I’m a student of human nature. Luckily, there are oodles of humans around to provide a very diverse learning environment. I’m grateful for the times when I’m awake enough to learn something.
This week’s class took place on the overground train to London. What I’ve observed has to do with empty seats (the brass ring on the morning commute), particularly empty middle seats. Some people (myself included) don’t mind working for them. I have no compunction asking people (albeit politely) to move their legs, shift their belongings or otherwise make room. Others (and this is where the people-watching gets interesting) simply won’t. I find it difficult to believe that sitting down during the journey wouldn’t be the desired posture, so what’s the issue? Shyness? Laziness? Not wanting to upset anyone? These are all just different facets of fear. It must be maddening for those would-be sitters to see the prize right there, so close they could almost touch it, and be stopped by the only thing they truly control – themselves.
Fear is paralysing. To be more precise, thinking about fear is paralysing. It’s the elaboration of thought which gets us into trouble. We can all have a visceral response to an event or situation, but it’s the flurry of mental activity that follows (conscious or unconscious) that can send us down the rabbit hole. This crippling mind debris flies through so quickly, we are often not even aware of it. ‘Ooh, don’t want to ask them to move, they may get angry and sigh with derision, I’m ok standing, I need the exercise, must remain invisible, don’t bother anyone, my bottom’s too wide…’ On and on at the speed of light until we freeze and can only stand in the crowd and look longingly at the trophy we’ve convinced ourselves we can’t have.
The coveted seat on the train is a microcosmic example of the goals we keep ourselves from achieving simply by being fearful. When we allow unconscious, negative mental chatter to run the show, we can never get to where we want to be. The key is awareness. When you shine the light of awareness on those negative mind spirals that keep you rooted to the spot, you can challenge them. Change them. Don’t believe everything your monkey mind serves up. Monkeys can be sweet and lovely, but they also occasionally hurl feces at passersby.
Acknowledge your fears, nod and thank them for their service, then set about moving through them to get what you desire in life. A train seat today, your wildest dreams tomorrow.