Today we were finishing off a job on some seriously large London plane trees. This group of three trees are a good thirty five meters tall, if not higher, and super-wide. The spec was checking for dead limbs due to infection by the Massaria fungus, pruning back from the buildings and thinning the crown and reducing weight were necessary. These were the trees we got caught on in the wind last week…

I was thinking about what a big influence my mind set has for me on how I am able to perform. Much of this is down to whether I let myself be dominated by my fears and insecurities – or not.

Take these plane trees as an example.

They are biiiig structures, not entirely easy to get around on, also there is plenty of stuff below them you could smash up. So how am I going to go into this day? Am I going to let myself be dominated by insecurities, such as This looks like really hard work, I wonder if I am up to it? or Crumbs, I have a sneaky suspicion I may have badly underpriced this job?

Or do I approach the task in a methodical fashion, in quite certainty that I – and the team – have the competency and experience required to deliver high-quality work?

To be honest, I experience elements of both. A degree of self doubt is probably natural and healthy, like a control mechanism to make sure you are considering a problem from all angles and not getting ahead of yourself. On the other hand, I find it helpful to work through a routine in order to provide the necessary focus: arrive on site, discuss the work to be performed, check the trees out, install an access – and get cracking.

This assurance allows me to focus in a step by step fashion on problems such as work positioning challenges as they crop up. By breaking the mountain down into manageable portions, the overall task becomes manageable.

This brings to mind Aaron Antonovsky‘s key points on how people cope with stressful situations, of which two are comprehensibility  and manageability. Yep, that rings true when you are confronted with a challenging climbing problem or a gnarly take down: if I can get my head round the problem and feel that I have all the necessary compentencies and skills necessary to sort it out, e.g. have confidence in my climbing skills and the tools I am using, trust the other people on the team, am confident regarding the anchor point we have chosen, well, that is probably going to make the job run considerably more smoothly.

A confident and competent mindset also allows you to recognize the point should the above no longer – or not – be the case more accurately and to then bring in help from someone with the necessary expertise.

In a nutshell, the name of the game is not being dominated by fear and insecurity (yes, I suspect that oftentimes the tough guy number serves to camouflage these!), not to be like a hedgehog paralyzed in the lights of the rapidly approaching car, but rather to take charge of the situation and sort it.