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Perils of a pedestrian life

Anyone who knows me can confirm that I am a nervous pedestrian; they have the fingerprint-shaped bruises on their upper arms to prove it. I'm of the opinion that crossing on the red man is not just fool-hardy, it's likely to put your blood pressure up to a point where ultimately it will shave years off your life (if you make it to the other side without being flattened first). Naturally, I appreciate anything that makes a pedestrian's life easier.

So I was surprised to read that way back in 1934, at a time when the growing number of deaths on the roads was seen as a national scandal, not everyone welcomed the introduction of the eye-catching road crossing signs named after the then minister of transport, Leslie Hore-Belisha. The widespread disapproval led to the Spectator protesting that the 7-foot high striped poles topped with amber globes - which didn't even flash until the 1950s, because of the prohibitive cost of electricity - made London look like it was 'preparing for a fifth-rate carnival'. Strong words, Spectator.

Astonishingly, in a shocking act of collective sabotage, during the four months after their installation 3,000 of London's 15,000 Belisha beacons had been destroyed - by people throwing stones or taking pot shots at them with air rifles.

Those people must have been really bothered by these new things they didn't know, trust or like the look of. Their kerbside views had been altered without their say so and they just weren't having it. Or perhaps they were simply bored because Candy Crush Saga/Game of Thrones/Pinterest hadn't been invented yet. I'm going with 'change is bad: fight it' on this one, though.

Which is something most people battle with as an internal concept on a regular basis - sometimes daily, sometimes even minute by minute. There's that cautious inner voice making you think it's being really helpful by protecting you from the unknown - possible danger, potential loss, a disaster of some kind. It's there to stop you from taking unsafe risks but actually it's not that clever or discerning. It doesn't know which changes are good and which are bad. It encourages you - in the blink of an eye, without you necessarily consciously knowing it's happening - to above all stay safe. "Don't bother trying that new experience you think you like the sound of," it might be saying. "What's the point? You won't be any good at it. You'll get laughed at, you'll waste time and lose money on it, you'll regret it. Just you stay as you are."

Or it provides a running commentary of judgements, rules and limiting beliefs, telling you, "You're not doing enough. Everyone thinks you're lazy. You're no good at public speaking/parenting/cooking/writing/maths/making friends/losing weight/managing your time. You don't deserve a career you love and that pays what you need - who do you think you are? Life's hard, get used to it." This inner saboteur is quietly influencing decisions and making sure you act or don't act in a way that keeps everything juuuuuust so.

When you make the decision to live a fulfilled life - one that makes you happy first and foremost, one where you're in charge of how you spend your time, energy and focus - the inner saboteur hates it. It throws stones and takes pot shots all over the place. You need to expect it, recognise it for what it is, thank it for trying to act in your best interests, and let it know you don't need it right now. You're going to follow your own path and let it lead you to some fantastic, unchartered destination and find out what life is like on the other side of the road.

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