I’ve been thinking a lot about the Dark Ages lately (is it just me?).
I wonder to myself, ‘what was life like for humans back then?’
Imagine being back in that time after the Roman Empire had fallen, and Europe cast into darkness. For something like 900 years. They say it was a backward time, a time of great brutality, technological and educational decline and hopeless superstition. A time characterised by feudalism, where common people worked the land for and fought on behalf of their overlords.
Can you even fathom that kind of existence?
The word that comes to mind for me is stagnation. And with it, some kind of soothing predictability… even if it was chaos itself that was predictable.
Do you think that people living in those times, and with the temperament which created those times, even had dreams or aspirations? I'm doubting.
In our short lifetimes, much has changed.
I spent most of my childhood playing outdoors. I grew up with a TV that required the viewer to get up and go to the set to change the channel. Research projects at school had nothing to do with AI or large language models and everything to do with knowing a thing or two about the Dewey System. When we parked our family car in the main street of town we’d leave the keys in the ignition while doing the afternoon’s errands, without giving it a second thought.
Now money is a largely invisible construct, people can have relationships with computers, security is of paramount importance in both the physical and the digital sense, the world’s information lives inside each of our pockets and the richest man on Earth is actively pursuing a mission to build a multi-planetary system for human habitation.
Do you ever get the feeling that history is speeding up?
I’d bet they didn’t in the Dark Ages. It was largely the same stuff. Decade after decade. Century after century.
We are living in fast times.
And here we are, many of us wondering why we struggle with anxiety.
“I’m intelligent, I look after my health, I’m keeping my career on track, I try to do the right thing, be a good person, and meet most of my needs most of the time, why do I feel crappy?”
One of the challenges I face in supporting my clients in a genuine sense is helping them land in the real context of their experience. We’re living in a strange world. Food security across the West is possibly the greatest it’s ever been and yet so many of us are malnourished. We’re living in luxury while opening our electronic devices and seeing savagery and devastation. We’re more connected than any other time while living in an epidemic of loneliness. On a daily basis we're bombarded with all kinds of ideologies and political agendas seeking our attention, our vote, and often - our compliance.
How can you even conceptualise the impact all of these things have on the life of an individual in the world?
The times we are living in are asking a lot of us.
Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually.
Even if you do try to keep your head down and stay in your lane, these things are unfolding all around us, impacting us in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
If I were to pick just one theme, I’d suggest that these times are asking us to be adaptable. And adapt we must. Even if it’s hard.
Dr Andrew Huberman recently tweeted:
“The reason to deliberately do hard things is so that when non-self-elected challenges arrive (& they will), you can tell yourself: “I don’t know how this is all going to turn out, but I am certain I can do hard things.”...”
To maximise our capacity for adaptability, we must continue to grow and expand with the demands of this fast-paced life. And with that, we must learn to care-take ourselves and our anxieties (which seem like a physiologically appropriate response to the lives we lead, if you ask me). That involves recognising those signs and symptoms (gritted teeth, unconscious breath-holding anyone?) that tell us when it’s time to lean out and take a deep breath and reorient ourselves. First in the present moment, and then with what stands before us.
Another great tool to soothe worries is to talk with people you know and trust, who can help you make sense of the world, and you them. On a recent podcast interview I listened to with Jordan Peterson he said:
"It's a lot better to have your ideas tested in the abstract than it is to have your convictions demolished by reality itself."
I agree with that too.
(Actually, that’s pretty much the raison d'être for my entire coaching business… but I digress.)
This observation from Peterson speaks to that need for bigger, deeper, richer conversations. To feel a sense of agency in the world, we need to get a grip on the world, to see it in as realistic way as possible. We see our own way forward in the world on that basis, adapting as we go. Sometimes it’s tough to find people who will have these conversations that yield such gifts. Know that they’re out there. Sometimes it takes us being brave and putting out the first few signals so the others can spot us too.
...but imagine living through those Dark Ages huh? Hard to conceive of.
I don’t really have a nice way to put a bow on the message today. All of this is to say, if you’re finding it a bit challenging to see up from down and left from right and inside from outside, which ever frame you're most consumed by presently, fret, not.
You’re in good company.
You chose a particularly interesting, hyper-speed and demanding time to live your human life.
Whatever you’re facing—in the world or in your personal life—I invite you to have confidence in yourself and compassion for yourself. You’ve overcome everything that has been set before you so far. Those are some pretty good odds. Trust your own discernment as you make your way through.
Focus on the basics. Keep it simple. Baby steps. Big leaps. Whatever you've got in the tank. You'll be surprised to find out what you're made of if you only give yourself the opportunity.
Thank you for showing up.
Keep showing up.
P.S. Applications are currently open for my one-to-one coaching programme starting in 2024. If you'd like to have a conversation with me about what that looks like, just reply to this email and let me know what you're looking for support with. We can set up an appointment in the coming weeks to explore further together. Let's chat. No strings.
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