While preparing for a family trip recently, my son Rex started to panic. His four-year-old mind had somehow mutated a holiday into something to fear. First, he was concerned there would be sharks in the swimming pool, then he started saying he wanted to stay at home. Each night he would work himself into a frenzy about it all and in turn, I started feeling stressed about something we had all originally been looking forward to.
I’m a believer in demonstrating flexibility to my kids, not just by changing location but by trying new things, speaking to new people and saying 'I CAN' a lot. This is a mantra I try to instil so they learn the concept of positive thinking from a young age. As Rex's mum I knew I had to take control of this situation.
The word 'adventure' jumped into my mind. I would turn his angst and fear into an adventure! I went through each step of the travel day, explaining how we would wear our PJs in the car to the airport, which would be so silly and fun. Then we chose some kids' headphones so he could watch the iPad on the plane, and that would be cool and grown up. Then I described all the delicious foods we would eat when we got there and how they would be so much tastier in another country. It took a day or two of this elaborate storytelling but he got there. The fear was replaced by a sense of excitement.
Seeing this method work after a little effort, I wondered how I could recapture it in my own life. In the past, I have been pro-active about positive thinking but recently with the constant juggle of family life, I've lost it somewhat. I’m often struck with anxiety around big jobs, and my mind concentrates on the possible obstacles.
But in my early twenties I applied this logic when I was assigned to interview Prince William and Harry at the commemorative concert for their mother in 2007. It was an honour - and the prospect was terrifying. I’d never been anywhere near the Royal Family let alone conducted an hour-long interview with two of its most loved and respected faces. I was petrified. Would they let me into Clarence House if they knew I used to drink cider in the park with my mates as a teenager? Would they cancel when they discovered I only got 6 G.C.S.Es? Would my nervous voice be all wispy and squeaky?
I did weeks of research, and learned my questions off by heart so that I would be confident walking into the room, and able to maintain eye with the Princes whilst listening to their story. Once I knew I had prepped as much as I could, I put the positives into focus. What a wonderfully surreal situation to find myself in!
I imagined my journey to Clarence House, but rather than focusing on sticky palms, I visualised the smile on my face as the Princes arrived. I imagined how the interview may play out in a positive and exciting way, rather than what might go wrong.
The dictionary definition of 'adventure' is 'an unusual and exciting or daring experience.' What new paths would be visible to me after this chat? What would I have learned and how would it expand my mind and view of life? Happily, the interview went really well and it did feel like a big adventure – so much so that I had a rare and lavish glass of champagne straight after we had wrapped at 11am to celebrate (sans the Princes unfortunately). I learned lots in that one hour: empathy and understanding from the Princes’ courage and honesty, that I can hold my own when I feel out of my depth, and most importantly, how to turn fear into adventure.
Rex has reminded me of that spirit. Buckle up, see the positives and opportunities and leap into newness with abandon!