So there we were, the four of us, each standing on a rock in the stream and our hearts pounding with fear.  We were a team but we may as well have been 100 miles apart.

We were on a “team building” weekend for a leadership program we ran together.  Sally, Rich, Ange and I.  We were taking on the 7 km bush track from Lorne up to Erskine Falls and at exactly halfway in Sal walked over a tiger snake.

Sal was on one side of the path and the rest of us were stuck paralysed on the other side. Too scared to move.

Sal was totally relaxed about the whole thing, laughing even! What the? She logically talked us through how to step over the snake tail safety but our feet were glued to the path. Completely overtaken by fear.

Instead of walking over the snake, we took a really long, unnecessary detour through the bush around it.

Before our heart rates settled down, BAM. Another snake. A large brown snake.

This time, Sal wasn’t logical either.

We bolted for the stream and jumped on a rock each.

We were all paralysed.

When something scares us, our brain becomes flooded with emotion and it can feel impossible to think logically.

Logically we could have turned around and walked back to the car park. But we couldn’t even do that. Our truth was that we thought there were snakes everywhere.

Our brains were hijacked.

One of the most important things we can learn about our brain is when it’s working for us, and when it’s working against us.

When you’re feeling fired up with emotion, you can’t think as clearly. The thinking part of your brain can go missing in action.

If your brain is hijacked by fear, you can’t always trust it.

You don’t have to see a snake to be flooded with emotion.

When we’re doing work we care about, or we’re in a high-pressure work environment, heightened emotion is lurking in the bushes.

And instead of thriving as a team, you can easily:

  • Narrow your vision so much you forget the truth or what’s actually likely (our new evidence shows there’s a snake every 200 meters right?)

  • Stop listening and dismiss other people’s ideas

  • Forget to check in on others and ask them how they are

So what do we need to do when we’re more than hot under the colour and our brain is hijacked?

We have to bring it down a notch. It’s not about shifting from wildly furious to calm AF, or from terrified to relaxed.  It doesn’t work.

But if we can circuit break our wild thought loops for long enough that we can shift our feelings from a 10 to a 9, or a 7 to a 5, then we’re buying time.

We’re buying time that might save us from sending a snarky email which will have a long-lasting impact, snapping at a loved one or missing a solution.

It could be as simple as taking a breath, getting some fresh air or distracting yourself with some music until those feelings bubble away, even just a little.

We’ve all got fears of stepping on, tripping over or being bitten through our work, especially when it’s work that matters.   Sometimes those fears will peek out of the bushes, sometimes they’ll rear their scaly heads right at you.  Learning the tools to work with and calm them when they do will keep you going.

If your team is getting caught up in fear fueled drama, let’s chat about how our workshops get teams out of a spin and moving forward.  In fact, here’s a link directly to my diary so you can book a time now.

Excited regards,

Clare Desira
Director, Top Five Movement


Because negative thinking is boring