12 November 2018
Keep calm and carry on
Overused and annoying? Simple and brilliant? How this familiar slogan helped me on my journey.
Since a copy of this 1939 government poster was discovered in 2000, it has become one of the most instantly recognisable slogans this side of the millennium, along with the thousands of parodies of it.
Cliché, overused, annoying, brilliant – yes, probably all of those and more. I too have found myself jumping on the bandwagon and admit to owning a shiny red fridge magnet with those very words on it.
I wondered why these words had such mass appeal. Perhaps nostalgia, maybe a reflection of British stoicism. For me, there is something about the simplicity of the message that I find very grounding and reassuring. When I face difficult moments of change, I find myself going back to these words – keep calm and carry on. It turns out to be a really useful way for me to regain composure. By mentally stepping out of the situation for a moment, I am able to give myself the space to work out my next move.
When I trained to be a coach, I was confident in my passion for coaching and my dedication to my clients, but I didn’t know whether I had it in me to run my own business. I was, and sometimes still am, unsure about my ability to make it work. The effect was that I found a hundred and one reasons why I shouldn’t or couldn’t run my own business. I was almost paralysed by fear.
So my first goal was just to try and steady myself. I knew I’d be able to tackle these fears more effectively from a place of calm. It’s natural to feel fear when starting something new, and so I decided to accept my fear and that it was no doubt going to stay with me. But I had to find a way of not letting my thoughts and feelings run away with me. They were clouding my judgement and limiting the number of options I could see. Accepting these emotions as part of the journey kept me calm, as did working on not letting them control me. Talking to my coach and mindful gardening helped too!
Despite the fears and anxiety, I knew I had to carry on. I had to move forward because coaching was what I really wanted to do and I believed in my ability to help people. Knowing what I wanted and why gave me the motivation to keep going, and helped me to feel more certain that I was doing the right thing.
Next I had to find tiny, manageable steps that I felt comfortable enough to take. Lots of small incremental changes over a long period of time can result in a significant change. So I took those small steps. Some so small, I only I noticed them, but the feelings of achievement and satisfaction were huge. Once I’d done that and a few other smalls steps, I started to build a momentum. I started to feel more confident about taking steps. I wanted to take more steps. That’s the funny thing about momentum.
Change can be exciting, it can be uncomfortable and certainly nothing is guaranteed. Searching for, and ultimately doing what you love, may take you down some difficult and winding paths but it will be worth it just for the journey. The Norwegian playwright, Ibsen, sums it up beautifully:
“My boat might run aground, but how wonderful to be out sailing.”
Coaching can make all the difference when making or facing a change in life. A coach will help you discover ways to ‘keep calm’ by helping you to view your thoughts and feelings from a different perspective and to find alternative ways of responding to emotional triggers. A coach will also help you to ‘carry on’ by helping you to see and overcome the things that are holding you back and will support you on your journey.