Tag Archives: fear

Playing in Lava

By Chelsea Elkins, Simple Intentions Program & Marketing Manager

On the most foundPlaytime_0825ational level, to be in play means to be in a state of presence, spontaneity, and above all to allow yourself to let go. The highest form of play taps into our inner child and allows us to experience a pure lightness and joy that temporarily washes away all the heaviness that can come with adulthood. We abandon our worries, doubts, mortgage, and perhaps just for a moment truly experience play.

A few weeks ago I was able to attend my very first Seattle Wisdom where we gathered to explore the topic of play both in and out of the workplace. When our host Sameer placed a large box of toys and coloring tools in our midst, the room grinned at each other shiftily, everyone fully aware that as adults most of us would feel more comfortable talking about play than actually playing. One participant even bravely announced she was feeling a bit anxious about “playing wrong” – a worry that I think was on more than one mind.

It seems our confidence around play (and often a slew of other things) that we had when we commanded the sandbox inevitably starts to fade, or rather, is pounded out of us by a demanding and often anti-play society. As a result, I realized that I am a culprit of halfway play. Similar to halfway conversations, halfway play is a suppressed expression that usually doesn’t accomplish the desired outcome (which in this case would be having fun). Perhaps your body is playing but your mind is preoccupied with tomorrow’s meetings or your upcoming move. When we are merely going through the motions of play, it is because we are unable to be fully present. We may be uncomfortable, anxious, or uncertain about something which prevents us from truly surrendering to play.

Funnily enough, we were experts at playing through those very situations as kids. We thrived in the unfamiliar as children and gravitated towards the thrill of the undiscovered, the delight of fear. Games like Hot Lava Monster, Marco Polo, even Hide & Seek all encouraged us to find exhilaration in the unknown. Everyone faces difficult circumstances as well as unpleasant or just boring situations. What if we chose to exercise a playful spirit during these times and embraced uncertainty just like we did as a child? Next time you find yourself preparing for an audit at work, assembling your new couch, or in an awkward social situation, take pause and think of Hot Lava Monster. We have the choice and the capability to smile and challenge ourselves to see some small shred of humor, exhilaration, or beauty that is likely lingering near the moment.

The act of play is spontaneous by nature, making it something you can’t really plan out. Though you can’t plan play, you can plan playtime! Set aside an hour a week, 5 minutes a day, or whatever you are able to achieve – just make sure that play is on your schedule.

Play in fear, play in fun, just play on!


Saying Yes to No

By Chelsea Elkins, Program & Marketing Manager


I am a yes-man. Or, rather, I am a yes-man in recovery.

What can I say? I really thought I loved Yes. It is the great unifier, the unapologetic people pleaser, the limitless connector of any language. So you can imagine my discomfort when I found myself abruptly thrust into an alien world of No when I was diagnosed with a fatigue-inducing health condition earlier this year.

I have to admit I was a bit surprised by my own explosive reaction to having to say no more often than I could say yes (courtesy of my tired and protesting body). But when I thought about it, it made sense how I got there. The culture and mindset among my peers and social circle has largely been one of Yes (my generation coining the terms FOMO and YOLO into modern vernacular), so it seemed logical how Yes became so deeply saturated into my being.

My debut with No was not an easy one. My biggest challenge came with having to turn down things I genuinely wanted to do. Having to decline or cancel brunches and Star Wars-themed parties was amazingly difficult even when my body was begging for sleep.

The true trouble came from my over-active mind, imagining that whoever extended the invite would start questioning if I even wanted to be invited at all. Perhaps they felt I was making excuses or no longer shared their interest in French food or outdoor concerts. “They probably won’t be inviting you in the future!” my delirious brain cried.

And voilà, we reached the root of my problem with Yes. Why, for years, I over-extended and stretched myself thin as paper, both with things I wanted to do and things I did not.

For me, what it really boiled down to was fear. Fear that if I said no x amount of times, I’d stop being asked. Fear that if I’m not the one constantly organizing hang outs, I’d never hear from anyone. Fear that I’d offend. Fear that once I finally emerge on the other side, healthy and shiny and new, I’ll find that all my friends and friendly acquaintances have moved to Majorca and failed to invite me.

Ultimately, fear that I am not enough.

Quite a pill to swallow.

The positive thing was I was not alone with this issue and could access an abundance of wisdom on the matter. Lena Dunham and Whitney Cummings both shared their intimate histories with No, and Shonda Rhimes started a beautiful and intentional relationship with Yes. I was inspired to start to restructure my own relationship with my decisions, and slowly I began to find strength and even delight in my no’s. Gradually, I found I was taking control of my life and health.

I still think Yes is great. Yes can lead to new connections and unforgettable experiences. The trick, as with everything, is to find balance. Saying yes enough to lead a wondrous, joyful existence but not so much that you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of commitments, whether desirable or not.

In this way I’m carrying on, bravely owning my answers, whatever they may be, and remembering that a resounding No will always be more beneficial to my relationships than a reluctant Yes.


Fear and Awareness in the Workplace

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

fearGossip, bullying, coercion, passivity, oppressive competition. You might think this describes a middle school lunchroom, but too often it also portrays today’s workplace.

One of my worst experiences in corporate life was working in an environment so shrouded in fear – of massive strategic changes and ultimately layoffs – that eventually the uncertainty and distrust drove many of the behaviors listed above. Rather than working creatively and collaboratively toward shared goals, my colleagues and I worked solely to protect our own futures.

We can argue that displacing fear in the workplace must start at the top, that it’s the job of company executives to create a unifying strategy, model trustful collaboration and promote a healthy working environment.

But easing fear and the distrust it creates must also take place at the individual level, with each of us not only gaining an awareness of our fears, but more importantly seeing how they show up in our behaviors and understanding their impact to our teams.

Common fears we see in today’s workplace include:

  • Fear of being invisible
  • Fear of making a mistake
  • Fear of retribution
  • Fear that others will discover and expose our weaknesses
  • Fear we’re not delivering enough / creative enough / good enough

Just as our innate response to stress is fight or flight, in response to fear we often over-react or withdraw. If we fear being invisible, we may over-communicate. If we fear our weaknesses being exposed, we may withdraw.

Gaining awareness of our fears and their impact can be a first step toward creating a less fearful, more productive work environment. Take pause, and ask the essential question: What am I afraid of? From here, we can begin to see the behaviors that manifest as fear. An honest understanding of our behaviors reveals their impact and ultimate results.

Visibility, for example, is an important quality not only within a team, but also among upper management. Highly visible people are often better recognized for their contributions and more readily considered for new projects as well as promotions.

If our quest for visibility is driven by fear, however, it often looks like frenzied over-reaction. Our behaviors might include over-communication (five scattered emails followed by multiple IMs rather than one thoughtful email), over-delivery (presenting 20 data points when 10 wholly satisfies the argument) and micromanagement (impatient oversight and just doing work that could or should be delegated).

As with any behavior that promotes a fearful environment, the impact is as negative on oneself as it is on the team. Distrust displaces collaboration and team building. Learning and growing is inhibited. Team members shift their focus from championing the team, product or company to protecting themselves.

Knowing what we fear and recognizing fear-driven behaviors, whether it’s aggressive communication or saying no to opportunity, opens the door to drive fear out of the workplace. When we recognize our frenzied communication and the impact it has on others, we can resolve to communicate more meaningfully, with greater focus on what really matters and greater trust in our teams. The team, for its part, feels trusted and empowered, the ultimate result being higher productivity, creativity, smart risk-taking, and higher morale.