The Sky Is Falling

a chicken running

Photo: Simon Howden

Many of us know the children’s fable about Henny-Penny, sometimes known as Chicken Licken or Chicken Little.  A foolish creature who, when an acorn falls on her head, becomes convinced the sky is falling.

She shares her fear with other equally foolish birds, until there’s a whole group of them running around squawking “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Though there are several endings to the tale, the one most often told is where the birds finally encounter a fox who, pretending to be convinced of what they’re saying, invites them to his lair and eats them all.

The story is a great analogy.

After all, there’s usually a Chicken Little in every group or organisation. You know who they are. They’re the doom-sayers – the folk who are always convinced that disaster is imminent. They’re sure that, no matter what we do, the worst will come.

Often it may be simply the sharp thud of an acorn – a minor inconvenience – that triggers their panic. But panic and fear are infectious, and soon there will be a whole bunch of people racing about saying the sky is falling. And sure enough, when panicky reactiveness goes on for any length of time – when little attention is paid to careful thought or considered planning  – something will indeed come along to gobble them up.

In communities and companies, from bars to boardrooms, the doom and gloom is spread. Even if complete panic doesn’t set in, fear-mongering is the order of the day.

Times are getting worse. We’ll have to lay off staff!”

The youth of today are more and more violent – I’m afraid to approach a group of them on the street….

And often the media, where sensationalism sells, will embark on a feeding frenzy.

For example, didn’t we just love that newspaper article with a headline trumpeting that the major chain, Myers, was closing two of its stores! It was only at the bottom of the article, in the fine print so to speak, that we were told these two particular stores were actually located relatively close to other Myer outlets. And the company was opening three new stores in other parts of the country. But we’re sure there were many people who focused on the headline – and began to squawk that, with one of our major retailers closing stores, the sky must be falling indeed.

The truth is, as one of the principles of Appreciative Inquiry says, what we focus on becomes our reality.

oak tree and stormy sky

Photo: Derek Lilly | MorgueFile

The more we fear what may happen and react in a knee-jerk fashion, the more we contribute to bringing about the disaster we’re trying to avoid.

Of course, in tough economic times, companies may need to downsize. But when this is done in a reactive way, without careful forethought, planning and support strategies, that action can impact very badly on staff morale,  productivity and profits.  Which in turn may mean the company struggles even more to survive a tough ecomony.

And yes, some young people in our society are indeed angry and violent.  But the more other folk buy into that fear, avoiding interaction with any groups of young people in their midst, the more that our youth will  feel alienated and the less they’ll feel inclined to respect the community around them. Which in the end will probably lead to more violence …

So let’s not buy into the panic, the gloom and the doom. While being prepared for a possible worst-case scenario certainly makes sense, let’s do so with common sense as well. And let’s never assume, just because a stray acorn has given us a nasty bump on the head, that the sky is falling.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.

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