3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays!

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Growth for growth’s sake isn’t enough. Why do you want more money? Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want more followers on Twitter? You need to define your values first and foremost.

2) The truth hurts initially but makes you stronger in the long run. A lie feels good to begin with but ultimately hurts much more.

3) Prioritising the things you value the most means learning to let go of everything else. That means understanding that everything you don’t pay attention to will get messy. It means embracing chaos in certain areas of your life. A happy, loving, laughter-filled day with my children means a chaotic household – I can tell you that right now! The point here is about perfection. Perfection and balance don’t work together. Attempts at having a perfect life will ruin your chances at having a balanced one.

 


2 x Quotes:

““The things you run from are inside you.” 

– Seneca

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”

– Mark Twain

1 x Question:

This BBC work-life article: How workers are re-defining professional ambition. As someone who has been reevaluating his own career ambitions, I found this article to be particularly interesting. Quote, “We’re not necessarily becoming less professionally ambitious, experts say, but our collective understanding of ambition – as a concept in the context of work – is evolving into something less standardised, more subtle, increasingly personal and often quite complex for employers wedded to tradition to understand.”


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 30/08/21


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5 Simple Tricks For Overcoming To-Do List Anxiety

“Procastination isn’t caused by laziness. We don’t postpone tasks to avoid work. We do it to avoid negative emotions that a task stirs up – like anxiety, frustration, confusion, and boredom.”

Adam Grant

Do you know that feeling, after you’ve written out your to-do list, despite how it’s suppose to make you feel, when all you want to-do is crawl under a rock and die? 

You know, when a slow and painful death seems preferable to confronting the mountain of tedious work you feel you have to-do?

And so you slowly put down your to-do list, walk over to the couch, gently sit down, carefully pick up the remote control and turn on NETFLIX. Which you then proceed to binge watch for several hours…

A bit like a psychopath who completely disconnects from all his or her responsibilities and emotions? 

I’m sure you do.

Anyway this got me thinking.

Why exactly does writing out our responsibilities on paper cause some us to run away from them faster than a teenage boy climaxes?

After all we know this kind of behaviour doesn’t help us, yet we can’t help ourselves. Sometimes all we want is to tell life to go fuck itself and so we do, even if that means fucking ourselves in the process.

The real question, of course, is how can we stop our to-do lists from making us feel like shit and help us get shit done instead?

Well fear not my fine readers for I’ve complied 5 simple tricks – as partially backed by science – to help you not only write a to-do list that doesn’t make you want to tell life to go fuck itself, but carry it out as well!

You’re very welcome!


1 – Do the thing that scares you the most first.

“The task you’re avoiding isn’t always the one you hate. Sometimes it’s the one you fear. The one that’s most worth pursuing.”

ADAM GRANT

The science shows that making a plan to complete a task provides the same mental relief as completing the task itself.

Which is exactly the point. Writing a to-do list is suppose to make you feel better so you can actually get started with something.

It’s suppose to get you in the mood… (Yeah baby!)

The problem for me, and I suspect countless others, was never a matter of productivity, but what it was I actually chose to accomplish during the day. I now realise I used my to-do list as a way to constantly defer the shit I was most afraid of.

I’m not talking about homework assignments here of course. I mean things like confronting my depression by asking for professional help or having certain difficult conversations with certain family members about shit I really don’t want to talk about…

Yeah, you know, the shit you really need to be doing first!

It was pointed out to me, in Adam Grant‘s excellent worklife podcast episode – ‘the real reason you procrastinate,’ that it wasn’t the tasks I was avoiding but the emotions I’d attached to said tasks.

The problem with ignoring these tasks is you inadvertently give those emotions (the thing that you’re actually afraid of confronting) greater hold over you. Thus the longer you leave said tasks undone the harder they become to-do.

Unfortunately there’s only one solution.

However scary they are, the tasks that you fear the most are exactly the ones you should be pursuing first. Not tidy the apartment!

Why?

Well it’s a classic Catch 22. By doing the very tasks you’re afraid of, you’re helping to confront and resolve those emotions that caused you to avoid those tasks in the first place.

If you don’t want to live with those emotions any longer, then you have to stop avoiding them. You have to rip the bandaid off. If you don’t it’s only gonna hurt more later on. Believe me!

Of course I realise this might not be what you want to hear so I thought I’d offer a few more tips that can help you do what’s necessary by putting things into perspective.

2 – Ask yourself, “What would I do if today were my last on earth?

It’s important to be very clear about what your most important tasks are on any given day. Often we’re not. A great way to do this – something I do every morning as part of my journalling routine – is to ask yourself the following question: “What would I do if this were my last day on earth?”

I’m guessing your to-do list would look markedly different.

Things like telling your family how much you love them. Apologising for any major wrong doings or forgiving those that wronged you would also probably appear. Remaining as present as you possibly can be. Paying attention to every waking moment for the truly precious moment that it is! Sitting with and observing any difficult emotions. Allowing those emotions to come out (instead of watching NETFLIX). Taking a walk outside to feel the elements – wind, rain, hail or shine! Simply being…

You get the point.

Of course you shouldn’t take this question too seriously otherwise you’ll probably bin your to-do list altogether and tell your boss to-go fuck himself. Perhaps not in the best interest of your future self…

Still, this is a great question because it helps align your to-do list with the values you hold closest. It helps to prioritise the things that you really should. It also puts thing into perspective.

The truth is you don’t have to-do anything. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and self-loathing by thinking so. You don’t have to-do anything if you don’t want to.

You get to do those things.

Which brings me to my next trick for reframing your to-do list. That is…

3 – Write a GET to-do list instead

Put that at the top in big bold capital letters: GET to-do.

Not only does this set yourself up to be more grateful for what you feel you might have to-do, it also helps to take the pressure off.

You get to do it, you don’t have to do it.

Keep reminding yourself of this important fact.

I’d add another small tip.

Write out 3 things you’re grateful for today before you write out your get to-do list. I could show you some science that shows just how beneficial having a gratitude practise is, but I don’t want to bore you.

You know all this.

The point to label is YOU GET TO-DO THESE THIHGS. One day you’ll be dead and you won’t get to.

It helps to keep that in mind.

4 – Keep it modest and specific.

How much do you really need to-do today?

So many of us put everything down we’d like to complete and then burn out after realising we’ll never be able to achieve all those things.

You’ve got make it manageable.

Don’t say I’ll write one blog post or go for a 10km run or finish reading that book. Say I’ll write one paragraph, jog for five minutes and read one chapter.

Simply taking a step in the right direction is enough.

So what if you didn’t quite get everything you wanted to-do done?

The most important thing is that you enjoyed it. You’re never going to enjoy it if you’re always racing towards the finish line.

And if you really don’t manage to complete much, if anything, of what you intended, then please refer to point number 5.

5 – Show yourself show compassion.

‘You can change some of those emotions by showing yourself compassion. We procrastinate less when we remind ourselves that it’s part of the human condition. We’re not the only one suffering from it.’

ADAM GRANT

A tough one to finish I know. The truth is I’m awful at being kind to myself.

This is why, every morning as part of my meditation routine before I do anything else, I practise a loving kindness meditation for everybody including myself.

After all it can’t be called universal compassion if it doesn’t include yourself.

It’s important to remember we’re all fallible humans at the end of the day. Things like confronting our demons aren’t easy. It takes time to find the courage.

Go easy on yourself if you don’t do that scary task.

Who honestly get’s everything they mean to-do in a day? Really? I certainly don’t.

That said, I tell my wife I love her every night before bed without fail. I make sure I spend a couple of quality hours with my boys – laughing and playing with them every afternoon before dinner. I meditate every single morning and take every opportunity to practise mindfulness whenever I can. I always go for a walk outside as a way to remind myself that I’m alive and how fucking amazing that is!

Quite frankly the rest can fucked. Occasionally it does!

The older I get the more willing I am to say, so the fuck what? Tomorrow’s another day right? If you fall off the horse today, simply get back on it tomorrow. Falling down is inevitable. Getting back up is what matters.

That’s life!


SOURCES:

https://doist.com/blog/todo-list-tips/

WorkLife with Adam Grant episode on ‘The Real Reason You Procrastinate.’

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201310/why-your-do-list-drives-you-crazy

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/zeigarnik-effect

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that encourages you to embrace the dark side of the force…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good. 

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Acceptance is about acknowledging your demons, it’s not about letting them dictate the terms.

(click to tweet)

2) The only thing to fear isn’t fear itself. Fearing fear is the definition of an anxiety disorder. The only thing to fear is death, because that’s what fear is designed to do – keep you alive! It’s not designed to save you from embarrassment or failure. It’s fearing our own emotions, that’s the worst thing to fear in this life. It’s fearing discomfort that will kill your quality of life.

(click to tweet)

3) Questioning what we believe feels like we are questing the very meaning of our lives, which is difficult. However, the more you do it, the more you realise you don’t know, the more comfortable you become not knowing. It gets easier over time. That, eventually, makes you more comfortable being wrong. This in turn makes you more willing to learn.

(click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

“If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.”

Don Marquis

“Freedom without discipline is foolish, discipline without freedom is insanity.”

– Ilona Mialik

1 x Thing:

This No Stupid Questions podcast episode: Should We Just Ignore Our Weaknesses? – with Stephen Dubner (co-author of the Freakonomics book series) and research psychologist Angela Duckworth (author of Grit). In this episode they debate whether one would play to their strengths or work on their weaknesses. Of course it’s complicated, however they did come to a conclusion I liked. You should play to your strengths, but work on your weakness within them. Well worth the listen.


1 x Joke:

Another far side comic for you all this week – I hope you enjoy!


Thanks ladies and gentlemen, I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts on this blog. Let us know in the comments below.


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 26/07/21

Angels and Demons

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

― Carl Jung

I spent most of my adult life trying to avoid suffering. It made everything worse. I spent my days waiting, hoping for my knight in shining armour. The funny thing is she existed, I just didn’t have the courage to ask her for help. I was too afraid to challenge my beliefs.

I also didn’t understand the paradoxical nature of change. The fact that you have to first accept who you are, that you have to first accept your life circumstances.

Which is hard, of course. I mean, how could I accept what my demons were telling me? How could I accept that what I really believed, was that I wasn’t capable – that I wasn’t worthy?

I tried in desperation to whip myself into something I wasn’t. I tried to kill that part of myself and in the process became consumed by it. Depression took a firm grip and I found myself drowning. In my attempts to fight, I only sunk deeper.

Eventually I gave up altogether.

Yet, it was only when I finally let go that I started to see something. What’s already there is there, so why fight it? To fight your demons, to resit them – is not only futile, it makes things worse.

Attempts to kill your demons makes them scream louder. It’s hating those parts of yourself that gives them strength. It’s only by embracing your demons, by having the courage to hold them in your heart, that you will start to see change.

And it won’t be that those demons go away. They won’t. What changes is your relationship to them. Suddenly they become part of you. You see both the light and the dark side. You come to understand them. You start to see where they’ve really come from.

That is insight.

And because your demons feel heard, they start to soften. They don’t feel the need to scream for oxygen anymore. It’s no different to a child who is shown love after a long period of neglect. Of course that’s all that the inner-child deep down in all of us wants – to be heard, to be held, to be loved.

I believe life’s biggest lesson is acceptance. For who we are, for life in all it’s fucked up glory, for, ultimately, our own mortality and that of those we love.

That’s why I suggest making it part of your morning prayer or meditation ritual. Find ways, design habits, whatever you have to do to cultivate an extreme sense of gratitude for who you are and what you have in this moment. It’s not easy, of course. I get it. It is something you have to practise everyday.

That’s not to say one shouldn’t act. No, that’s resignation. Resignation is choosing not to act when you can make a change. Resignation is choosing to believe the false narratives in your head instead of looking deeply. Resignation is believing that you can’t be helped, when you can. I know all about resignation.

Acceptance is something very different.

Acceptance is about acknowledging your demons, it’s not about letting them dictate the terms. Acceptance is about having discipline to face your current reality as it stands, to own up to it.

You need to let your demons know you hear them, then go ahead and do what you know is right. That includes asking for help if you need it. That includes processing your grief. There is no shame in this. In fact, that’s exactly what courage is.

Now here’s the paradox.

What follows a fear to accept is a fear to act. What follows the courage to accept is the courage to act. If you do that, you’ll find your demons switch shoulders. You’ll find you’re driven by them, not burdened by them. You’ll find your demons are everything to you – they’re what give your life it’s ultimate meaning. Once that happens, you’re not just going through the motions. You’re not just doing a job. It’s far deeper than that.

From radical acceptance comes meaningful action.

That’s why we need to infuse our existence with as much meaning as we can. In the way we interact with others. The way we play with our children. The way we hold our partners. Even in seemingly small or mundane tasks. If you look deeply, you can access peace in every moment by giving it meaning.

I can’t stress that point enough. 

We need meaning in our lives, because that’s what gives us hope. It’s what helps us to guard against nihilism. The more meaning you find in life, the more meaningful you believe your life is – the more peace and joy and love you will find in it. The most powerful way to do that is give meaning to your suffering.

If you do, you’ll realise your demons were trying to lead you from darkness all along. You’ll look down and realise, your shadows are made from light. You’ll realise your demons are your angels as well.


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

Why Everything Scares You To Death

The other night, while I was trying to sleep, I started thinking about the post I wrote last week where I stated that hatred is driven – at its core – by a fear of death. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something fundamental. Naturally this started to make me feel a little anxious. Which then got me thinking, ‘why I am feeling so anxious? I’m just thinking.’ 

Anyway, I placed my mind on that fear and I asked, ‘what do you want me to figure out?’ Then something clicked. The penny dropped and I thought, ‘holy shit, all fear is a fear of death. That’s what you’re feeling. That’s why it’s so intense. It’s simply a trick. An illusion played by the mind to keep you, and those you love, alive.’ 

Immediately I started thinking about the implications this simplicity of thought might have. How we could use it to see through and conquer our fears. But also help those consumed by theirs. So I got up and started hashing out my argument. (No, I didn’t sleep well that night!) And well, this post was the result.

Anyway, buckle up boys and girls, because I’m about to take your mind down a rabbit hole that will blow it wide open. But first let me explain my thinking with a quick biology lesson. (I’ll try to make it fun.)

The Biology Of Fear

From a biological perspective the purpose of life is life itself. That all our emotions – the full kaleidoscope of experience – can be explained, broadly speaking, by two things. The first is survival (protecting our life and those we love.) Enter fear. The second is procreation and the raising/nurturing of offspring. Enter love. 

These two broad encompassing emotional forces drive everything. They represent the light and dark side of the force. Yin and Yang, Male and Female, Ross and Rachel, Bert and Ernie… you get the point. It’s a delicate tussle counter balancing one against the other. However we need both of them.

Now, to forget love for a second (Say what?), let’s talk amount the most important of these two emotional forces – fear (Oh no you didn’t!). 

Inside your brain are two little nuggets called your amygdalas. These naughty little nuggets are, biologically speaking, responsible for all of your emotional suffering. This is because they activate something called your fight, flight or freeze response system. And this has everything to do with your survival. (They love you really.)

Now, what happens when those naughty nuggets detect what they believe is a serious threat to your life, is they shut off access to the rational part of your brain (your frontal lobes). When this happens the only thing your brain becomes interested in is your survival. And it uses the fear of death to drive your actions. Telling you to either run for the hills (fear under flight), tread carefully (anxiety under freeze), or fight for your life (anger or hate under fight). That is what fear is, in essence. Fear is a fear of death. I say that because these responses are based on keeping you alive. 

This is why I believe fear, anxiety, anger and hate are such intense emotions. Why we have a million and one different addictions and mental illnesses in our attempts to deal with them. We are dealing with a fear of death under different guises. And that is no small thing. (Have I blown your mind yet?)

The Link To Death

One of the problems I believe we have is we don’t link our fear to death. We lack the awareness. This is partly because many of us live in denial and partly because our rational minds and ancient emotional response system aren’t of the same era (your naughty nuggets are part of the limbic system which comprises the oldest part of your brain); but mainly because the ego doesn’t want us to figure this out. It’s a deliberate illusion. After all it’s not terribly useful to psychoanalyse your fear when face to face with a sabre-toothed tiger!

But you’re not actually sacred of the tiger. No, you’re afraid of one thing and one thing alone: death. What your brain has done is attach the fear of death to that animal, thing or situation. That’s why everything scares us to death. Because we are. That’s what drives us at our core.

This is also why, in the pecking order of love and fear, fear comes first (why we have something called a negativity bias). Of course this sucks the big one, however the logic makes good sense. You must first survive before you can thrive. Before you can use your big one!

In the case of a sabre-toothed tiger the link is obvious, much like a fear of heights. However others things are much harder to link, like onomatophobia – a fear of names. (Yeah, for real Bob.). Most often they’re rooted in our unique childhood traumas as part of our attempt to win the love of our parents who weren’t forthcoming with it (which we needed for survival). Other things are less obvious on the surface but make good sense when you consider our ancestry basically roamed around as tribes for millions of years. 

For example, we understand that standing up on stage and making a public speech won’t kill us, (rationally we understand it won’t matter one iota), yet many of us are still scared to death at the thought. Why? Your surface level rationale is probably saying something along the line of, “if I mess this presentation up I’ll make a fool of myself and my coworkers will no longer respect me.” But so what? That rationale doesn’t justify the level of emotion it evokes.

Well, consider this.

Imagine you’re living as part of a tight-knit tribal community. A small group of hunter gathers where your survival depends on you getting along with everyone else. Suddenly social anxiety – fear of sticking your neck out – starts to make more sense. If you stand up and talk to the tribe and the tribe rejects you, it’s possible they’ll make you an outcast and now you really are fucked. So tread carefully (anxiety). You do not want to piss off the alpha! In today’s world, rationally, we understand the stakes aren’t so high, however your ancient emotional response system doesn’t.

This is also why we care so much what other people think. This is why we get so worked up over nothing. This is why we hold our beliefs as absolute and why we cannot stand to be challenged. (Please don’t disagree with me on this.) 

This is worth stressing.

When it comes to our emotions we are working with a Palaeolithic operating system. It’s millions of years in the making based on what the world was like for us for the vast majority of that time. It’s not well adapted to modern life. 

How To Conquer Your Fear

So now you’re thinking, “Ok Sherlock, now that you’ve made me aware that my crippling anxiety is actually a fear of death underneath, how is this suppose to help me?”

Because now you can ask yourself a couple of important questions. The first is obvious. Is your life really at risk? To use my previous example, is getting up on stage really going to end your life? No, of course not. Then are your feelings rational or irrational? We know the answer to this of course. But now we have awareness on our side. Suddenly it’s clear as day. Now you can look through it because you understand why the feeling is so intense. 

That is a good reason to show those feelings love and compassion. That is a good reason to tell yourself it’s ok. And now you can remind yourself what your higher purpose is. What your loving motives are for standing up on that stage. And suddenly that fear starts to loosen its grip. 

This allows your naughty little nuggets to calm the fuck down, which allows your frontal lobes to come back online. What you’re doing is placing your emotions back in the passenger seat of your car as opposed to the drivers seat. Which is exactly where you want them to be (except when your life really is threatened.) And so you go ahead and make most passionate speech of your life (maybe).

What you’ve done is used love for the purpose it was intended, to overcome your own fear of death. Not only that, you’ve just told yourself you conquered a fear of death, not simply a fear of public speaking, which is massive.

Now, here’s where I address the rather large Woolly Mammoth in the cave. If fear – a fear of dying – comes first in the order of our emotional makeup, then perhaps all of our emotions are related to a fear of death, including love? And if you think that’s a rather dark hypothesis to end, I would counter by saying how beautifully poetic I believe that is. 

Love was nature’s antidote to prevent our own fears from destroying ourselves. It was designed to give us the courage to overcome our fear of death to protect our offspring. To protect our tribe. To protect our larger self. In an increasingly interconnected world I believe we must use that love to cultivate and serve a higher purpose that includes all life on this planet. We must use that to overcome – quite literally- our own fear of death in order to do so. I fear if we don’t, that fear, will consume us all.


Thanks for reading everyone. So what do you think? Are our fears simply a fear of death underneath? And is love the antidote to those fears by design? Thoughts and opinions keenly anticipated. Warm regards, AP2 🙏

***

You can see find more of AP2’s nonsensical world views and poor self-help advice here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post to plan its own funeral…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) The two most important things are your family and today. Connect the dots.

2) What if we all had the same colour skin? What if we all ate the same food? What if we all had the same job? What if we believed in the same God? What if we were all exactly the same? People often talk about the need to focus on our similarities instead of fixating on our differences. If you ask me, I reckon we should celebrate our diversity. We should each be proud of our unique qualities. That’s exactly what makes this fucked up world such an interesting place. In essence we are all the same (which is important to stress), but thank God none of us actually are.

3) Love was nature’s antidote to prevent our own fears from destroying ourselves. It was designed to give us the courage to overcome our own fear of death so we can protect what it is we love – our offspring. Or – historically – our tribe, or our country, or our religion (whatever represents our larger self.) But here we have to be careful. Because what you are willing to die for, you are willing to kill for. That is a brutal reality check. (Come between a mother bear and its cubs and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.) Too much fear and it consumes us – yes. But too much love can blind us. There is a balance. We need to be careful about what our love for country, or religion, or partner is telling us. Sometimes your fears are right and your love is wrong. In a society that makes a hero of one and a villain of the other I believe this has messed up our thinking somewhat. It’s not that one is good and the other is bad, but that both have their place. Often neither of them do. Trusting rational thought over emotion is a good rule of thumb in the modern age.


2 x Quotes:

“Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.”
– Rebecca Elson

“I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves and tell me ‘I love you.’ … There is an African saying which is: ‘Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.’”

— Maya Angelou

1 x Thing:

1) This moving video by Jim Carrey about who you really are. His point about taking a chance on who you are versus killing your true self certainly struck a chord. Hope you enjoy!


1 x Joke:

My old man cooked us fish and chips for dinner the other night. While he was halfway through cooking I asked, “What happened here? Did you get in a fight?”

My dad replied, “What do you mean?”

I said seriously, “This fish has clearly been battered dad.”

My mum who over heard the conversation shook her head while saying, “Oh cod.”

It’s fair to say we all had a whale of a time.


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.

One bonus question to finish:

What’s something unique about yourself that you’re proud of?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 08/03/21

How To Make Love To Hate

“We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.”

– MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

I’ve been thinking about hate recently. Not only because we’ve see so much of it this past year, but because I’ve felt some as well. Truthfully it got to a point preceding the US election where it broke me a little. 

I thought I was clear about where those feelings came from. What beliefs were driving my anger. But now that the waters have calmed, I can’t seem to shake this feeling that something else has been going on. Some deep-seated fear beneath the surface. 

So I thought I’d give the topic of hate a more thorough examination. In an attempt to understand its purpose. And from that understanding hopefully find in my heart to show it some compassion. So we can all learn how to make love to our hate.

First let me get you in the mood with some foreplay in the form of gentle stroking questions!

Foreplay

One thing that’s touted around the blogosphere as the panacea to all of our problems is universal compassion. It got me thinking (and laughing) that maybe I should write a post entitled, Why Universal Compassion Must Include Donald Trump. 

If I can get through that without reneging on the premise well, ladies and gentlemen, that would be something. Because honestly I can’t wrap my head around the idea. 

Are somethings not meant to be hated? The emotion exists for a reason right? The rational part of my brain figures it must have evolved to serve some kind of necessary function. At least, in very rare circumstances.

Let’s, for example, circle back several hundred years and place ourselves in a small rural English village with a plague-ridden wife and four malnourished children.

Now imagine a hoard of angry, horny, Vikings start pillaging the village by chopping your neighbour’s head off (you hated him anyway). 

Do you, a) abandon your family by running away, b) resign yourself to death and hold your family one last time, c) try to negotiate a civilised peace treaty (by agreeing to share your neighbour’s stuff) or, d) pick up your sword and fight?

Now let’s pretend your name is Uhtred, son of Uhtred, and that you pick up your sword. (I must watch less television.) What emotion do think would serve you best in a battle to the death?

Maybe I’ve inadvertently hit the G spot here?

When it comes to protecting yourself against someone (or something) who is attacking you, or those you love, perhaps hatred is meant to act as a last line of defence? Perhaps what drives our hate – at its deepest level – is a fear of death?

At this point my wife would tell me to slow down as she’s not quite there yet.

Anyway let’s get stuck into the main body (of this post) with some stuff I found on the internet.

Intercourse

After doing a bit of research into the relationship between hatred and death, I stumbled upon something that got me very excited (that wasn’t porn) called Terror Management Theory (or TMT).

TMT posits, “The inevitably of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural world-views — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value. TMT predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their world-views and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.”

I feel like I might have the G spot again!

If our cultural world-views are meant to act as a buffer against our own mortality, it stands to reason that a fear of death would cause us to hold onto them more tightly does it not?

What happens then, when those beliefs are challenged? Perhaps some of us might feel like our lives have been threatened? And what if people’s actual lives are threatened by something like a pandemic? Perhaps they’ll do everything they can to ensure that their beliefs survive in case they don’t? 

(If you want to learn about how TMT can be used to explain people’s different reactions to the pandemic I highly recommend giving this study a read.)

Now imagine, if you will, a facist nation invades your country forcing you to take up arms to defend it. How do you think that might affect your feelings toward your country? I’m guessing you’d concentrate on what it is you love. What it is you’re willing to defend and die for. 

Oh hello Nationalism!

Now consider how a rise in Islamophobia often follows terrorist attacks. Or how a rise in hate crimes against the Asian community follows when the former fear monger in chief dubs COVID the “Kung Flu.” Or how you binge watch all 5 seasons of The Wire and decide you can’t trust black people.

Oh hello Racism!

Of course this is a big problem. And it’s important to stress that while hate may serve to unite a country, or tribe, against a “common enemy”, hate always loses. Because hate begets hate. As war has proven throughout history. Unless you succeed in eliminating your perceived threat, then that hatred is only going to build. What’s worse is that hate won’t be resolved by eliminating that threat if you do (which is impossible when considering an entire race of people). And then what happens? Hate looks for a new target. And if it can’t find one, it turns on itself. (Insert caracatiure of Hitler shooting himself here.) 

This is why hate always loses. Not because love always wins, but because hate ends up destroying itself. That’s something I believe Trump never understood. He cultivated just as much hatred on the other side of the fence and it came back to haunt him. That’s exactly why the answer cannot be hate in return. (And suddenly the idea of universal compassion is starting to make more sense.)

At this point my wife would tell me to get to the point. And I would tell her that the secret to great love making is patience. And then she would tell me that girth is more important the length. And then I would cry myself to sleep… 

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, let me wrap things up. I’m nearly there!

Climax

TMT also got me thinking about another stereotype. The idea that people become increasingly “set in their ways” the older they get. It occurs to me that this might have less to do with what people believe, then an inability to come to terms with their own mortality.

Not all people face death in the same manner of course. Many are happy in death. Even when suffering many remain at peace. They’re not bitter or resentful. They’re not consumed by hate. They don’t want to hurt others. 

This all begs the following question: If all our beliefs are designed to help us cope with the elephant in the room – our own mortality – and if a fear of death causes us to cling to those beliefs more tightly, then maybe that’s exactly where we need to start in order live in peace?

Now here’s my radical theory.

If hate is driven – at its deepest darkest core – by a fear of death, I believe that coming to terms with one’s mortality might be one way to resolve those feelings.

But how do you do that?

Here are a few ideas. Meditate on your own demise. Face the idea of your death head on. Talk about it. Plan your own funeral. Treat today like it’s your last because it may well be. 

The Stoics used to employ a technique called Negative Visualisation where you imagine losing what you value the most in life in order to help eradicate that fear. The idea is that it serves to lessen the emotional impact when difficult losses actually take place. The other hidden benefit is that it helps to cultivate a greater amount of gratitude for those things or people in our lives today.

Here’s one more idea: Cultivate as much meaning in your life as you possible can. Studies show that those who feel they are living a meaningful life are, paradoxically, less afraid of death. Other studies show that those who have lower self esteem (who believe their life isn’t meaningful) are more likely to harbour feelings of resentment. That means coming to terms with past traumas as well (something I mean to explore in my next post.)

So if you want to overcome your fear of death and let go of hate, volunteer to do some charity work. (Go figure!)

Anyway, ladies and gentleman, that’s it. My answer for how to make love to hate, is to fall in love with death. Maybe if we do, we’ll realise that life is too short to live for anything but love.


Further Reading/Sources: 

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You can see find more of AP2’s nonsensical world views and poor self-help advice here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that doesn’t completely hate itself…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.

Let’s begin!

(As a way to give credit and to say thank you, I’ve linked back to any posts that have inspired my thoughts. I’ve linked back to any quotes I’ve found as well.)


3 x Thoughts:

1) One needs to accept life as it stands today. Radically. In all of its fucked-up glory. And then act in whatever capacity one can to better his or her circumstances. But even that shouldn’t come at the expense of appreciating what one currently has. As a rule for life, I suggest you practice gratitude long before you start hoping in the morning.

2) Maybe we should imagine losing our loved ones in a car accident tomorrow? Maybe we should take the time to imagine losing everything we hold dear? Maybe imagining the worst is exactly what brings what’s right in front of us, sharply into focus? Maybe meditating on our mortality, our own inevitable demise is exactly what gives us freedom in the present? Maybe it’s doing this which reminds us how good we actually have it right now? Maybe we will find more joy in everyday life by embracing these difficult emotions rather than chasing after a bigger pay check or slimmer waistline? What do you think?

3) The next time you get angry at your racist grandfather – or any elderly person who appears to be stuck in his or her ways – consider the possibility that their contempt has less to do with what they believe than it does their inability to come to terms with their own mortality. This knowledge might just give you the strength to return love for hate.


2 x Quotes:

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

Mark Twain

Even if you’re going to live three thousand more years, or ten times that, remember: you cannot lose another life than the one you’re living now, or live another one than the one you’re losing. The longest amounts to the same as the shortest. The present is the same for everyone; its loss is the same for everyone; and it should be clear that a brief instant is all that is lost. For you can’t lose either the past or the future; how could you lose what you don’t have?”

— Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)

1 x Thing:

1) This Psychology Today article: Why We Fear Death and How to Overcome It. As the title suggest this article explores some surprising reasons behind why it is some of us fear death (and why others don’t). It also outlines 4 ways (listed below) to overcome your own fear of mortality.

  1. Help to nurture and raise younger generations: “The term “generativity” refers to a concern for younger people and a desire to nurture and guide them. When older people have a greater sense of generativity, they tend to also look back on their life without regret or anguish. This, understandably, leads to having less fear of death.”
  2. Talk about it: It turns out that avoidance (surprise surprise) causes it to loom larger in our minds. Like all fears its best to bring them into the light. Don’t avoid the topic – talk about. Imagine it. Prepare for its inevitably.
  3. Have a (simulated) out of body or near death experience: Perhaps seeking out a near death experience isn’t the greatest advice but trying to have an out of body experience (via deep meditation for example) can yield similar results. The idea is that it gives us the sense that we live on even when separated from out bodies.
  4. Cultivate greater meaning in your life: Studies show that those who feel they are living a meaningful life are less afraid of death. I suggest you start by defining your values and then looking to see how you can better build your life around them.

1 x Joke:

Struggling for a good joke this week so thought I’d leave you with another far side comic. Hope you enjoy!


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.

One bonus question to ponder:

Is it death that you fear, or not having lived in the first place?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 15/02/21

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post to prepare for the best and hope for the worst…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.

Let’s begin!

(As a way to give credit and to say thank you, I’ve linked back to any posts that have inspired my thoughts. I’ve linked back to any quotes I’ve found as well.)


4 x Thoughts:

1) Contacting a friend a day keeps the demons at bay.

2) I have two cycles for you. The first I like to call the Positive Cycle Of Hope. It looks like this: Hope inspires action that creates positive results that generates more hope (repeat). The second I like to call the Negative Cycle Of Hopelessness. It looks like this: Hope coupled with an inability (or unwillingness) to take action creates (99% of the time) negative results that generates feelings of despair and hopelessness (circle back to point 2 and repeat). The point I want to make? Hope must be tied to action otherwise it’s dangerous.

3) Hope is a double edged sword that cuts just as deeply the other way. Although it rewards you when expectations are met it punishes you when they’re not. Of course it’s that suffering that drives you to take action and put things right. However this is a terrible situation to be in if you can’t. (That’s worth repeating). The point I want to make? Be very careful what you hope for in life.

4) What hand the universe deals you – whether or not you have an easy life – is not something you can control. However building the strength to deal with adversity when it happens is something you can. For that reason it’s important to prepare for the worst in life. It’s equally important to believe in your capacity to deal with the worst when it happens. However I disagree with idea that one should “hope for the best.” If you hope for the best it’ll crush you when that doesn’t happen (or worse, when it gets taken away). Prepare for the worst – yes. But don’t “live in hope.” If you don’t have to hope for anything better, I suggest you live in acceptance for what is. Practise gratitude for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t. It’s worth reiterating that hope, although it may save you, will never be what gives you peace.


3 x Quotes:

“Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

– Bruce Lee

“Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear. ‘Cease to hope … and you will cease to fear.’ … Widely different [as fear and hope] are, the two of them march in unison like a prisoner and the escort he is handcuffed to. Fear keeps pace with hope … both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present.”

― Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Source: Letters from a Stoic)

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

― Maya Angelou (Source: https://drericperry.wordpress.com/2021/01/05/choose-your-attitude-dont-let-it-choose-you/)

2 x Things:

1) This happiness lad podcast: Dump Your Inner Drill Sergeant with Dr Laurie Santos. In this episode, ‘Dr Laurie Santos examines why being a nasty drill sergeant to ourselves is less effective than being a kind coach; and hears from researcher and author Kristin Neff about why developing self-compassion is vital to helping us achieve our new year goals.’ Notes below:

  • Criticising bad behaviour in the past isn’t bad. It fact it’s healthy. But telling yourself you’re a bad person for making a mistake – this is where problems start. You activate the flight fight or freeze response. Except you see yourself as the threat. This serves to protect you by shutting you down. This inhibits your ability to make productive change. 
  • We need to critique ourselves but forgive ourselves. We need to look at what went wrong logically. Think about when a child makes a mistake. How you treat them and try to help and get them to learn. We need to do that for ourselves.
  • Self compassion is linked to higher grit, better relationships, more exercise, better sex… It’s so much better than beating yourself up. It’s not the weak thing to do. It’s the strong thing to do. 
  • There are good ways and bad ways to build self esteem. Telling kids to compare themselves to others. To think they are above average. – This will cause them to always compare themselves. Self esteem then becomes contingent on success. If they fail it deserts them. 
  • Self compassion isn’t dependant on success or failure. We need it when we fail. It’s not denying mistakes but accepting them. Acknowledging that you’re human.
  • Self compassion is about accepting ourselves. Paradoxically we are then more able to make positive change as a result. 
  • Mindfulness is the foundation of self compassion. You allow yourself to feel what you are without judgement. 
  • The more you can give yourself love and compassion the more you can give others the same. Being Self compassionate is not selfish! The more compassion that flows inward the more it flows outward.
  • 3 components of self compassion. 1. Mindfulness. Becoming aware. Validating our pain. 2. Remembering we aren’t alone. Everyone makes mistake. 3. Actively give yourself kindness. 

2) This BBC article: Why You’re More Creative In Coffee Shops. I’ve always felt like I do my best work when I take the time to leave the house and go to a cafe. This research shows why.

“It’s analogous to going to the gym for a workout,” says Sunkee Lee, assistant professor of organisational theory and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business in Pennsylvania. “One of the biggest things about coffee shops is the social-facilitation effect: you go there, you see other people working and it puts you in a mood where you just naturally start working as well. Just observing them can motivate you to work harder.”


1 x Joke:

My son has started making a den behind the curtains in his room at night time.

The other night he asked me to join him inside.

While looking up at the stars he asked, “Daddy, where is the moon?”

I replied, “I think it’s hiding behind the clouds sweetheart. But I’m sure if we listen very carefully we can hear it.”

(Silence)

“Do you hear it?” I said. “Listen, Listen, shhhhhhhh…”

(Silence)

At this point I blew a huge raspberry.

My son laughed hysterically, “haha the moon fart fart!”

I smiled while replying, “Yes it did. The question is, which moon?”

And with that we quickly exited the den…


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! I sincerely hope you all have a great week ahead. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.

One bonus question to finish:

What is worrying you most today? What can you do about it? What can’t you do about it?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 18/01/21

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter that provides you with 90% protection from COVID19…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad, you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

The problem with regret is that it takes you away from the present moment. Yet that’s exactly where all the opportunities lie to put things right.

We are not the labels we place on ourselves. For example no one is successful. It’s simply something you enjoy for a moment before it‘s gone. Learning to simply be is one of life’s most important skills for this reason. It allows us to see what we truly are.

In a world where people are so afraid of what others think of them, honesty will take you far.

I believe we all instinctively know what is right and when we have failed to live up to our own values. We just need to be brave enough to feel our ‘own’ shame when we’ve fallen short. We need to process it and then move on a better person. But there has to be a willingness from the individual to feel that shame. When that shame is placed on us by society it twists us. So we resist it – we repress it. Individuals ultimately act in accordance with how others do, not in accordance with what they are told. We are a society that loves to say the right thing without doing it. We need be one that does the right thing, with no need to say it.


3 x Quotes From Others:

Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” C.S. Lewis

“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.” – Seneca

“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” – Booker T. Washington


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This interesting video: How Trump Has Divided America by cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian who explains why using something called Terror Management Theory. He goes onto explain how we can begin to bring people together using a scientific and spiritual world view called The Cosmic Perspective. It’s well worth a watch!

2 – This fun No Stupid Questions podcast episode: How You Should Ask For Forgiveness with Steven Dubner and Angela Duckworth. Notes below.

  • How to increase gratitude? Write a gratitude letter for someone. It’s deeper than a thank you note. You are thanking someone important in your life for helping you or for being an important role model.
  • Another thing to create greater happiness is to write in a gratitude journal. Both have benefits but the longer term habit of a gratitude journal will have more enduring benefits.
  • How to apologise to someone? If you want it to be accepted you have be sincere. You have to acknowledge your wrong doing. (ie. not saying – I’m sorry you feel that way or I’m sorry you got offended). There needs to be a commitment to improve. From economic perspective it has to be costly for the apologiser. You make a commitment of some kind. If I do this again I will. Or I will do this to make up.
  • The value of an apology is not just to cleanse you conscious or to make the other person feel better. The idea is more to repair and then grow the relationship. From an economic perspective then an apology is a great thing because it creates a future benefit.
  • Why people fail to apologise? 3 main reasons. You have a low concern about the victim of the relationship. You don’t care. You have a perceived threat to your own self image. That you are going to look bad. You have a perception that the apology won’t be effective. You think it’s too late.
  • If you can think of 3 things to be grateful for every day perhaps it is also worth thinking about one thing you can take responsibility for? Have a forgiveness or apology section and add that to your gratitude journal – something to say you’re sorry for and what you are going to do to make amends.

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

Struggling for a good (terrible) joke this week folks so thought I’d leave you with another comic that made me chuckle. Hope you enjoy.


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. Till next time… Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

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

A couple of bonus questions for you all: What is something you can apologise for today? What is something you can forgive?

(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 POST:

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays – 16/11/20

First Solo

There’s a term in aviation that all pilots know well called the first solo. It’s when a new pilot completes a takeoff, short flight and safe landing, all by him or herself, for the very first time. It’s basically the aviation equivalent of losing your virginity. You kinda line the aeroplane up with the strip, take your best aim and hope the landing doesn’t hurt too much. It’s something you never ever forget (no matter how much you might want to). For a pilot it is a very special, sacred even, moment.

I’d no idea I would be doing my first solo the day that I did. My instructor hadn’t given the slightest indication that he thought I was ready. He simply briefed me to taxi back to the same spot once I was done, then told me “Godspeed old chap,” and closed the cockpit door behind him – leaving me completely befuddled as I taxied gingerly to the runway threshold. Then, without thinking about it, I set maximum thrust and took off, all by myself.

It was, without a doubt, one of single most exhilarating moments of my aviation career. One of those rare moments of pure ecstasy, like you’re on top of the world. I felt invincible. That was, at least, until I was flying back when I looked down at the runway and it dawned on me, ‘shit I’ve got to land this thing!’ My exact thought at this point was, ‘Fuck,’ repeated several times in quick succession.

Anyway ladies and gentlemen, I bring this up because, right now, I feel like this very post is my blogging first solo. And to be brutally honest with you all – I’m petrified. I have the same feeling I did when I stared down at that runway just over eleven years ago now. The same dawning realisation that I have to do this all by myself. That same sinking feeling – like I’ve missed a crucial part of my training. 

I should say this isn’t the first post I’ve done for PO. Troy and Bogdan had the foresight to test run one of my pieces a short while back – Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do. (Which, incidentally, seems particularly pertinent given I feel like crying myself to sleep every night at the moment.) It’s just that this time they’ve given me the keys and closed the cockpit door behind them.

“Godspeed old chap,” they said.

Godspeed.

Yet I’ve only been playing with my own poky…  blog for half a year now. In that time I’ve amassed a meagre total of just over 300 followers. Now here I am, writing for a blog with nearly 16,000!

Is that right? 

Yep.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

And so I apologise dear readers if all this feels a bit awkward or if my delivery isn’t the smoothest. I’m sure that with time, I’ll be able to the hit the right spot. But you’ll have to bear with me – I am working with rather limited equipment, at least (ahem), linguistically speaking.

Anyway there’s no doubt that I want to be here. That I want to engage with as many wonderful, like-minded people who share in what is such a wonderful community here on WordPress. I believe this will undoubtedly help me grow as both a person and a writer. Which is why when I saw Troy’s ad to say they were looking for writers I was chomping at the bit. And before I circle back to my story, to bring this post home, let me take this moment to say how extremely grateful I am to him and the rest of the team here at PO for welcoming me on-board! 

However unlike the average person who feel pride and confidence when they achieve something, I feel nothing but relief that I didn’t fuck it up. A bit like when a captain tells me that was a nice landing (or not) after we’ve taxied off the runway, that’s the moment I realise it’s ok to exhale. 

So after my brief moment of joy the other day when I found out the news, my mind, just like it did all those years ago when staring down at the runway, expedited itself into the warm and cosy rabbit-hole of crippling self-doubt.

‘There’s no way I’m good enough to blog on PO. Everyone is going to realise that I don’t belong here. The writers here are all established – Linguistic PHD students, English professors and the like. They also seem to use this thing called discretion. I’m just a pilot with a shockingly poor grasp of the only language I know. I mean, what the fuck should I write about anyhow? What should I make my first post about? Should I make it about me and all my problems seen as no one cares or asked? Great idea!’

Then it occurred to me, I was pointlessly overthinking about what I should write for a blog called pointless overthinking. That at least made me chuckle. Then, just like I did following my mild panic attack all those years ago, I took several big breathes and thought to myself – maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel at home here after all. That maybe, just maybe, I can pull off this landing.

Thank you so much for reading everyone. I want to ask you what scary first time experiences you’ve had? How did it go? Was it unbearably awkward? Or was it, in fact, not nearly as bad as you thought it would be? Was it maybe even, rather pleasant? How did you deal with nerves? Also if you have any other feedback or remarks please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section below. Just be gentle – it’s my first time after all.

To my regular readers: This was my first ‘offcial’ post for pointless overthinking. I wanted to share it with you all here on my blog and to let you know I will be writing a weekly post for them going forward. For those who haven’t checked it out I highly recommend heading over there and taking a look (link at the bottom). It’s run by a team of wonderful writers, professionals, thinkers and the like that I am honoured to now be a part of.

***

You can see more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

Why You Should Do It For Me

For many people, finding the motivation to do something for themselves can be difficult. When the focus is centred entirely on the self, many lose their will.

It’s not enough.

I believe this is especially true for those who struggle with low self-esteem. The little voice inside your head that says you can’t win, wins. And so you don’t.

Fear wins instead.

If this happens to be the case then why not consider doing what you have to for something else?

If you find loving yourself difficult then consider the love you have for others instead.

Use that to motivate you.

Meditate not for your mental health, but for your family. Exercise not for your wellbeing, but for everyone else who will benefit as a result. Eat a wholesome diet not for you, but for the planet and all those who inhabit it.

I’ll make a deal with you.

If you still can’t muster the strength to do what you need for yourself then do it for me.

Let’s help each other by helping ourselves.

Do it for me and I promise to do it for you.

The Loving Nature Of Fear

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.

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 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.

The Question To Ask Yourself Before Every Decision

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.


SOURCES:

5 Counter-Intuitive Ways To Find Your True Calling

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

– ALBERT EINSTEIN 

Following on from my post, The Only Thing The World Needs From You, I realised the advice I gave, although brilliant (ha), could be summarised by saying one should chase their dreams while simultaneously telling society to go fuck itself…

I stand by my words of course, but I realised it probably doesn’t help those who have absolutely no idea what they actually what to do.

For that reason, I decided to put this more practical post together in order to help any lost souls find their true calling in life (whatever the fuck that means).

Anyway, buckle up boys and girls, because I’m about to blow your minds wide open…

Let’s begin.

1. Don’t Do What You Don’t Love 

So many talk about chasing their dreams or following their heart or some other trite bullshit, as if everyone’s already figured out what that is. Yet for so many of us we have no idea what we really want. Often not knowing makes us feel like we’ve got something badly wrong. The truth is it’s completely understandable given the sheer amount of noise out there.

The question remains though, how are we suppose to understand what we want? How can we listen through the noise long enough to make sense of our place in all of it? If you really have no idea what you want then I suggest starting with the opposite.

If you don’t know what you want to do, become clear about what you don’t want to and stop doing it.

Use the process of elimination to take you closer.

The same way if you want to get fit and healthy, but hate running, don’t spend an hour on the fucking treadmill everyday – do something else instead! Dance or box or climb some rocks if that floats your boat. Do what ever it is you think you might like.

Ultimately you don’t have to like those things either, but I guarantee if you keep searching, if you keep cutting out the shit you don’t want to, you’ll eventually find the thing that you do.

There are always ways to make things you don’t want to do, like exercise, into things you actually do like dancing or boxing or surfing. Your job is no different. 

Don’t settle for the treadmill. Don’t settle for the dead end job you hate. Find the shit that gets you excited by saying no to the shit that doesn’t.

2. Stop Thinking About The Future

Sit down and meditate for hours if need be. Seek out professional help if you have to.

Whatever it is you need to do to stop the monkey mind from regurgitating the sheer amount of bullshit that society has fed it and find clarity.

I belief if you can do that, then what you need to do in the moment will become obvious. You won’t need to think about what you want in life. You’ll just know.

For me, at this moment in time, my calling is to write something that might be considered vaguely inspirational by some of you lovely readers. In about half an hour my calling will probably be to go make the world’s best sandwich. One day it was flying aeroplanes and travelling the world. The next day it was overcoming depression and anxiety. After that it has been trying to help others as I have, by channeling a mind that doesn’t know how to shut-the-fuck-up with a love of writing. On another day it was falling in love. After that it was starting a family.

I could go on. 

These are all things that have called to me. That made me feel alive. But those were only ever things I knew were right for me in the moment. If you can remain present I believe your calling will become clear.

3. Don’t Think You Only Have One Calling In Life 

Don’t think there has to be just one calling. In the moment there is only ever one calling but not throughout life.

Don’t think you need to peg your life to one career path.

It’s society that told you you had to have one long distinguished career. Who told you to had to get married to ‘the one.’ But there is no such thing as ‘the one’ or ‘the perfect job.’ There are millions of different types of people – as there are jobs – with some more compatible than others depending on the individual and where they are in life.

The relationships that work best are the ones where both understand the need to work at it. Not the ones who think because they’ve married “the one” everything will work out “happily ever after.” 

Society definitely fucked up our thinking up there.

Of course it certainly makes things simpler if you can have just one person and one career. And maybe for you that’s the case. Great – I’m not saying it can’t be – I just think it’s helpful to think in terms of not having to have one career path or life partner.

After all the pandemic could leave you unemployed and then, after being forced to spend too much time with your partner who realises doesn’t love you anymore, divorced…

Shit happens. When it does you have to embrace that shit with the fullness of your heart, or some other trite bullshit line. You get the point.

4. Imagine The Worst Case Scenario Then Do It Anyway. 

This brings me to my next bit of advice I stole from someone much smarter than me.

Imagine the worst case scenario of whatever you’re considering. Accept it as though it’s already happened and then go ahead and do it anyway.

Are you fucking crazy?! Probably but hear me out.

By worst case scenario I mean in a realistic sense – not if I go surfing a shark might attack me as a tsunami strikes while I get simultaneously hit by lightening from a freak storm that forms over head. No. I mean more like you could drown…

I joke of course.

What I mean is that maybe the water will be freezing cold and I end up shallowing sea water while everyone laughs at me because I can’t stand up on the board – ie you have a shitty time.

Did anyone die? Will anyone die if you leave that shitty job you hate?

The point of doing this is to understand that what we’re afraid of isn’t really that scary. Further that what we’re most afraid of isn’t very likely.

The chances are you might have loads of fun if you go surfing.

A great exercise to do if you’re considering a major life change is something called Fear Setting. Here’s what you do, 

1. Write out the major life change you’re considering. For example you might write, What if I… quit (or lost) my dead end office job? 

2. Next define the worst case scenario in detail. Ask yourself if it would be the end of your life (probably not)? Ask yourself how permanent it would be? It’s not like you won’t able to find another shitty job you hate right?

3. Next ask yourself what the benefits of a more probable scenario are? What are the definite positive outcomes (including for your self-esteem, mental and physical health etc) 

4. Next ask yourself what the cost will be if you do nothing? What will it cost you financially, emotionally & physically if you postpone that difficult choice? This is such a great question because if you zoom out ten years and you know you’ll still be miserable then you’ll see that the cost of inaction is often far greater.

5. Finally ask yourself what you’re so afraid of? It’s the fear of the unknown that prevents us from doing what we need to so to quote the big man Tim Ferris, “we end up choosing unhappiness over uncertainty.”

5. Trust Your Intuition 

I honestly don’t know what my calling will be tomorrow and I don’t want to know either. Life’s more beautiful when you allow yourself the freedom to change paths. When you’re not worrying about what career path to take tomorrow or what you said yesterday. When you’re fully invested in making the world’s best fucking sandwich. 

I find it’s a much more exciting to live this way. Give me excitement over security any day of the week. We all die at the end of it guys and gals. You gotta do the things that make you feel alive. Got to! 

The truth is I might well lose my job as a pilot because of this pandemic. Honestly I won’t chase it as a career if it comes to an end. I’m simply going to let it go. Not because there aren’t any other pilot jobs out there (there aren’t), but because I’ve found other passions. Other things I want to pursue. Other ladders I want to climb. I’ve had a great run but I’ve known for some time that a big change is due for me. 

I’m not going to do anything rash but when the time comes I’m trusting my gut.  I’m following my heart – whatever it is you want to call it – I know you know exactly what I’m talking about. That instinctual part that goes beyond the rational mind. The one that tells you to say ‘fuck it’ and go after what you want regardless of what anyone else thinks. Regardless of what your own rational mind has to say even. Because you know that it’s right in your heart.

Because you know it’s what will make you come alive. 

I’m done chasing someone else’s idea of success. It’s too hard. I like my own version better. I’ve found that the older I get, the more able and willing I am to simply say fuck that, to anything and everything I don’t want to do. I don’t shirk my responsibilities of course – I learnt the hard way that taking full responsibility for my life is something I definitely want – but I understand more clearly than I ever have about what it is I want. It’s been, and continues to be, an in-the-moment process.

For that reason I want to finish by saying please don’t be disheartened if you don’t know what you what to do with your life. Stay present and keep mixing it up. Don’t settle and remember that the worst case scenario is rarely as bad in reality – more often than not it works out for the best. Above all else trust your intuition. It exists for a reason.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m being called to make the world’s best sandwich…

Love to all X


As always ladies and gentleman I welcome ALL comments and opinions on this blog. I’m curious as to what you think about my advice and whether you have any additional gems you’d like to add? Thanks for reading!

How To Develop More Intelligent Self-Interest

“One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one’s own self. In brief, this is dharma. Anything else is succumbing to desire.”

— MAHĀBHĀRATA 13.114.8 (CRITICAL EDITION)

It’s ironic that the fictional character Joey from friends, who everyone laughed at for being a bit slow, was also the character to come out with one of the most profound statements of the entire show when he argued with Phoebe that,

“There is no such thing as a truly self-less good deed.”

I agree with him.

Whether you’d care to admit it almost every action we make is motivated on some level by selfish intent. Even a charitable act is motivated on some level by your desire to feel good.

That’s not to say there is anything wrong with this – in fact, quite the opposite – it’s just something to be aware of. After all, if we weren’t motivated on some level by a desire to feel good, or to avoid feeling bad, then why would we do anything? We need something to motivate us. For that reason there has to be an element of self-interest behind our actions.

Anyway, why do I bring this up?

I heard the expression intelligent self-interest mentioned on a podcast a while back. This got me thinking about what this means and how we can make our self-interests more intelligent.

When I dug a little deeper I came to understand, although they are described/defined somewhat differently by various articles on the subject we can, broadly speaking, look at self-interest on three different levels.

Those are unintelligent (or stupid as I like to think of it), intelligent and enlightened self-interest.

This post is going to define each and look at how we can cultivate the latter two.


What is unintelligent self-interest?

Unintelligent self-interest is the personal interest of an individual that, if pursued, hurts others and/or themselves.

Some obvious examples of unintelligent-interest include binge watching NETFLIX, drug abuse, smoking, mindlessly scrolling on social media, etc. 

You know, all the things you shouldn’t be doing that every blogger and his dog bang on about everyday. (All the things I’ve done before, and in some cases still do…)

These are unintelligent forms of self interest because they satisfy a desire at the expense of our longer term health and happiness. 

We also tend to think because I’m only doing these things to myself that’s ok. I’m not hurting anyone else. 

But that’s wrong. 

What hurts you ultimately hurts others. By not working to resolve past trauma or avoiding negative emotions instead of doing what you ought to, you can trust me when I tell you this, not only does this hurt yourself it also hurts those around you. 

How then can we make our self-interests more intelligent and what does it mean?


What is intelligent self interest?

Intelligent self-interest is still about acting in ways that suit you, however, it also considers the ways in which it helps others.

It is about thinking of the other person while acting for yourself, i.e. you’re not acting without regard for others.

Some obvious examples of intelligent self-interest include meditation, exercise, a healthy diet, plentiful sleep, etc.

You know, all the things you should do that every blogger and his dog bang on about everyday. 

These are intelligent forms of self interest because you’re acting in a way that not only benefits your own longer term health and happiness, it also benefits others.

After all, a happier and healthier you is a happier and healthier world. Further, you cannot look after others without first looking after yourself.

One of the problems that proponents of such activities have is the way in which they frame their motivations. They talk on and on about the benefits they have for you. How meditation, exercise and a balanced diet helps you

Often they over emphasise the benefits these activities have for you without considering the larger reasons beyond the immediate. 

If you want to make mediation a habit, as an example, it’s far better to consider how taking the time to cultivate mindfulness is of benefit to your family and friends, as well as yourself. 

One way to do this is by asking yourself the following question:

Am I doing this because of love or fear?

I believe one of the major reasons our motivations stall is because we don’t feel we’re good enough (fear) and so give up far too easily. This is a problem many of us have when focusing solely on ourselves. If you take the focus away from yourself and instead remind yourself of the other people in your life for whom you’re doing these things (love), you’re far more likely to stick with it.

At least I know I am.

Instead of beating ourselves up for not being good enough and metaphorically whipping ourselves to do something about it, why not focus on feeling good about doing the things that ultimately help others too?

It’s a win win.

This brings us to the final level on the self-interest scale that I made up. The question I have is how can we act in enlightened self-interest that helps others? How can we see that helping others does in fact help ourselves? Let’s first explore what it means.


What is enlightened self-interest?

Enlightened self-interest is acting for others without expecting anything in return.

Some obvious examples of enlightened self-interest include donating to charity, volunteer work, saving someones life, etc.

You know, all the things every blogger and his dog probably should be going on about everyday but don’t.

These are acts done from the goodness of ones hearts. They aren’t done in expectation of gaining anything personally. 

I would make a point that this is very different to acting out of a sense of responsibility or obligation – because you think it’s the right thing to do. 

It’s far deeper than that. 

Enlightened self-interest understands that although no obvious attributable gain for oneself has been made, a bit like the beautiful philosophical idea of karma, what comes around goes around.

People who act in enlightened self-interest understand we are all part of the same world. That by hurting another you’re ultimately hurting yourself.

This is why it’s heavily related to the Golden rule: To treat others as you would like others to treat you.

Or, to put it as a question, one can ask themselves,

How would I want others to help me if I were in their position?

This isn’t rocket science of course.

If you look deeply enough, you’ll find how you treat others is how you treat yourself. Kindness to others extends inwards as well as out. The same is as true for anger or hatred. You give fuel to those feelings within yourself by acting on them. 

Enlightened self-interests come about as a by-product of truly wanting to help this world, as you would like it to be for you. By thinking in terms of how your actions will affect others we can, bit by bit, develop enlightened self-interest naturally. It’s simply a matter of acting in the interests of your heart. 

(As always I welcome ALL comments and ideas on this blog. If you have anything to add or any other suggestions about how develop more intelligent self-interest I’d love to hear from you in the comments sections below)


SOURCES:

https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/unselfish-act.htm

https://hbr.org/1989/05/how-selfish-are-people-really

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightened_self-interest

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karma

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person (Plus Some Advice On Dealing With Anxiety, Depression and PTSD)

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to land a commercial jet?

As you’ve travelled somewhere excitedly looking out of the passenger window and thought what the view is like from the front as you come into land?

Well I can tell you, on a good day, it’s truly exhilarating.

To safely bring one of those big birds back to earth. Gliding onto the tarmac with some 300 passengers behind you. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. 

On a bad day, however, it can be more of a poo-your-pants kinda feeling. Or, to put it another way, it can be shit scary!

The following is a 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.

Before I continue I want to first say, I don’t mean to scare anyone with the following account – especially those who might already have a fear of flying (maybe stop reading now if you do) – but only to talk openly and honestly about what was a fairly traumatic experience for me in the interest of raising awareness around PTSD.

I also want to talk about how I coped afterwards in the interest of helping others who might have suffered similarly and might be looking for some guidance. 

I hope you find this helpful.

Anyway, allow me to start with the story. Deep breathes everyone, here we go…

(I’m going to try to avoid using too much aviation jargon but will leave links attached for certain phrases in case any of you are unsure of the meaning)


The Story Of My Most Traumatic Experience As A Pilot

As we flew back to Hong Kong over the South China Sea I reflected on how the day had gone. I was pleased. We had flown to Kuala Lumpur without incident during which I managed a challenging approach followed by a decent landing. It was still early days during my Junior First Officer training and my landings had been less than consistent, so this was something of a relief for me. Still, I couldn’t help but doubt myself when thinking about our approach into Hong Kong. I tired to shake it off as we set up for the arrival.

I should say the idea of safely landing a passenger plane based on my skill alone was somewhat daunting for me at the time, especially given it was only my sixth sector ever as the pilot flying a jet (an Airbus A330 for any interested parties) with passengers aboard. I’d also spent the 3 years previous watching on as a Second Officer – without doing any hand flying except occasionally in the simulator – wondering if I was capable. Looking back I realise that I didn’t really believe it. What I’d done by constantly asking the question was reinforce the idea that I wasn’t. As so often comes up in the story about my past the big issue for me had nothing to do with capability, but self-belief.

The weather into Hong Kong was benign except for the wind that was coming from the south (which can mean the possibility of mechanical turbulence from the winds passing over the hills and buildings to the south of the runway, especially near the threshold of 25R – our arrival runway that day).

After briefing the arrival we started our descent. ATC told us to take up the hold while they dealt with the many arrivals typical that time of the day. I began to feel the butterflies build.

As we slowly descended in the hold, the Captain mentioned noticing how I was frequently wiping my hands on my trousers. He told me how Captains tend to notice these kinds of nervous ticks. I didn’t know what to say. I thought about how such a comment was suppose to help?! I knew I was nervous. I wasn’t trying to hide it. Anyway, was it not normal given I was still learning how to fly the damn thing?! I kept quiet and tried to focus on the task at hand.

When we finally joined final approach, my nerves worsened. I tired my best to ignore them but the butterflies were in overdrive. I began to wipe my increasingly sweaty hands with greater frequency – now acutely aware every time I did so! I told myself to breathe. We took the gear down followed by our final flaps. I then asked for the landing check list. Shortly afterwards we were cleared to land. 

It was crunch time. 

As I took the autopilot out, I felt the mechanical turbulence rock the plane. I tried my best to keep my scan going but had a habit of looking down at my PFD (Primary Flight Display) instead of outside. (As part of our scan we should be alternating between both, slowly increasing the amount of time looking outside as we get closer to the runway. Eventually you should be completely ‘heads up’ – only looking outside while the other pilot (the pilot monitoring) continues to monitor the instruments. I had a habit of fixating on the screen (PFD) a little too much instead of looking outside (Not uncommon for trainee pilots)).

When we passed over the threshold a positive wind change caused the aircraft to ballon slightly. At this stage I was looking up but had left it too late to get an adequate picture of what was going on. Instead of counteracting the ballooning effect by pushing the nose down, I did the opposite. In my nervous haste, with the runway growing bigger, I pitched the nose up, flaring way too early.

Then I froze. 

Everything within my field of vision seemed to fade away and all I could feel was an overwhelming sinking feeling. Like my whole being was collapsing in on itself at the pit of my stomach. 

I didn’t know what to do.

We floated and floated, for what felt like an eternity, well beyond our desired touchdown zone, as we hovered above the runway. 

The next thing I remember hearing was the captain announcing, “I have control.” He placed his hands on the thrust levers driving them fully forward to select maximum (TOGA) thrust. It took a while for the jet engines to spool up before we got the proverbial ‘kick up the ass’ and climbed away. When we eventually did the captain then announced, “Go-around, flaps.” 

The rest is a blur. 

I remember cleaning up the aircraft – retracting the flaps and gear as per our standard operating procedures during a go-around (an aborted approach to landing) – but little else except for how I felt. 

What it felt like was the whole world had fallen apart. That my worst fears had been confirmed – that I wasn’t capable and didn’t belong in an aeroplane, let alone one with 300 passengers – and that my lack of ability was responsible for nearly having an accident. (To give you an idea of the dramatisation going on inside my head – the Training Captain was always in control of the situation.)

To reassure you lovely readers, while It is rare for a go-around to happen because of a botched landing, it does happen. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. It would be more alarming had we tired to continue with the landing. To explain, for those who don’t know, a go-around (an aborted approach) is a standard and very safe option available to us at any time during the approach should we elect discontinuing to be the safest course of action. In this case, as we had floated so far down the runway, flying away instead of landing and trying to stop on the limited amount of runway length left available was the safest option. (That didn’t stop it from shattering my ego of course.) I would also stress that this was during my training. Like any skill it takes a while to get the hang of it. Flying is no different. It’s also not uncommon for Training Captains to take control or help via a dual input (the Captain acts on the controls from his seat on the lefthand side of the cockpit at the same time as the pilot flying in the righthand seat does) when teaching inexperienced pilots to fly on a new aircraft type.

As we flew back around for a second approach, the captain asked if I was ok. I shook it off as best I could given the circumstances and declared confidently that I was. I can tell you now, I was not!

The second approach to landing happened quickly as ATC gave us priority to join final approach. I don’t remember much else except for the landing that was long as once again I flared too early. This time the Captain helped to bring the plane down safely by adding a dual input before we plonked onto the runway. A graceful landing, it was not!

As we taxied off the runway and to our parking bay I felt like the smallest person in the world.

The debrief afterwards was hard to take. The Captain tried his best to reassure me and get me to see the bigger picture – what a valuable learning experience this was, etc. – but all I wanted to do was go into hiding. To runaway, crawl under a rock and never come back out.

When I made my way from work on the train home, I remember reliving it over and over again in my head. I kept wondering what the hell had happened? How had it come to this? I couldn’t make sense of it. My initial base training (where trainees fly circuits at a remote airfield without passengers boarded before flying commercially) had gone so well. I had felt so confident but now it felt like I’d fallen into the abyss. I knew it was going to take everything to climb back up. It was everything I didn’t believe I had. .


Dealing With The Aftermath And How I Eventually Overcame My Inner Demons

That evening I’d made plans to have dinner with my parents. When I arrived at their apartment I explained to them what had happened. I didn’t realise at the time just how important it was to simply talk. How getting those words out in the open immediately lessened the power they’d had over me, trapped inside my head. Had I gone home that evening my natural inclination would have been to lock myself away. I know this would have definitely made things worse.

One big problem I’ve always had is talking openly about my problems. Instead my defence has long been to withdraw inward – something I picked up from years of being bullied as an adolescent.

Instead my parents were there to pick me up when I needed it most. They helped me to see how it was something from which I would learn and grow. Something for which I would one day look back on be truly grateful. It was difficult to see at the time but they were, of course, right.

It’s for this reason I strongly believe having people in your life that you can talk to openly and honestly is something we all need.

Still this was only the beginning of a long road to recovery for me. To give you a little more background, my problems extended well beyond the event itself. I had deeper issues to do with low self esteem yet to work through – inner demons that undoubtedly contributed to what happened that day. Although I did eventually seek the help I needed, it took a long time to find the courage to do so. I dreaded going to work. I worried incessantly during my spare time. When I was at work I became especially nervous about performing landings. I remember feeling my heart beat so hard I thought it was going to come out of my chest! I regularly thought about throwing in the towel and giving up. Yet I didn’t. I kept going, against all the will in my being, something inside me wasn’t prepared to let this event define me like that. That this time I wouldn’t let it end in failure.

(Again I want to reassure you lovely readers that I did seek help for PTSD following what happened – however the help I’m referring to above relates to the larger issues I had with both anxiety and depression that long preceded this event. In both cases when I did seek professional help, it was never their opinion that I needed any form medication or that I was a danger to myself or others or that I should stop flying. Had they thought so, they had the power to ground me. Before you jump on my back for continuing to fly despite suffered from mental illness, I want you to know I never believed my issues were so bad I couldn’t perform my duties. I’m confiding in you all now partly because I believe there is still a very unhealthy stigma surrounding mental illness – especially in aviation – where such topics are still strictly taboo despite the crucial need to talk about them!)

Ultimately it was getting back in the seat and facing my demons head on that allowed me to overcome them.

I managed to overcome my fears by proving to myself I was more than capable. Little by little, flight by flight, landing by landing, the anxiety that gripped my heart began to loosen. I went on to complete my Junior First Officer training and then First Officer upgrade the first time of asking and to a very good standard, with no other hiccups along the way. Following that I flew for years around the region with so much exposure that landing the plane became second nature.

Still, there was a feeling that wouldn’t go away. A feeling that continued to plague me. A feeling that I knew if I didn’t face, it would continue to plague me for the rest of my life. I put it off, out of fear, for as long as I could. Eventually I couldn’t take it any longer. I reached out and finally got the help I knew in my heart I’d needed all along.

When I did everything changed for me. I can honestly say I don’t suffer from depression or PTSD anymore. I’m still working through some issues regarding anxiety but even that has lost its hold over me.

It’s for this reason I will always be a voice for encouraging others, especially for anyone who is reading and has suffered from any sort of trauma or mental illness, to ask for the help they need.

I can tell you from experience that that later you leave it the harder it is to solve.

That said, it’s never too late to get the help you need. Never. And solve it you can.

I really hope I can inspire others who may have difficulty getting the help they need, to find the courage to do so. To come out and talk about their problems openly and to know that there is no shame in this whatsoever. Whether talking to a professional, friends and family or simply leaving a comment here – we all need to be having far more of these awkward discussions. We are all human and part of being human is to know we can’t do it alone. Together we are stronger and together we can help one another change. However difficult the road might be for you, please know that change is always possible. It starts with talking.


Fly The Aircraft To The Ground” – Some Closing Thoughts

The day after the landing that wasn’t, I remember getting a call from work. Another senior Captain called to ask how I was and discuss a recurring problem he’d noticed when teaching Junior First Officers to fly. He said he’d noticed how many of them stopped flying after the flare. If you can nail the flare exactly this isn’t such a big issue, but if you flare early, or wind conditions cause you to land long, he’d noticed a tendency to let go even if the aircraft hadn’t landed yet. He said “you have to fly the aircraft to the ground.” 

I never forgot that advice. Not only because it was a very practical tip that summed up exactly what I hadn’t done. But it resonated with me on a deeper level.

You have to fly the aircraft to the ground.

Don’t think because you’re on final approach you can relax. Don’t think because you’re almost home you can let your guard down. You have to keep flying. You have to keep going. Keep taking responsibility for your life and your problems. Life isn’t just one big problem to solve and then you’re set. It’s a series of never ending problems for which you have to take responsibility right till the end. You have strive to stay in control. You have to believe you can deal with it. Should you get it wrong, then you need to let go of you ego and go around.

You can always go around if you don’t get it right.

There is no shame in this. Don’t be afraid to go around and try again. But try again you must. It’s up to all of us to manage our own journeys in life and to make sure we come home safely. I, for one, have ever faith that you can.


For Additional Information regarding PTSD please follow the links below:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/about-ptsd/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Other Sources:

https://www.psycom.net/aerophobia-fear-of-flying/

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/passenger-aircraft/a330-family.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_simulator

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_officer_(aviation)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Turbulence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runway

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Holding_Pattern

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_approach_(aeronautics)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Primary_Flight_Display_(PFD)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeoff/Go-around_switch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go-around

https://captainong.com/what-is-base-training-base-check-line-training-and-line-ch/

An Apology To My Heart

I’m sorry I’ve been fighting you for so long. 

I’m sorry I repressed you. 

I was taught stupid things. Stupid ways. 

I could hear you screaming and yet I pretended not to. 

I’m so sorry.

I hope you can forgive me.

I love you. I’m here for you now. 

Let me feel what you have to say. 

Let me hear you. 

Let me embrace your screams with the tenderness you seek. 

I want you to teach me what words cannot. 

What you were trying to tell me all along.

My mind was lost. 

Somewhere along the way it was misled by the noises outside.

Fear drove it into isolation.  

It thought ignoring you was best. It didn’t understand.

It couldn’t stop thinking. 

It didn’t understand that thinking was the problem. 

Please forgive us. And please be patient. We are still learning to unlearn.

Still learning to let go.

To give back the power we so foolishly stole from you. 

The habits of a lifetime might take another to break them down. But I see clearly now that this I what I must do. 

I understand now that it is you I should have trusted all along.