Did you know that the poster, Keep Calm and Carry On was a poster produced by the British government in 1939 at the start of the 2nd World War? It was made to improve morale in case of possible invasion and it was never used. The copies we see these days, on tea towels, mugs and posters were due to a couple of original posters surviving and only being “discovered” in recent years. It was the third in a series of posters, the second of which said “your courage, your cheerfulness and your resolution, will bring us victory”
When I learned about this other poster, I thought was a great way to explore some strategies which we need to use, when things around us seem to be very difficult, when we start panicking and need to keep calm.
Did you know that the word courage come from the word Coeur, meaning the heart, the seat of our feelings. When you need to find courage, this isn’t always about putting on a brave face, being stubborn/rigid or carry on regardless. If you have things which you are really struggling with, we often need to listen to our heart. It says very different things to our head but often speaks quietly and is drowned out by our head. For example, if you have relationship problems our head might say “you can’t afford to separate…you need to stick with it or you won’t be able to afford the mortgage….you need to stay or you won’t meet anyone else “ “you must, you ought, you should, there is only one way, its all bad” these are things that come from our head. Our thinking, is often narrow and quite rigid, but this, is just one part of our knowing. Our heart has something different to say.
It’s often difficult to use “words” to describe what our heart feels and says. Our knowing in our heart is often softer, more compassionate, more open, more intuitive. Courage is often about being willing to seeing things differently, being willing to let go of our rigidity and things having to be a certain way. Courage is also about approach something wholeheartedly – with our whole heart, embracing all that is, all that could be. Trusting what our heart wants, is usually the best way to go. Our heart is our power house, it gives us far more strength and courage than our head alone.
There is not much in life, that can’t be helped, solved or made better by a goodly dose of smiles, laughter or humour. I recently wrote about being a bit of a clown in my home. How breaking a downward spiral by laughing or making light of something, takes us to a more resourceful place. When things seems really tough, I always acknowledge how I am feeling, but then ask myself “what am I taking too seriously right now?”. This really helps me to keep things in perspective. It also helps me see the sometimes ridiculously high expectations I put on myself and others.
If we start our day with the intention of seeing the joy in each moment, seeing the humour in each situation and letting go of being so serious about things, we allow things to flow much more easily. I have taken to watching 10 minutes of comedy on You Tube before I start my work! Other ways to do this are to keep some affirmations or pictures in your diary or phone, that remind you of happy things, joyful thoughts, funny moments. It could even be a joke that how ever often you hear it, it still makes you laugh. This is not just smiling for the sake of it, but feeling an inner smile, that warms you throughout and reminds you that you are ok…you are safe.
According to the dictionary, resolution includes “the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure (and) … the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose”.
Resolution, our resolve to do something, is often stronger if it doesn’t come too early on in a crisis, a knee jerk response if not as strong as pathway chosen after we have considered all options, given time to see how things might change/work out, tried some alternatives and listened to our heart and head. I think if I was designing this poster these days, I might use a different word. I’m not sure that the word resolution allows for flexibility and adaptability which is a key strength in making sustainable changes. If I am so resolved, so fixed and too rigid, I might not be able to do things differently. I might get really upset and stressed if I can’t control everything!
What I do like about the word “resolution” is the action and method focus it has. Life coaching often has an action planning element to it. For many it’s the main reason for coming to see a life coach “I need a plan” “I want a way forward”.
When we are faced a challenge and trying to “keep calm” we can often calm our fight and flight mechanism (the bit in our brains that makes us feel scared, anxious and fearful) by knowing that we can do something tangible to help, that we have a plan, even if the plan is to take very small steps like change our perspective, see the good things, talk to someone helpful, take thinking time to develop different options so we don’t just have one, laughing more often…A plan isn’t always about taking massive action. The smaller our steps, the more likely they will “bring us to victory”.
So yes, keep calm and carry on, but with courage, cheerfulness and (flexible) resolution. This will all help you when you face challenging times. Remember you are resourceful, you do have the answers, listen to your heart (courage), make a plan with small steps, remember to see the joy in each moment and laugh often!