How You See It

Posted in: Blog, by sheanna, on 26th January 2016 | Comments Off on How You See It

January marks the tenth anniversary of when I moved to Tanzania with my wife Jo to pick up our work with Bridge2Aid full time.

I had been working on the Dental Training Programme for 18 months, shuttling back and forward from the UK to run programmes, and at the time, I thought I knew the country and culture pretty well…


DSC_1435Nothing could have prepared me for what was a baptism of fire in those first few months. I can laugh about it now, but we hit some situations in February of 2006 which were extremely testing and stressful to deal with. Working in a culture you don’t understand and in a government system you don’t know is bewildering. And in the face of so much unknown, fear can take over. Thankfully I was working alongside my best friend and the founder of Bridge2Aid Ian. His experience and approach to some of the crises we dealt with was a valuable lesson.

Over the years since then, situations have continually arisen which were equally challenging. Regulatory changes, policy changes (often unannounced), attempts to extract bribes from us, intimidation, financial challenges, staffing challenges, accidents and emergencies, and all in a foreign country and culture.

These situations give you the experience and knowledge to harden and sharpen your responses. I am so grateful for the calm ability to deal with whatever comes up that the many challenges, some real, some imagined, some threatened, that my time in East Africa have given me. We’ve worked hard to instil that knowledge into our teams too.

As we started this year, there have yet again been more of these sorts of issues to contend with. I was reflecting on things recently with someone who use to work with us in Tanzania, and how the same things that would have caused huge concern in us when we arrived – we now just take in our stride. It is the conscious choice to believe that you can tackle whatever comes your way, and lean into the problem, that has been our choice and experience.

And seeing the way our team in Tanzania are responding to the challenges that have come up this month makes me enormously proud.

Someone once said that wisdom is ability to see current circumstances in the context of a bigger picture. What I have learned is that the outcome in almost all these things is always determined by my ability to respond, to remain positive, and to keep going.

Tony Robbins talks about how our belief in a situation determines the action we will take, and that then effects the results we get. Seeing the result, good or bad, then shapes our belief again, and so on. So in any situation, it is not the circumstance that determines the outcome, but our belief that we can positively affect it, and the action we subsequently take that determines the outcome. Or as Jack Sparrow says ’The problem is not the problem. The way you think about the problem is the problem’.

As an individual and as a leader I have grown enormously in past 10 years. It has been the toughest situations that made that happen. So what I hope encourages you as the New Year gets going, is that whether you’re in the midst of a challenging situation, or just waiting for the next one to come along – use it to your advantage. Choose a belief that creates great actions, and then see the results. As a passing shot, here is a quote that has reshaped my thinking as much as any other. From a book called ‘The Game Plan’ by Steve Bull, which I highly recommend.

“Winners usually see challenges in terms of an opportunity to test themselves and prove something. Losers, on the other hand, default to seeing all the threats inherent in the challenge and develop anxiety around the possibility of things going wrong. Consequently they will not choose risky options even when the situation requires them to do so because they are fearful of failure.”

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