once upon a time…


We love stories.

Not just stories told in books, or on film, or in conversation. We love our stories about ourselves.

We don’t speak them out loud often. We don’t act them out on stage or on screen. We don’t share them with the world, in our workplace or at home. Rather we tell them to ourselves. Quietly. So quietly they are merely whispers. To those around us, these stories have no discernible words, no beautifully drawn pictures to admire, no compelling narrative to hook our attention, no plot, no beginning or end.

Instead the stories play out in our thinking, in how we behave, in how we are in the world. They show up in what is possible and what limits us. They control us. They become a self fulfilling prophecy. We become the actor, the main character in our pastiche of ourselves.

And we run our stories over and over. Day in day out. Week in week out. Inside.

Your past is just a story…
and once you realise this, it has no power over you

Chuck Palahniuk

What we need is freedom from the story of our past.
Freedom to write a new story of our future.

the secret power of orange


If you clothe someone in orange. Specifically a fluorescent hi-vis orange. Something strange happens.

There’s a secret power that creates a stillness in them. They stand. Sometimes they lean. But always still, like an evil voodoo has robbed them of motion. Often they get trapped in this stupefying state in groups. Threes, fours and more, frozen together. Sometimes they bend down. Sometimes they hold something, such as a sign, or a cigarette, or a clipboard or a tool. Sometimes they gaze collectively at a large piece of paper one holds. The spell only seems to impact on their ability to walk, as speech seems unimpaired.

Orange is my favourite colour, so this secret power it seems to possess, freaks me out a little.

the stripes of power


It’s interesting to reflect on where power comes from.

Today, I stepped out onto a zebra crossing. Approaching quickly was a car. I hesitated, one foot in the road. The car slowed rapidly. Not heavily, but rapidly. This signal that I had been seen, encouraged me to move forward, out into the road. A ton of metal, rubber and plastic stopped to let a couple of hundred pounds of essentially water and some minerals cross safely.

White lines painted on a road surface in a particular configuration, together with a pole with an orange light on top, had afforded me power over this driver and their car. Had I attempted to cross one hundred yards down the road, the power would have remained with the car driver and I may well have been squished.

Power can be afforded us through a variety of means. A uniform, a job title, knowledge, braid on a hat, our age, a dog on a leash, our gender and, it seems, by the strangest of environmental factors, such as the placing of a few white lines on a road.

Interesting to reflect on the symbols of power in your life perhaps?


just gathering


“I’m just gathering my thoughts”

A phrase we use on occasion. Gathering them, like they might be scattered, lying disconnected from each other? Like gathering the facts, assembling them into knowledge or insight.

Or gathering them like we might gather the harvest? Reap the product of our endeavours. Or gathering them like we might gather the troops? Amassing them so that they might have more power, more force.

Maybe we gather them to untangle them? Or maybe we use that phrase to describe abandoning our thoughts for a moment. Leaving them to themselves so that we might be still. Present in the moment. Not with our thoughts at all.

So much variety in our language. So much room for misinterpretation.

Art by Susan Lenz


what is your psychological contract of self?

psychological_contract self
Psychological contracts are often referred to in the context of the employer and the employee – what is the expectation, commitment of both?

It sometimes explores qualities of trust, honesty, respect, fairness, compassion. It will often cover the visible expectations and agreements, such as pay, hours, work, training, but more usefully might look under the waterline, beneath the visible iceberg, so to speak. Here might be give and take, inputs and outputs, responsibilities and rewards which are less clearly in play. Concepts such as control, power, innovation, recognition, commitment, respect, loyalty, tolerance and much much more.

At a meeting the other day we were discussing psychological contracts. We were to be a team, so the question posed was, ‘How did we want to be with each other?’

We were to discuss what we were looking for from other members of the team, what we were seeking from the team leader and what we would bring to the team. What our commitments would be in terms of contribution and what we were seeking in return.

As I reflected, I wondered how I could even begin to answer this, as my thoughts and feelings were initially directed inwards, at me. I wondered what my psychological contract with myself was?

Did I respect myself? Did I have compassion for myself? Did I have faith in myself? Was I in control of myself? Did I fully trust myself? Did I appreciate my own being? Did I own my own power?

What are my perceptions of myself, what do I believe about myself?

How am I getting in my own way, either unaware of, or maybe breaking, my own psychological contract even before I entered the room. Surely this is where I should start before considering any team working agreements?

What is my psychological contract of self?

who or what is twiddling the dimmer switch?

dim your power
I have been speaking these past two days about giving your power away. How it diminishes you and your potential.

So who or what have you handed control to?

Is it your boss? Or is it your partner, your spouse or your lover? Have you handed it to a parent or a sibling? Does fear have your power? Do you give it to controlling and domineering people? Have you handed it to another part of you? Maybe the ambitious part, maybe the parent in you, maybe to the part of you that fears being great?

Have you given it to comfort foods, alcohol, drugs or other forms of escape? Have you given it to taking care of everyone else? Or to the people you see as more worthy than you? Do you let people who are unhappy drain and suck your energy? Have you given your power away to money or time, the scarcity or lack of it?

Or have you given your power to a social institution such as the government, a religion or a philosophy? Or to someone in authority or a position of power, such as a doctor, a lawyer?

Take back control of your dimmer switch and turn yourself up bright.

leaking power through thought

habits of thought leaking power
I wrote yesterday about giving our power away.

We do this in our patterns of thought too. Our habits of mind can cause our power to leak away. Dissipate. Below is only a partial list of ways you might do this. Study the list. Notice your habits.

Do you spend time, in your head, beating yourself up?
Do you have regular thoughts about being better than…?
Or about not being as good as…?
Do you judge yourself and come up short?
Do you focus on pleasing others?
Do you catastrophise and fear the worst before it’s happened?
Do you regret old failures or lost opportunities?
Do you replay old hurts or difficult conversations in your head?
Is it a pattern of thought to be bitter about circumstance and to think about how unfair things are?
Do you over focus on enemies or on revenge?
Are your thoughts directed to taking control?

Or maybe you have another pattern of thought?

Your life energy is a resource – you can use it wisely or squander it just like any other resource. Make an estimate of how much of your thought you spend on habitual thinking which gives away your power. Then address it.

when the power is lost, the lights go out

giving power away
A colleague at work has been leading a new project. She has surveyed the territory, read the research, summarised the viewpoints and gathered the core material. It’s time to document our stance and intended direction.

She invited others to share this work, valuing a collective approach. Now a couple of drafts have been produced, attributed to their shared work, but my colleague is disappointed. Disappointed in herself.

I discussed it with her. The work has lost the essence and the inspiration she found through the research, but also, it no longer reflects her.

We explored how she has given her power away.

We can all do this.

We give our power away when we doubt ourselves. When we try to make everyone happy or look for others approval and validation, thereby over-empowering them.
We give our power away when we fail to honour or share our personal truth. We do it when we compare ourselves to others or worry what other people will think. We do it when we forget that we know what we’re doing and that we are good at it. We do it when we have poor boundaries and allow others emotional activity to intimidate us and leak into our world. We do it when we lose sight of what we need or want, instead placing focus on what we see externally in the world as the blocker – lack of money, time, ability, looks, weight…

But giving your power away diminishes you, disables you, casts your personal light in shadow.