Category Archives: Moods & Emotions

Old songs to inspire a new century….

Here are some of the songs from the 20th century that inspire and energise me.  It a bit of an eclectic mix, but my mood shifts when I play them.  What inspires and renews you?

The Heat is On by Glenn Frey is one I love just for the rhythm/beat – a great source of energy:

Tom Petty’s  I Won’t Back Down for the melody but also the words “Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around / And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down”:

Ease On Down the Road by Michael Jackson for the energy and lightness, but also for the message to let go of the baggage of the past and just take the next step:

High Hopes by  Frank Sinatra for the lightness, also for the value of persistence (although I also advocate for hard work on smart strategy):

‘Tain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) by Ella Fitzgerald to me points out the value of bringing acceptance, intention, curiosity and wonder to HOW we do WHAT we do:

The Music Of The World A Turnin’ by The Seekers – tune into what’s happening, not what’s going on in your head:

Jimmy Cliff’s I Can See Clearly Now reminds me to let go of the negative moods and emotions that shut down my creative thinking:

Learned Helplessness: a recipe for sustainability INACTION?

Back in the 1960s, psychology researcher Martin Seligman and his team discovered how to create helplessness and passivity – first in animals and later in humans.  Some sustainability campaigners could learn an important lesson from his research about how to present their message so it generates action rather than helplessness. Continue reading

Environment: Be angry, but not aggressive…

In a global culture where an underlying mood of aggression and distrust is deeply and subtly embedded, it’s easy to respond to the multiple and increasing threats of ecosystem breakdown with the same aggression that we see played out on a daily basis.

However, this is a place where Einstein’s famous quote is absolutely relevant:

“Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.”

It’s as important to learn to shift out of aggression and operate from more constructive moods as it is to understand the systems shifts of the emerging regenerative economy. Continue reading

Alan Atkisson: What Music Means (to Me)

Alan’s book “Believing Cassandra” was a great insight for me at the start of my sustainability journey.     What helps you nurture and sustain yourself?

Alan AtKisson

AtKissonBlogPhoto9Apr2013This article describes how music came back into my life — again — and the process of recording my new album with some of Sweden’s leading musicians. The album is to be released later this year (2013) .

A few years ago, I heard someone ask the veteran global trend analyst Lester Brown — who is known for dire warnings about the state of the planet — this question: “How do you maintain your optimism?”

“I have a one-word answer for that,” said Lester. “Bourbon.”

As someone whose professional life often involves analyzing global trends, and then informing others about them (while trying to help them change the direction of those trends), I often get asked the same question. So I adopted Lester’s snappy, whiskey-based answer and modified it. “Unlike Lester,” I would say, “I have a two-word answer for that. Single malt.”

My real answer, of course, is more…

View original post 1,206 more words

A quick “body hack” for sustainability change-makers…

Changing your body will change your effectiveness.

I found Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about this last week, then was reminded in a training session the other day that 93% of human communication is n0n-verbal:

  • 7% what you say
  • 38% tonality
  • 55% body language

So what your body says is the most powerful part of your communication – and it’s surprisingly easy to shift it. Continue reading

3 simple practices for success in the business sustainability game

Resilience Practices: Acceptance; Ambition; Curiosity & recently released its 2013 State of the Profession report on the sustainability executive job market.  One of its findings was that there are key ways of being that support sustainability leadership success – particularly curiosity and an ambition to communicate effectively.

There is a trio of definable and practicable mindsets that support these ways of being. In the same way that Pilates builds core strength in our physical bodies, these practices build emotional resilience and are a strong foundation for career and life success.  The three practices are acceptance, ambition and curiosity/wonder. Continue reading

What’s YOUR sustainability scope? Keeping focussed in the face of overwhelm…

In a recent interview for The CO2 Manager, I was asked how I stay positive and focussed when sustainability can seem so overwhelming.

Thinking about it, what works for me is:

  • To remember that the fact that there are at least 150 million change-makers in the world.
  • To be really clear on my sustainability scope  – what I’m working on and why.

For all its downsides, a global population of  billion people means that I don’t have to do it all. Even if only 1 billion have the freedom and resources of the Western world, and only 15% of those are innovators and early adopters, that means that we have a talent bank of around  150 million change-makers.

To me, this means that I’m free to do “my bit” in the sustainability game – and concentrate on doing it well.  Continue reading

Need an energy recharge? Here’s a quickie…

The most important thing we can do for ourselves and for sustainability is stay positive.  When we get stressed, anxious and resentful then we physiologically lose access to the most strategic and creative parts of our brains.  It’s not an optional extra to be able to be optimistic – it’s an essential learned skill for designing and implementing a regenerative economy.

Poetry and music are powerful ways to connect to our optimism and here’s something that works for me.

Going Places…

I found the Dr Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” years ago and loved it.  I’ve given several copies as gifts over the years. A while ago, a friend shared the video “Oh, the Places You’ll Go at Burning Man!”  and I loved it.  Give it a try:

If you’re having trouble practicing optimism (keeping your head when all around are losing theirs), then our program Living Sustainably could be for you. Check it out at :


Leigh Baker is a Regenerative Business Coach specialising in super-charging sustainability practitioners.  Balance3 provides coaching and training programs on the opportunity side of sustainability and the innovation skills needed to turn ideas into new realities.

Blue wrens on Bourke Street?

(adapted from the August Balance3 Update)

Sitting in Kinfolk community cafe talking about Regenerative Business recently with a Melbourne Hubber, we got to the topic of creating positive visions. What would a regenerative City of Melbourne look like?   How would we know a deep and significant shift had occurred?  What small, tangible thing would we be seeing differently?

Maybe a truly regenerative Melbourne would be so connected to its original environment that we would see blue wrens in Bourke Street? (A major thoroughfare in Melbourne’s central business district.)

We weren’t talking about a transplant or a breeding program – we were talking about what it would be like to have the city so connected to its original ecosystem that it would naturally provide habitat that would enable these beautiful little birds to thrive (along with other original species). [ See one here ]

Imagine That!!!

We played the “I wonder” game – I wonder what would it take? I wonder who would be involved? I wonder how we could make it socially and financially sustainable? Because when you get right down to it, we wouldn’t be trying to do anything technically impossible… Hmmmm! Continue reading

How can understanding Anxiety increase your sustainability success?

[cross-posted from my old blog]
When fear continually lives in the background of our existence, even though there is no obvious impending threat, we are likely to be trapped in a mood of anxiety.” – Dr. Ainslie Meares

Anxiety is a powerful emotional contributor to human behaviour and a root cause behind greed and selfishness. The history of the past 100 years can be interpreted as one of constant challenge and uncertainty, increasing underlying anxiety levels in the community and reducing our ability to respond effectively to big challenges.

If we understand the anatomy of persistent moods of anxiety and have tools to shift it then we can be more powerful as a change-maker. The more we build our capability to sustain and share the resourceful moods of curiosity and wonder, the more we can contribute to the spread of Regenerative Business.

Our Anxious History
From at least the start of the 20th century, global events have increasingly challenged our sense of security and certainty. The early 20th century saw World War I and the Great Depression. These were followed as the century continued by World War II, and the Cold War and a range of regional conflicts.

Then as the 20th century ended and the 21st century started, the technology revolution accelerated, terrorism threats increased, and we had a Global Financial Crisis. Nature has added to our challenges, with tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and fires providing additional disruptions.  Future concerns about longer term environmental changes simply add to the mix. 

Anxiety – Mood or Emotion?
In this discussion, we are primarily concerned with a persistent mood of anxiety. We consider anxiety that comes and goes in response to specific circumstances to be a normal human emotion essential to our well being.   What we wish to explore is the existence and persistence of a more subtle mood – the habit of anxiousness and its potential to limit regenerative business innovation.

Like language, our habitual moods are learned early and largely unconsciously – inside the families and networks of social relationships where we grew up. In the same way we learn to speak with our own national or regional accent, we learn a set of understandings about how the world works and how we need to operate in it. These “ways of beings” are not just embedded in our conscious and unconscious thoughts, they also show up in our moods and emotions, and in our bodies as habitual postures and muscle tensions.

Given the history of threats and uncertainties of the 20th century, many of us may be living in a mood of anxiety without really being aware of it. Our anxiety may not be our own, but learned from parents (or grandparents) who were the children of World War I, grew up through the Great Depression, World War II and started their families during the Cold War.

Anxiety Changes Behaviour
Our anxiety increases when there is threat that we don’t feel we have answers to – when we have a problem but don’t see solutions; or when we can only see solutions that will compromise the core issues that we care about – our concerns for comfort, self-esteem and achievement. So if we don’t see that there are solutions, or only perceive solutions that carry big costs, our anxiety increases.

When we live in unresolved anxiety, we tend to act differently. We automatically want to withdraw and to protect ourselves. We put more of our time and our energy into watching out for threats and getting ready to attack the source of the threat. We can end up putting a lot of time and energy into protect ourselves from perceived threats rather than acting towards positive solutions.


So anxiety pre-disposes us to play it safe and not take risks. And our protectiveness plays our in a range of behaviours – “…it provokes us into defensive attitudes such as aggression, timidity, suspicion, greed and selfishness, and so makes us a lesser person that we might have been.”

A detailed understanding of the anatomy of habitual moods of anxiety can give us access to ways to shift out of it.  Learning to blend around anxiety can be a powerful tool for sustainability advocates and campaigners.

The Anatomy of Anxiety
The study of Ontology (how humans go about the process of being) provides a valuable insight into the structure of persistent moods of anxiety and ways to explore alternatives.  The mood of Anxiety can be characterized as a strong desire for the certainty of an un-threatening future. At its’ heart there are two assessments:

  1.  “The world is an uncertain, threatening place where bad things happen”; and
  2.  “I will not be capable of coping if the worst happens and will not survive”

Ontology also emphasizes the power of the mood of anxiety as a deeply embodied way of being, one that operates unconsiously.. We can carry it subtly in our posture – our muscles are tensed in a constant readiness to react and protect our bodies, especially our heads and torsos. We live just a little bit “on the back foot” and out of balance without recognising it.

Not only can we carry anxiety – we can spread it or catch it quite unconsciously. As human beings mirror and match those around us in posture, not just in words.  So we can find ourselves in un-resourceful moods that have little to do with our own circumstances, like an emotional influenza.

From Anxiety to ???
Working with a mood of anxiety is about shifting our assessments about living in an uncertain world – challenging our habitual ways of thinking. Instead of accepting the core assessment “I will not cope in this threatening world”, we can use more positive language:

  1.  “The world is uncertain place – it is interesting and fascinating to consider what the future may hold”.
  2.  “I have the capacity to learn to deal successfully with life’s uncertainty. I am open to embracing the mystery of life.”

These assessments give us access to the powerful moods of Curiosity and Wonder – a new mindset where we accept uncertainty and exploring new possibilities. When we get curious, we get creative. We begin a quest – asking different questions based on the assessment that we can deal creatively and successfully with the uncertainty of the future.

We can be curious as we ask questions such as:

  • I wonder how we could live comfortably AND sustainably?
  • I wonder how we could work productively AND sustainably?
  • I wonder what might be beyond sustainability? 
  • I wonder what it would look like to live and work in a regenerative economy?
  • I wonder how we could find valuable ways to meet our customers’ needs in ways that restore our environment and allow our eco-system to regenerate?
  • I wonder what new, regenerative products and processes we might develop?

Possibilities for Regenerative Practice
So what does this mean for sustainability practitioners and regenerative business coaches? (I wonder how you’ll find it useful?)

Some of the powerful possibilities we see include:

  • Spreading the good news – learning to tell quality stories about exciting win/win/win ways forward. Develop strategies to defuse ambiguity and dilemmas to reduce anxiety.
  • Explore your own moods – make sure you’re not an Anxiety carrier.
  • Practice embodying resourceful moods such as Curiosity and Wonder. Spread it around.
  • Learn to access and generate the moods of Curiosity and Wonder in working with individuals and groups, whether it’s in casual conversation, presentations or workshops.

Focus on Ways Forward
Anxiety particularly becomes dysfunctional if there aren’t credible ways forward. Powerful sustainability advocates offer credible ways forward. They take responsibility for creating hope.

I was at an Adelaide conference in 2009 where a well-known environmental speaker listed a range of pending catastrophes. He spoke really well, creating great energy in the room. Then we got to question time, and someone asked him “What can we do?”

The answer he gave was short and closed. The only thing he had to say was “I don’t know”. The energy in the room vanished. There he was, with a room full of coaches wanting to take action and he – the expert, the keynote speaker – had no possibilities for them to explore. To me, he lost a great opportunity.

We do know what directions to work towards, even if we don’t have all the answers. The design thinking has been done, and we have some pretty good ideas which way to head and how to get started. And we have evidence that regenerative business can be profitable business when it’s designed, planned and executed well.

This doesn’t mean that sustainability practitioners should claim to be experts with all the answers. What it does mean is that they’ll be more powerful if they know some ways forward and can tell powerful, relevant good news stories that will inspire and inform their audience.

Explore Win/Win/Win Possibilities
Part of our 20th century inheritance has been a set of assessments about “environment=cost”. Our initial “answers” were based in scarcity – turn off the air conditioner; turn down the heating; turn off the lights. The mis-conception that this is all there is to “the answer” is still surprisingly common, even in environmental circles.

Broaden your conversations to reduce the anxiety-increasing dilemmas inherent in win/lose solutions. Explore big-picture perspectives that give your audience a better understanding and more possibilities for win/win/win solutions that have financial, environmental and human benefits.

One of our stories is about a pair of invalid pensioners in Adelaide – their new solar power unit is going to pay their rates by selling power back to the grid, not just reduce their energy bills. They win and the environment wins. Less obviously:

  • The power supplier has less need for big, inefficient power plants.
  • The government wins because they don’t need an energy subsidy.
  • Their community wins because they have a little more disposable income to share.

Isn’t that more exciting than “Turn your TV off at the wall…”?

 Explore Your Own Moods
Investigate what you say to yourself and how you feel. Make sure you’re not an unconscious Anxiety carrier. Turn up the volume on your internal commentator and find out:

  • What are you saying to yourself about people as individuals?
  • What are you saying to yourself about various groups or organizations?
  • What are you saying to yourself about yourself and your capabilities?

Put your awareness on your body as well as your language:

  • Where’s your centre of gravity? Are you in balance, or subtly “on the back foot”?
  • What’s the level of muscle tension in your shoulders and neck? What’s your chin position? 
  • Are you carrying a subtle, protective hunch – or are you open to fascinating possibilities and relaxed and accepting of the current situation?

Practice Resourceful Moods
Explore and practice the moods of Curiosity and Wonder. Try making a daily practice of speaking the underlying assessments out aloud:

  • I assess that I cannot predict with certainty what the future will bring.
  • I declare my acceptance of uncertainty as part of the reality of life
  • I assess the world, including its inherent uncertainty, to be interesting and fascinating.
  • I assess I have the capacity to learn to deal with the uncertainty of life.
  • I declare that I am a learner, with the desire to embrace the mystery of life, open to how I can deal with the unexpected. 

Play “I wonder how I will…” as part of your regular personal practice. Be prepared to do lots of wondering rather than rush to action. You might explore some of these “I wonder how I will…” questions:

  • I wonder how I will live more regeneratively?
  • I wonder how I will influence my organization to explore regenerative practices?
  • I wonder how I will contribute to a prosperous future for my community?

The Player With The Most Flexibility Wins
So next time you find your inner (or outer) conversations being about “selfish, greedy, short-sighted consumers/business/government/parents/GenY” take a pause. How are you making yourself feel? Are you helping your resourceful self find new ways to influence?

If you’re interested in exploring new ways of communicating and influencing, you can: