Everything I read on-line before I left home said not to do it.
Every local person I met when I was there said not to do it.
They all said the same thing, “If you weren’t born and raised here, don’t drive here”.
This is all that was going through my head as the day came when we were going to pick up our rental car.
I had already been in Sorrento, Italy for 4 days, watching, examining, trying to find the secret of their traffic flow.
I did my research from the sidewalk or within the safe confines of a car complete with a hired driver when we were on an excursion.
With him at the wheel, I saw large tour buses shave by on the beautiful yet treacherous Amalfi coast. I observed Vespa after Vespa appear and disappear beside us like mosquitoes buzzing past our ears as we wormed our way through the constantly winding roads. Stop signs were merely suggestions as traffic seemed to mix together like water merging from different streams.
These were the thoughts going through my head as I sat there signing the forms linking my credit card to the responsibility of my driving this car.
Extra insurance, she asked. Yes, I nodded.
Yup. I was worried. I had anxiety. And then she gave me the keys.
Our brains like to mess with us.
What power it has!
Despite our best efforts to thwart it, anxiety slips through the tiniest cracks in our psyche and expands like mould on stinky cheese.
Once it’s in our head, it seems to pull a cloth over any confidence, skill or knowledge we may have acquired.
People often use the word “Fear” instead of anxiety. But I relate “Fear” to what we feel when we’re in danger. It goes away when the dangerous situation passes.
Anxiety gets in your head long before fear does. It springs to life just thinking about a situation we are not looking forward to. It can be triggered by the slightest suggestion of that which we are worried about. It can even pop up when we’re far away from the situation.
One anxiety I hear a lot about is change happening at work. It could be layoffs, restructuring, a new system going into place, being placed on a new project, working with a new team, you name it.
They all have the power to create anxiety in us. All of this tests our resilience to change ( read more on how to build that up in this post.)
What we tend to forget about when we have anxiety is that there is a way we can get through almost anything.
What I learned.
Getting back to my driving story… what was it that I really had anxiety about? Was it my driving? No, not really. I’ve been driving for years, having started on a tractor back when I was 7.
It was about how I could drive like them, how I could drive with their combination of relaxed-aggressiveness and impeccable timing. How could I drive with their flow?
I began to realize they had something I didn’t have: comfort and confidence.
Their comfort and confidence came from living there, driving there every day, knowing the roads extremely well, feeling at home, speaking the language (therefore understanding every sign).
I had to change my driving style so I realized I too needed things to make me comfortable.
I realized I did have some things I could rely on to make me comfortable too, maybe not as comfortable as them but perhaps good enough. I had my anchors!
By “anchors” I mean the things you know you can count on to help you through a challenging situation, the things that you know are there for you no matter what happens.
Here were my anchors:
I knew roughly where I was going. I had looked at the route beforehand.
I had driven in Italy before, a few years back, in some quiet areas in the north and on the big Autostrada, which is as modern a road as they come.
I knew exactly how long I’d be under pressure. In 45 minutes after getting those keys, I’d arrive at the Autostrada - Familiar ground.
I had made the smart decision to rent an automatic instead of a standard.
I had ability. I was an experienced driver – not here, but I had driven a lot.
I had my trusty iPhone navigation app “Waze” which called out the turns and knew the road really well.
I had my wife who was constantly saying “Don’t worry, we’re not in a hurry.”
I had told my children to be quiet. (Ok, that one wasn’t working so well)
At first I went slowly, getting used to the Vespas and motorcycles around me. I began to appreciate the roundabout for its efficiency in keeping the traffic flowing. (Although I could have used the occasional stop sign to let me catch my breath).
So as you can see (since I am sitting here writing), I made it through those narrow, twisty coastal roads. No bumps, no scratches. I even managed to get some tunes happening in the car. I hear there were some great views along the way too! Although, I didn’t see many myself.
But here is an observation. It wasn’t quite as scary as I thought it would be. My anxiety was way worse than the experience itself. Hmmm….
When we think we need to change our way of doing things, our anxiety acts like a magnifying glass. It magnifies all the possible things we are worried about.
In my case, I was worried about having an accident, my family getting hurt, ending up in a car wreck, getting sideswiped while merging. See how I was imaging the worst?
For you folks who might be going through a change at work, perhaps these thoughts creep into your head:
Will my job become more difficult?
Will I have more to do?
Will I have to change my way of doing things?
Will I have to change office locations?
Will I still have a job after all the changes?
Will I need to work with someone new?
Will I have to work with someone I don’t get along with?
We tend to focus on all the things that are changing instead of on the things that will help us get through the change --our anchors.
Remember, your anchors are the things that you rely on no matter what changes are taking place.
How to start recognizing your anchors.
The next time you’re faced with a new situation, start to make a list of the things that are your anchors, the things that you can count on to stay the same as things change around you.
Here are some common ones:
1) Your skills.
No matter what changes occur, you have your training, education and experience with you. No one can take that away.
2) Your accomplishments.
You’ve had some successes, done some key things, right? Don’t forget about them.
3) People around you.
While you may not be close with everyone at work, I would bet there are people you respect and trust with whom you can share your concerns. Chances are, if you like them, they are people who see the positive. Talk to them, discuss how the changes are making you feel. Chances are, they will help you see something positive. (btw – avoid the negative talkers)
4) Know you can adapt since you have before.
If you think back over your life, I would bet you’re not the same person you were 5 years ago, 10 years ago. Sure there are some things that are the same, but the things that have occurred in your life have molded you. You’ve gained experience and knowledge. You’re better / stronger than you were before. Chances are that something changed and you got through it. Maybe it was a new job, marriage, kids, losing parents, new city, etc. Realize that life is a journey and adapting is the only way to go as long as you’ve got your anchors.
But know this…
Just like people come and go in our lives, so do our anchors. As you gain experience and knowledge, you change a little. This may lead you to let go of some anchors and create new ones. This is way happens when we grow. Be ok with that.
Don’t sell yourself short
One reason we have anxiety over change is that we don’t think we are good enough. We think we may fail. We are seeing life through what we think our shortcomings are. Don’t do it. Think of all the great things you’ve done and overcome in your life. Believe in yourself.
A common request I get from many organizations is: Can I help their people get over their anxiety about change? (They tend to use the word “FEAR”). I say, “Well, I can’t make all of their anxiety go away but I can give them some tools to get through it”. Those tools include helping them realize that having anchors is the key.
The other anchor I need to mention is hard work. Nothing pushes anxiety away more than the willingness to work hard. Knowing you’ve done your best is a real confidence booster. It helps you believe you can get through anything.
Write your list
So next time you start to get worried about something - a new situation, a change that’s coming - sit yourself down in a quiet spot and make your list of anchors. Keep it in your purse or your wallet or somewhere on your desk. Look at it and think – yup I have always got these no matter what. Bring on that change!
As always I welcome your comments. Please feel free to leave them in the comment box below. Avanti!