I came across a poem recently that caused me to stop. The words resonated in my mind, I could feel my passion and creativity stir. I recognised a cycle that I'd never noticed before. Fear. Edge. Growth. I sat in stillness with the words:
“Come to the edge," he said. "We can't, we're afraid!" they responded. "Come to the edge," he said. "We can't, we will fall!" they responded. "Come to the edge," he said. And so they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. ~ Guillaume Apollinaire
Sometimes it feels as though stars have aligned to enable something magical to happen. So it felt for me with this poem. Yet I also knew I wanted to share the brain whirl that followed.
Nearly all of us have heard of the book Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. I was first told about it by a very dear family friend who thought it might help with the conundrum I found myself in. Like many people, I haven’t actually read it because it sounded rather too ‘edgy’ for me. I was reflecting on this with a client recently, and his response suggested that it wasn’t entirely necessary for me now.
The status quo is rather like a comfortable pair of trainers or an arm chair which is delicious to curl up into. Loved, seen better days, terrible for your posture but the 'go to' of choice any day. Change is necessary but can evoke very real emotional responses, and unlike the thought of a new pair of trainers, big life changes can be inherently stressful too.
I was working in the marketing department at a law firm when the global economy started to spiral in the late 00's. Our team had been the first to face redundancies, and about 6 months later we were summoned to a national team meeting, gathered from our regional offices because our department director had something really exciting to share with us all.
We were introduced to The FISH! Philosophy. The basic concept was developed as a result of the incredible energy, vibrancy and customer engagement at the Seattle-based Pike Place Fish Company, it's about "engaging people, and creating positive change in their work places and home lives." Yep, our jobs were safe and we were meant to have fun at work and read a book - Fish!: A remarkable way to boost morale and improve results.
It was good. Actually it was a really fantastic, fresh approach to working, but it didn’t really matter how excited we got as individuals or a team. The next day we returned to our roles within the Professional Services world, dealing with the same problems, issues and people who hadn't heard the message. It didn’t stick.
Frankly, the idea of changing the way I worked as the result of one day didn't appeal, but I also knew that I neither respected nor liked that director, which rather killed the message. Our team were weary and battle scarred, in my opinion the person perceived to be the axe-wheelding bearer of redudancies wasn’t the right advocate for changing work ethics.
I've realised in recent years that the real problem here was that whilst both the communicator and the audience were 'not on the same page' at that meeting, the valuable message was lost. We were all paralysed by fear, so couldn't change, no matter how inspiring the video. It wasn’t a safe time to stand out from the crowd - it was time to get your head down, work quickly, quietly and with as few ripples as possible. Unfortunately, our team was reorganised twice more (and that director left) before I decided that I had completely had enough. Of the firm, of the politics, of the corporate world entirely.
Finally, I was ready for change, but what made the difference? The light bulb switched on when I realised that I had continued to do the same thing, day in, day out, and nothing was changing, no matter how desperately I wanted it to, longed for it … but how could it?
"If you always do what you have always done You will always get what you have always got"
Suddenly, my fear of not changing became greater than my fear of change. Sometimes we are faced with hard choices which rend us apart, yet at other times the options are clear, our preference almost smacking us in the face and we can't move for tripping over the obvious signposts of serendipity!
Fear, edge & growth The trinity for successful, authentic living?
Firstly, I’ve realised that bravery doesn’t make the feeling of fear disappear, but that is all it is – a feeling, an emotion. It’s meant to be experienced and allowed to move through, emotions aren’t meant to solidify in our bodies, limiting our existence. They are our body's way of communicating with us.
I’ve also realised that my fear, just like any other emotion is there to be attended to, perhaps conversed with a bit and then put aside whilst I get on with this ‘living’ lark.
On a PT course about 18 months later, the tutor spoke about the ‘edge of our comfort zone’. “This is the only place that growth can occur.” I knew what he was on about. I’d felt that fear, found the edge of my comfort zone, and pushed. Gently at first, then a little more, then more, then a great big shove.
Without moving through fear, without finding our edge, we cannot nudge ourselves forward to grow. I’d much rather be bruised and grow than perfectly preserved and shrivelled inside.
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!" ~ Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967
Which is why I will keep coming to the edge, keep holding my nose, and keep jumping – with one eye closed, and one eye opened, waiting to see what will happen this time! It's part of my self-care!
Before 'stepping aside', our director’s next brain wave was inspired by the book: Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life! Again, allegedly another brilliant management book I've yet to make time to read (and what was with all the food analogies?!). Just goes to show, it doesn't matter how AMAZING the message, if the delivery and timing are off, the whole thing can just sink! One I can recommend whole heartedly is Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose which will shortly be added to our Lending Library.
For more information on Fish! you can watch this short video: