. You only strengthen your fixed mindset. By not asking for help you only make it harder to do later on.

Ultimately if there was just one message I could convey to those struggling with depression – to those who suffer from an all consuming self-doubt – it would be to ask for help.

To somehow find the courage within you and reach out.

I know how hard it is.

Trust me!

But please remember, asking for help is simply asking someone else to help you grow. We all need help from one another – from the day we’re born till the day we die. The last thing it shows is that you’ve failed or that you’re incapable.

It shows the exact opposite.

It shows that despite everything you’re still willing to show up. It shows you’re not willing to let past demons fix in you any false belief. It shows that you understand that within you is another voice. Another mindset that knows you have so much more to give. A mindset we all have.

It is only you who can set it free.

It starts by asking for help.


SOURCES:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives by Maria Popova


Dear readers, thank you so much for listening to what I have to say! In the interest of growth, I’d love to hear any comments, suggestions, questions or criticisms you may have in the comments sections below. Thanks again. Yours, AP2.

Now is the time – What will you do with yours?

Now is the time.

Now is the time to pause and slow down. To revaluate your priorities. To consider what is working and what hasn’t been. 

Now is time to practise gratitude for everything you have, such a roof over your head, access to food and clean running water, for living in a remarkable age technologically speaking, that helps keep us entertained, informed and, crucially, connected to all those we love despite our physical isolation. If nothing else to be grateful for life itself, despite all its hardships and heartache.

Now is the time to practise compassion for each other and ourselves. To be kind. To send that energy inwards and from there, outwards to the wider universe of which we are all part. 

Now is the time to heal. To use our shared pain as a gateway to shared compassion. 

Now is the time to contemplate time. Time is an illusion isn’t it? A trap that makes us think we have to keep on-top of things. To always do things. To strive for some perfect version of ourselves. A compete fantasy. Look at our reality now. Completely turned on its head. No time but to sit. Nothing to do but look inward, if we dare.

I strongly encourage you to do so. Sit with those emotions. Let them surface. The fear, the anxiety, the depression. Accept them as they are. Allow them into your heart. If you do you might learn something that will fundamentally change you. Something that no amount of striving, or trying to get, will ever be able to take away from you. Genuine peace. Peace with yourself and with the world as it is, at this moment.

Now is the time to practise acceptance. Learning to accept – to be at peace with yourself, gives you the clarity of mind to know how you should act – from the heart. Acceptance isn’t resignation. Acceptance is life’s biggest lesson.

Now is the time to practise awareness. To observe quietly. Meditation isn’t an act of doing nothing. It’s an act of curiosity. It’s a profoundly beautiful act of self compassion. Of being aware. Awakened. It is perhaps the most underrated act one can undertake. The act of being. Of dropping our attachment to our thinking minds. Of letting go. 

Now is the time to create. It’s often from constraint that creativity springs. Some of histories greatest minds understood and achieved true freedom in isolation. Others created some of their best work. Nelson Mandela and William Shakespeare readily spring to mind.

Now is the time to play. Now is the time to laugh. Now is the time to grieve. Now is the time to feel. To drop your guard. Now is the time to be vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be courageous. 

Now is the time to look those who you love in the eye and tell them so. Death is never far away. Death is life. Death is a continuation. Part of the journey. That journey continues. It continues in your children and your grandchildren. In all the people you have touched. In all things. Death is beautiful. Death is necessary. It gives way.

Now is the time to meet your shadows in the darkness and understand they were made from light.

Now, is the time. The time to be. If you do, you might just realise that what you‘ve been looking for, has been with you the entire time. 

Now, is always the time.

The only question to ask is,

What will you do with yours?

Am I Doing This Because Of Love Or Fear?

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.

Is this decision because of fear or love?

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.


FEAR AS A GATEWAY TO COMPASSION


Fear is part of what all of us should be feeling at the moment. It’s a good thing. 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 thats the only reason, if all your 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. It can’t. 

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? 

Is it because of love or fear?

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, maybe I should stay indoors for a while 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! However, 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 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 because of it. 

Let me ask you a question. If you see a child, let’s say its 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, 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. To see the world unite behind a common cause like it has. It gives me so much hope for the future. Don’t forget the love. It’s the love that will sustain you. It’s love that will sustain us all. So I ask you, and I ask myself, again and again,

“Am I doing this because of love or fear?” 


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