“What we intend to … and pay attention to … become our reality.” John Kehoe
CRAZY TIMES, CRAZY CHOICES
As the alarm went off at 5.30am on Saturday morning, and I heard the howling wind and freezing rain on my windows, I thought: “what the hell am I doing?” I could be snuggling in bed for a few more hours and drinking a delicious coffee as I contemplated my day. But here I am, getting ready to brave the elements in my little Nissan Micra hire car with biscuit wheels, and head out into the middle of Gugulethu to facilitate personal mastery and neuro-change for the teachers of a primary school – in the middle of a serious spike in Covid cases. (in fact the school that I was meant to be at, had postponed due to a case at the school).
I took a deep breath as I entered the township of shacks, low cost housing, corner stores, cemeteries and potholes – the way lit by streetlights and reflections from large puddles in the road. This is a first. The only thing I have to go on is my trusty Waze App telling me where to run left or right, and perceptions of Gugulethu from the news and the Covid numbers in the Western Cape. I feel my heart starting to race and my vigilance rise, scanning for any signs of threat. Again, I ask myself: “why am I doing this”? I get to the school. No-one in sight. I wait in the street as the early light appears watching commuters and every day people going about their early morning business… in the cold rainy weather conditions. My heart thumps in my chest. I get a lump in my throat. Gosh, this life is so different to mine!
And as my head is questioning, my heart is answering. “You chose this. You wanted to make a difference. You offered to be of service where your skills and talents could be best utilised. You have chosen to step out of your comfort zone and embrace the unknown. You chose not to be an observer from the side-lines. Who do you really want to be?”
The morning only gets more crazy, as we struggle with late comers, weather, transport issues, heating, no wifi for the surveys we need to do, poor communication of expectations, competing commitments such as family responsibilities, funerals and for many just rest. Life as a teacher is challenging at the best of times, never mind Covid and lack of resources, role models, skills and a cold winter. Eventually we agree as a group to make the most of the day and time we have.
Am I am so glad we did – and so were they. We shared, learnt, laughed, cried and became aware of the choices we are making in every moment. I shared my morning conversation between my head and my heart and the feeling of waiting in the street in this strange place. They shared their morning challenges, the cold, the aching bones, the heaviness of life with so much loss. We found each other at a human level – with a common intent to want to leave a legacy and make a difference to the lives of the young learners just starting out with their lives. Who we are (not just what we teach) is felt and absorbed by people we engage with. What we pay attention to, and notice, and feel, and say, and do – creates the environment for people around us.
Are we paying attention to all that is wrong, difficult, hard, not my fault and is not working out as expected?
Or are we paying attention to the lives we touch, the difference we do make, AND gratitude for sunrises, rain, opportunities, friends, love, jobs and being alive.
It was touch and go for me on Saturday morning to succumb to the natural anxiety and socialised, fear, frustration and judgement of people not doing what they were expected to do and how the day started … or to pay attention to the possibilities of the day, the difference I could make and how I could influence how it would end. I am so glad I have learnt the skills of deep breathing, observing, imagining, reframing, listening to my heart, cultivating heart-brain coherence and recognising my choices in every moment – without which I may have run a mile – and missed out on a beautiful, enriching experience.
WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION TO?
How many times do you catch yourself having some of these thoughts:
- I can’t wait till things go back to normal/ I can travel again / I can get back to working with my colleagues
- I’m so tired / stressed / overwhelmed / anxious about all this change and uncertainty
- I can’t face another zoom or teams meeting / getting through another 100 e.mails
- I just can’t get used to juggling all these home, work, life, health demands and responsibilities
- What if I can’t earn / bring in / create enough to keep my life and family going?
What if you could rather cultivate the some of these thoughts:
- How do I add the most value in these unusual times?
- How could I embrace the unknown and explore more of my potential and purpose?
- What are all the things I can be grateful for today?
- What if I chose to be a self-master or courageous adventurer rather than a self-saboteur or cautious controller?
- How do I train my brain and body to open up to new, different, change and growth?
How do these different identities, thought patterns, beliefs and feelings impact what we say and do every day? How does it impact our level of energy, engagement and enthusiasm for what we are doing? How are stress hormones impacting your ability to think clearly, be present and build connection and trust? How many of these are unconscious and automatic rather than conscious choices? How could we cultivate states that are more constructive, healthy and generative? How are we impacting and influencing the people around us? What conscious or unconscious choices are dictating what you think, believe, feel and do?
A HABIT OF CONSCIOUS CHOICE
Take a journal and spend some time reflecting on who or what you are identifying as (I am …), what beliefs are most active in your mind (I believe …), how these influence how you feel (I feel …) and ultimately determine your daily habits (I act …). Use daily reflection to enhance your ability to observe and choose more wisely.
In a series of blogs, I’ll be covering some BRAINSHIFT techniques to optimise your brain and biochemistry for learning change and growth. I’ll also be sharing my best habits and resources for cultivating the identities and beliefs that increase your CURIOSITY, CREATIVITY, COURAGE AND ABILITY TO NAVIGATE CHANGE AND MAKE CONSCIOUS CHOICES for thriving in these crazy times. Stay tuned.
Here are some great resources to understand the impact of your brain and choices on your life, experience and impact.