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Is anxiety all it is cracked up to be? I wonder…

May 23, 2021

If you always want to know how things will turn out and you don’t like the not knowing that comes with uncertainty, then you will know anxiety well. Fighting the uncertainty can seem like the only viable option. If you are constantly on alert and worry that the worst will happen and you won’t be able to deal with it when it does, then you will always be responding from a place of anxiety.

If there is one thing that the last year or two has shown us it is that the world is an uncertain place and that things will happen that we do not expect! (128 days of lockdown anyone?)

Fear from the Disney movie “Inside Out”

It has been a long time since I have posted anything here. For a while I told myself it was because I was busy – with work, with family, with all manner of things. But what I have come to realise is that I write when I think I have made sense of something and I believe that something is worth sharing.

The truth is that for much of [the year] I struggled to make sense of what is going on around me. In my city, in my country and in my world. One thing I have either heard or read recently is that times of tumultuous change brings out the worst and the best in us.

What life looks like on the other side of that tumult depends on whether we choose to respond out of fear or out of hope.”

I wrote those words back in May 2016. I am sure at the time the lack of making sense felt real and confusing. Five years on I can’t even remember what the circumstances were then that caused me to feel that way.

As I write these words in May 2021, I don’t have any difficulty pointing to the specific circumstances that are creating a similar sense of an uncertain future for us all.

It still doesn’t make much sense to me … but here I am and I feel like writing and I think that the reasons why are worth sharing.

In 2016 I didn’t comprehend the implications of the choice we have – to respond out of fear or out of hope. Maybe it was because the words seemed too strong? I wouldn’t say I was afraid … more anxious I guess, and maybe that was enough for me to conveniently avoid reflecting on the choice I was actually making.

Today, I would write that last paragraph differently:

What your life looks like on the other side of the uncertainty that always comes with change depends on whether we choose to respond from a place of anxiety or a place of wonder.

It is a small shift and, aside from anxiety being much more relatable (and easier to admit I am feeling), it lands me squarely in a distinction I was reminded of this past week that is behind the difference between anxiety and wonder – and the key to helping shift from one to the other.

Both anxiety and wonder are rooted in uncertainty. The difference is a question of acceptance.

All that is required to shift you to a place of wonder is accepting (or maybe just not opposing the fact) that change is both inevitable and a source of uncertainty. It doesn’t mean you have to be happy with the way things currently are or have to give up on the possibility that things might improve. It does mean you have to accept you don’t (and probably never can) know for sure what will happen and get curious – about what will happen and how you will deal with it.

And if you are like me, that means you have to change (!) from your usual way of dealing with it and, like starting to write these blog posts again, the anxiety around how it will turn out seems ever present  and I feel like I am in limbo between a place I don’t want to return to and a place I can’t yet consistently find…

So, I am practicing being ok with that feeling because it really is just a more subtle version of the uncertainty of not knowing. At least for now I can honestly say “I wonder how it will turn out?”

***

Thanks to my coaching colleagues Santiago Mateos Turner, the CEO at Thought Box Asia for helping me see the possibilities anew and Suzanne Strike for giving me the nudge I needed to get this post out.

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

A week out from participating in the Samurai Game with Paul Marshall as facilitator, I am now convinced of what I had merely suspected, minutes out from completion – the Samurai Game has changed my life. Having recounted the ‘story’ of the day to a number of people close to me, from the introduction, to […]

Sara (Solicitor)

Paul facilitated the Samurai Leadership Challenge with the graduating Bond University 2011 MBA class. Compelled by the Samurai values and continuously challenged by Paul in his role as the unfair and capricious Fate of War, my team & I pushed personal boundaries to acknowledge, adapt and compensate for both self & team limitations. In the […]

Priya Natasen (Project Manager – Supply Chain & Finance)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 23, 2021 9:31 pm

    Thank you. Trying hard to move to wonder….

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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