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Tension starting in the stomach. My head thinking – this could escalate massively out of control. Leading to? Something I call negative imagination. All because, like many others I know, professionally, I am getting much more busy again. Which should be good, but can also bring up anxiety, and if I am not careful, take me a little too near to feeling overwhelmed. Why is this happening? Isn’t more work what I wanted?

After my accident in 2012, I lost my way for a while and took time to come back to rebuild my company. And with renewed energy, openness and willingness to collaborative in innovative ways, this is taking off. Whilst I do believe I am genuinely ready for this, I am also honest enough to say – how much easier it is to build, when things generally are growing. (This has been true many other times in the 19 years I have been working for myself). Maybe some of my experience right now is about our collective recovery out of recession and into growth.

So what does more work, when things are growing again, (albeit smaller, slower and more cautiously), mean for me? In practical terms, it means moving from a not quite full enough professional diary (with cover up activity to those who asked!), to having more commitments, with a lot of challenge in the work itself. (As you know, things are still difficult in organisations). It means having a funnel of business opportunities, with new appointments, with new people, about new possibilities – creating excitement, uncertainty and sometimes nervousness. It means reconnecting with existing relationships on an up to date footing, requiring bravery to show how I have moved on.

These connections are resulting in a range of work possibilities which I have worked extremely hard to create. If they all land, continue to land, or all land at once – certainly for the “old” me, this will most definitely cause a problem. And this is when anxiety begins, and when effectiveness grinds to a halt.

So, I’m beginning to wonder, how could I could genuinely get to a place, in my body, in my stomach (that anxious place), that is able to say “Yes” to all the work opportunities which really match my company’s ethos? This feels rather BIG and a little bit SCARY!

What would need to shift in me to connect with all these emerging and current possibilities, from a really positive place?

I would need to know that my ability to have truthful, grounded, authentic conversations with my business partners were second to none, with whom I could put a team in place that worked really well. I would need to know that I could have similar conversations with the client organisations where we could all be clear on what was truly wanted.

Most importantly of all though, I would need to have much more courage in declining things which didn’t feel right, or, (even more scarily) didn’t EXCITE me – which, as I write, feels amazingly counter intuitive, dangerous, not at all sensible and not at all what my dad, with all his range of experiences, would have told me. (Hang on to everything, don’t share, don’t trust, keep it all).

I’m now wondering how ALIVE I would feel if I only said yes to work that was exciting for me? It would be amazing. Even my stomach is excited now, not scared and already starting to think about how things could work.

And given that my chief objective in life, post accident, is to feel ALIVE most of the time, or as much of the time as possible, I can see how this selective approach might work. Not being afraid of the illusion of scarcity, which tells me to accept and make do with work which robs me of life. A belief that alive-making, life affirming work is out there for me. This approach makes my stomach feel excited, not overwhelmed, and a stomach that feels “I can handle it, I can choose, I can move mountains” and not, “I’m scared”.

So from today, recognising that we are in a context where there is a return to cautious growth, can this, my “aliveness“, be MY GUIDE to saying “YES”?  A way to prioritise and choose? Which, indirectly, also provides me with a way to clarify the work which is not for me, and from there to have the courage to courteously decline? I’m going to give it a go!

And moving back to you – unless you work for yourself – most of the people I talk to in organisations today are already overwhelmed with the number of things they have to do.

So, as YOU come out of recession, personally and in your organisation too, and have more opportunity to say “yes” to the things which bring you truly ALIVE, can I ask, what will be your guide? Please do say – I would love to know!

Photo credit: Martin How. Beach on Crete, where I swim in the sea, and feel really ALIVE!

Current Opportunity: Open ILM Level 5 Leadership Qualification starting in May in Hampshire, UK, two places left (can be run in-house or other locations too!)

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

One Comment

  • cherry hughes says:

    Hi Gill, love the idea of using ‘does it make you feel alive?’ as determinant of activity choice. I’ve got redundancy presentations to deliver on Tuesday to civil service executives – I’ll choose the term ‘alive’ rather than my tum’s reeling sense of panic to send positive vibes in to my brain box! Hopefully give me more alert, positive approach – think it will. Cherry x

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