I have just returned from a long weekend in Rome with my younger daughter Maisy and am hugely appreciative of the fact we were able to go in the first instance and secondly to have had such a wonderful shared experience.  We went to watch the rugby – the 3rd round of the 6 Nations – Ireland vs Italy to be precise.  Much to the consternation of my family I support Ireland and always have done – call it romantic sensibility perhaps, but my grandfather was Irish and being born in Kenya I have a bizarre mix of allegiances.  The rugby was great craic – the first time Maisy has been to an international and what a wonderful set of supporters to join in the sunshine.  We belted out Ireland’s Call and enjoyed the match enormously, the result being the right one, despite Ireland not playing particularly well.  What a fabulous city and a fabulous weekend – we did all the usual sights and had a great time, gorging on pizza and pasta with the odd pint of Guinness and glass of red wine throw in.

On the way home in the airport we spotted the Irish team making their way for their flight, people stopped them and asked for autographs and pictures and they seemed like a nice bunch of guys.  Maisy and I did some shopping and got ourselves a drink and then sat to wait for our flight.  She spotted four of the players sitting having a quiet coffee at a bar and the following dialogue ensued…

“Do you think they would let me have a picture with them?”

I said “Of course – if that is what you want, just go and ask”

“No, I can’t – you ask please?”

“Sorry love – if you want the picture then you are going to have to ask them, because I’m not!”

Anyway – suffice to say we had a fair bit of silence and procrastination before I spotted our flight was boarding and we needed to get a wriggle on.  Maisy was absolutely torn – she was desperate for a picture but was scared stiff about asking the players. I said “What was the worst that could happen? They say no”. Amazingly she went for it – as we walked past them she made the decision to ask them – she was physically shaking and utterly petrified, but fair play, she sidled up to them and in a bit of a whisper asked for a picture – it was Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahoney, John Ryan and Caolin Blade.  I then duly made a hash of the picture and made things worse – but we got there in the end, I can’t say they were hugely smiley mind!

I was as proud of her in that moment as any in her life actually. Whilst it may not seem a big deal, for her it was massive. She is a child that lacks confidence, she reflected as we walked away that ‘Alice (her big sister) did everything for her’ and she had never done anything like that before.  Even more importantly she was super proud of herself – she was walking 2 foot taller and buzzing, getting straight onto Snapchat to share with her friends.

Given my desire to write blogs about real life experiences this episode made me reflect and there were a couple of insights that I think are worth sharing or remembering.

Things are very rarely as bad as we think they might be – I don’t know what mental image or negative tape Maisy had playing before she plucked up the courage, but we all self-sabotage and can get very creative about why we shouldn’t or can’t do something.  Asking the question “What is the worst that can happen?” is often a great way of being able to rationalise our apprehensions and get a more supportive perspective.

If the ‘why’ is strong enough we will always find the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ – I am not completely sure why Maisy wanted the photo so much – she isn’t really an Irish fan, not massively into rugby and wasn’t even sure who the players were.  But she wanted it, given the power of social media, this was an opportunity for a real coup I think (rightly or wrongly) and the upside of having the picture was a strong enough driver to overcome her very real fear!  If you have something you are fearful of, are avoiding and procrastinating over – stop thinking about the what and focus on the why.  Why do you want it and how can you amplify that?

Sometimes we need a little help to break free from our comfort zone – it would have been easier for me to ask the players and save Maisy the pain and trauma – but she wouldn’t have learned, have grown or had the positive experience if I had.  It would have been just another picture – rather than a picture that she will always remember for the rest of her life I expect.  By definition our ego (the most fragile organ in the human body) is heavily cosseted and protected, but if we want to grow then we need to occasionally take a risk, who can you help with this or from whom can you seek help?

Celebrate the little victories because they all add up – Maisy was really happy afterwards and I know that this will help her with future challenges and issues by encouraging her to reflect on this moment.  In NLP terms (Neuro Linguistic Programming) amplifying and anchoring how it made her feel and using the emotions as a positive force to reconnect with in times of hardship. We all need confidence and energy to try new things, do tough things – and where do confidence and energy come from? From celebrating and appreciating our successes!  As human beings we seem to be pre-programmed to focus more on what we have yet to achieve or failed to do than what we have achieved – this is a bit of reprogramming we should all have a go at!

Onwards and upwards in life – let’s hope Ireland can beat the French then the Welsh and Maisy goes on to grow in her GCSE year – happy days!