Getting to know and question your fears – Part 2

Know and face your fears – in Part 2 of Peter’s post we see him facing his fears and learn whether or not he was able to realise his dream of standing on top of a mountain for his birthday.  If you missed Part 1 you can read it here.  

The next afternoon I kept my promise to myself and set off back across the bridge.  Walking across a bridge and back may not seem like a huge goal but it stood large in my mind that afternoon.  I walked to the bridge knowing that I would be afraid but wanting to understand the drivers of my fear rather than just overcome it enough to climb.  It was also a chance to recognise the psychological and physiological reactions I would go through as my fear surfaced so that I could better manage them the next time it occurred.

I was aware of my fear this time, which gave me the chance to go through the 5 steps of learning about my fear.

  1. Experience it
  2. Get to know it
  3. Begin to understand it
  4. Start to accept it, and
  5. Decide whether it is useful to keep around.

The point here is not just to get rid of the fear, though that may occur over time, but rather to get to know all about it.  The final step of deciding whether to keep it around is a very powerful step.  In this decision we either truly own the fear as a part of ourselves and see the benefits it brings, or acknowledge that it is not a part of us and therefore can move away from it without a sense of loss.


How does knowing your fears help you to enjoy your life more? 

I believe that sometimes the difference between enjoying and enduring is our level of preparation and our attitude.  I always prefer to enjoy life rather than just enduring it and by getting to know my fear I had the opportunity to help myself enjoy life even more. Right or wrong, my fears have helped me become the person I am and will shape my future self. By getting to know them intimately and accepting or discarding them I can improve my ability to live my life my preferred way.  I may accept them as a part of my past or as a part of my future but I can’t accept them or free them until I know all about them.

What followed with my bridge experiment was an hour or so of experiencing fear.  Feeling my fear rise to the surface, not trying to control it but rather allow it to be present and run its normal course so I could learn about it.  My biggest battle was trying not to “logic the hell out of it” but rather to experience it and learn from it.  I deliberately stood over gaps in the bridge and looked down and allowed trams to pass me to experience the movement and noise.  I approached the railings looking up and then quickly looked down over the side to increase the effect.  All of this left me in a constant state of fear and shakiness and left me feeling a little weak but also content that I had done what I needed to do.

Here is what I learned about my fear

  1. I have a fear of heights brought on, funnily enough, by being high up on things.
  2. My triggers are being over a large drop, being able to see through a solid structure and movement in the structure I’m on.
  3. The physical manifestations of my fear are increased heart rate, light headedness, tingly legs to mid-thigh, weak legs and a loss of balance.
  4. The mental manifestation of my fear is the belief that the structure is about to fall and the desire to run.  I get irritable and quiet as I deal with the fear.  I need things to be simple, my focus narrows to immediate issues (I certainly don’t make long-term plans or engage in complex conversations at this stage).

Regardless of the reason for the birth of this fear I think it actually makes sense to me.  As a climber, a number of the dangers I face come in the form of falling off something, through something or being hit by something.  Falling from a rock climb or down an ice covered slope are common dangers found in climbing.  When I travel over glaciers or through crevasse fields if I can see through the snow I’m walking on (called an ice bridge) this is a sign that the snow is not very strong and I’m in danger of falling into a crevasse.  Movement in the snow and ice while climbing indicates an avalanche.

The other thing I realised is that how I respond to my fear triggers is very much decided by what I am doing at the time.  While walking across the bridge in ideal conditions and safety, my response was to be very scared and want to run.  There was no real danger but my fear response was quite strong.  When presented with these dangers when I’m climbing my response is very different.  At that stage I am focussed on my safety and the safety of my climbing partners.  Think, act, overcome, get safe!  Since I accept that danger is an inherent part of climbing, I evaluate it and then make a decision on which way to progress or go back.  In this case where there is actual danger I am not generally scared but rather focussed on getting safe and continuing to climb.


Will you defeat your fear or is it useful in your life?

In this case, having experienced my fear in a safe place, getting to know it a little more and then understanding how I react to it in different circumstance, I decided it is actually a fairly useful fear to have around.  Over time I will control my reactions to it when I am safe but I don’t want to get rid of it entirely.  At its most basic this fear keeps me safe.  It also has the added bonus of giving me an adrenaline rush when I am doing things like rock climbing, bungy jumping and skydiving and so it plays a part in me enjoying my life as well.  Having undertaken my bridge experiment I believe that I am on my way to being able to step out of my well worn fear response  and be better prepared next time I find myself unexpectedly up high.


So did I get to summit on my Birthday?


Summit of mountain
At the Summit – I made it. Thanks to Jon Sanz Guide for the photo.

Happily enough, a few days later my increased self-awareness and an exceptional local guide all came together to help me summit Mt Mulhacen.  We did so in unseasonal snow, and extreme cold and blizzard conditions on the summit.  My guide took me off the beaten track and showed me things on the mountain that I wouldn’t have had a chance to see if I went on the usual course.  In summiting that day I fulfilled a long held dream of standing on top of a summit on my birthday – something that has me smiling still – and learning about my fear played a major part in reaching the summit.

Do you have a goal that one of your fears is keeping you from fulfilling? 

What would knowing your fears allow you to do?  

Now is the time to discover something new about yourself and enjoy the new opportunities it brings.     

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.



7 Steps to Celebrating your Successes

Here’s some great tips on how to celebrate your success – from Peter McFadyen.  It’s coming up to that time where we want to look at what worked and what didn’t work for us in 2018 and celebrate what we achieved.  

A tip given to me constantly through leadership training over the years has been the importance of celebrating success. This allows you the opportunity to pause, to recognise what you have achieved and to feel good about it. It focusses you on what capabilities and opportunities have contributed to your success, whether or not you are still on target to reach your ultimate goal and provides motivation to keep heading down the path you are on. In a team environment it can build a combined passion and commitment for the work to come, while in an individual sense it can build resolve and purpose and allow you space to take stock of where you are in your journey.

Given we are on the edge of a new year, it’s a great time to have a look at our successes and celebrate them.

The steps to do this are fairly straight forward:

1) Take stock of where you are now.
2) Look honestly at where you began.
3) Capture what the key development stages were.
4) Note what capabilities and opportunities contributed to your success.
5) See what benefits you have received by doing the work you have done.
6) Check to see if you are still on the right path and how it looks into the future.
7) Commit this stage of your journey to some sort of stored form so that you can celebrate it again later and use it to help with future development.

Over the years as I have worked to grow and be aware of who I am I have often turned to poetry as a way of undertaking stage seven of that process. Poetry allows me to capture my thoughts succinctly and honestly. I find that this format allows me a space where, though I may be confronted by the truth I choose to face, it is written in such a way that I am able to take in on board and enjoy the journey it describes.

I had the good fortune, many years ago, to come across a poem by Portia Nelson entitled “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.” This is undoubtedly one of the most powerful poems I have ever read and I encourage you to read it as it sums up the journey of self-awareness and development in very few words. I love its simplicity, its directness and, in my case, its applicability to my approach to life at the time I read it and since that time. The following poem is unashamedly based on Portia’s work and it allowed me the opportunity to reflect on the changes I had seen in myself and to celebrate that success. It is called “I look in the mirror.”

mirror and sky

I look in the Mirror

I look in the mirror

I look in the mirror and what do I see?
Am I happy with who’s looking back at me?
I decide yes, my look is okay,
I have no issues, not me, no way!
I take ego into the world today.

I look in the mirror and what do I see?
Am I happy with who’s looking back at me?
I decide no, something’s not right,
My hair won’t sit straight and my clothes are too tight!
I take discomfort into the world today.

I look in the mirror and what to I see?
Am I happy with who’s looking back at me?
I’m really not sure for when looking at me,
Old wrongs and past hurts often cloud what I see.
I take pain into the world today.

I look in the mirror and what do I see?
Am I happy with who’s looking back at me?
I think of the future and not my reflection,
My vision is clouded by my introspection.
I take uncertainty into the world today.

I look in the mirror and what do I see?
Am I happy with who’s looking back at me?
I live more in the present, and find bit by bit,
The kind of reflection into which I can fit.
I take peace in to the world today.

I look in the mirror and what do I see?
Am I happy with who’s looking back at me?
My reflection now shows the values I live,
I can now see a person I’m prepared to forgive.
I take kindness into the world today.

I look in the mirror and what do I see?
Am I happy with who’s looking back at me?
I am!
I see me!
I take acceptance into the world today.

I no longer need the mirror!

Have you celebrated your success recently or are you working so hard at achieving that you have not taken the time? Now is a great time to acknowledge what you have already accomplished, to check in with where you are headed and to re-commit to your journey.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

Why you should take yourself on a date

I see you over there. Glancing at me with that ‘I feel sorry for you’ look on your face. Stop it. Don’t feel sorry for me.

I see you staring. Wondering why I’m dining alone. I can almost see the pity on your face.

Even though I actually really love to dine alone, in the past from time to time, I’d still take a book because I cared that other people might think I was a Nigel no friends and didn’t have anyone to eat with.

These days – well, I don’t care. But people still stare at me.

The truth is, sometimes I prefer to eat alone. In fact, its part of my self care routine.  Every Friday (well almost every Friday) I take myself to lunch, by myself, at one of the many cafes near my office. I cherish this time to myself. Sometimes I’ll take a book and have a read, but mostly I just sit and people watch and enjoy my food and just….well….just be.


lunch alone self care
Lunch alone – a form of self care

Not always of course. I’m a people person. I love people. My people. New people.  I love me too, and I’ve learnt over the years to love my own company.

When I travel, I love nothing more than exploring a new city and finding somewhere to have my dinner – alone. Of course, not every night, but some nights. I find it re-energises me.

So stop staring at me like I have two heads. I can see you doing it even though you’re trying to pretend you’re not. Seriously, don’t feel sorry for me – I am in one of my happy places right here, right now, eating my food, sitting in the sun and enjoying my ‘me’ time.


When was the last time you took yourself on a date?

Annually I also take myself away on a silent meditation retreat for 6 days. There are other people there of course, and the thing that keeps me coming back is that no-one can speak to me – for 6 whole days! I can see as I write this that it might sound a little selfish, or crazy.


mediation self care
Self care and self inquiry through silence

Now I love a good chat, probably more than the next person, and I love connecting with people, and I also love this 6 days in silence, where I don’t speak to anyone and no-one speaks to me.

I’m starting to realise that I’m not an either/or person, but rather an ‘and’ person. I love eating with friends and also alone, I enjoy 6 days of silence and I enjoy connecting with people.

It’s all about balance.


When was the last time you took yourself away?

When was the last time you took some time to get to know yourself?

I highly recommend taking yourself on a date once in a while and even, if you’re up for it, taking yourself away from time to time.

And if you get the ‘I feel sorry for you eating/holidaying alone’ look, just smile back knowing that you’re doing what you want to do, spending quality time with yourself, getting to know yourself better and letting yourself just ‘be’ for a while.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.

Drop the comparison and get back in your own lane


“The comparison of others leads to disappointment. The comparison of self leads to improvement” ― Avina Celeste

I walked 96km. He walked 25 metres.

It’s like comparing apples with oranges isn’t it?

I remember the day very clearly. It was the day I returned from Papua New Guinea after having successfully hiked the Kokoda Track for the first time – a gruelling 96km through the jungles of the Owen Stanley Ranges.  He picked me up from the airport. My friend Bill that is.

Bill is an amazing human being that I’d known for many years. Initially we met professionally, but very soon became friends. Good friends at that. He picked me up from my flight and I was heading to his place for the weekend to catch up and to celebrate my epic achievement.

As we drove out of the airport he looked at me and said “I walked 25 metres today”.

I was speechless.

“You, you what?” I managed to get out.

With a grin bigger than a Cheshire cat he looked at me again, “I walked for the first time in 3 years. It was the hardest 25m I have ever walked, but I did it”.

Rewind a few years and Bill found himself flying over the edge of a mountain – with his Harley Davidson still between his legs and heading for a tree and a very steep ravine.

His wife had been his pillion but she was already off the back of the bike, tumbling down the slope.

Clearly this wasn’t in the plan for that day’s riding.

It was horrible. Just horrible, and each day I’m grateful that they both survived. I won’t focus on the details here suffice to say, Bill and his wife spent many, many months in hospital and subsequent rehabilitation. Bill, the doctors were adamant, was a paraplegic and would never, and they meant never, walk again. It was not a possibility they would entertain.

Well Bill had other ideas. He always had other ideas. Bill wanted to walk again.

I sat in the car grinning back at him. “Did you film it?” I said, “because that is something I want to see!”.

Bill was excited to hear about my trek across the iconic Kokoda Track and while I was super pleased with myself for having achieved this feat, I was truly more inspired by his 25 metre walk.

It was all the more poignant because I knew that his ultimate dream was greater than that. His dream was to dance with his wife again at a special event we had coming up the next year.

While I went on to continue trekking and to walk the Kokoda Track again the next year, Bill continued to commit and work hard to get himself into a position where he could fulfil his dream. He worked harder than I could ever imagine.

And then the night came. It is etched on my memory forever and still, as I recall it, brings happy tears to my eyes.

He tentatively moved himself out of his wheelchair with the aid of a few friends, under the stars, with the band playing, and took his wife’s hand as they stood together and danced, for the first time in years.  In the loving arms of his wife, and surrounded by loving friends, Bill danced an entire song, as he’d promised himself and his wife, he would do.

It’s ok.  Take a moment.

Do you ever get caught up measuring your success against others? Watching the highlight reels of others lives on social media and thinking you’re lacking, not achieving enough, not as successful as them? You post to social media your latest achievement only to see in your news feed that your high school nemesis has just one-upped you and done it one handed?

Yeah, me too.

“Comparison is the death of joy” ― Mark Twain

What Bill taught me, and continues to teach me even though he doesn’t even know he does, is that our success is not measured by comparison to anyone else’s success or anyone else’s version of what success should look like.


comparison stay in your own lane
Stay in your own lane – determine what success looks like for you

I determine what success means to me. I determine what’s important to me and what my goals will be. There is no comparison necessary against norms or against any other person. I own my definitions of success and no-one can take these from me.

You own your definition of success too – only you know what that looks like for you.

Bill owns his definition of success as well.


“If you pay attention to your ranking and comparison to others, you are competing with others.  If you ignore them, you can aim for the stars” Khang Kijarro Nguyen

I walked 96km. Bill walked 25 metres and danced with his wife. We both achieved an amazing feat and we both did it through hard work, determination and commitment. We both had a goal. Our goals were different but they were our own goals – ones we worked hard to achieve. We each determined what success meant for ourselves.

Where are you comparing your successes and who or what are you comparing them to?

Drop us a line below if you’d like to share.

By the way, Bill is one of my heroes. So is his wife.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.