Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Holding it all together

This post starts with the story of a friend of ours. She works in a large global business and her name is Pat. Pat has worked there for seven years and is presently in an office which works with staff counselling. She loves her job and finds it deeply rewarding. She says, "I am so lucky to be in a place where I can spend time with people who make a difference every day and I really believe my added value comes in supporting others." The concern for Pat is that she may be moved back to her old department. This wouldn't be a disaster but will take Pat away from where she has found such growth and life. Her current post is described by her as a ground for exploring and discovering for herself and others what she can offer. Her words express this powerfully, "My role has enabled me to flourish and pursue my passions...using my skills to support others to reach their potential, recognise their strengths and skills and also to identify needs...Honesty, difference, challenge, enthusiasm, resistance have become my food, my motivation. Where there is energy there is hope and potential." Pat faces three challenges here. The first is what happens if they move her. The second is how does she manage the process until the decision comes through. The last concern is are these thoughts wants or needs? These are deep questions. In this post we will offer a possible answer to our friend. In it we will try to touch on what is essential here. We hope there might be life lessons here for us all.

The first worry is the big 'What if'' question. In Pat's case it is a 'may well happen' statement. A number of things are interesting here. It's amazing how we often we can go to the worst possible place when a change is a possible outcome. We can worry and think the very worst will happen. Why do we think the worst? Why are so many of us more likely to think the worst than the best? We think a possible answer is that we haven't reached that place yet of holding our life and it's determination in our hands yet. A place called inner freedom. In history we often hear about the right of countries to self determination. It was one of the big arguments against the large Empires. Countries must have the right to govern their own destinies and futures. It's not always the case that we exercise this right with ourselves. We either deny we have any power or give it away. When we worry in such a way we are really saying 'I have no power. I can't control anything here. I have no choices.' The truth is that worry is very common and a paralyzer of our life and energies.

The problem is that it is a mental prison and we need freedom. We need to be someone who owns their life and destiny. Not easy. Maybe big tough decisions but that is what freedom entails and gives. It gives the possibility of living in a new, fresh and abundant way. Pat realised this and sought places and strategies to not walk in to these dark domains of worry and fear. She accepted what might happen and that if it did she would have choices to make. She would make them and take the next step by placing one foot in front of the other. If what she didn't wished happened she would work with it. She might decide to leave or stay. The decision actually became secondary in her life. What mattered was how she got there. It had to be in a way that she owned her dignity and life. The journey became the key focus.

The second thing was how was she to manage her process during these tough months of not knowing. Her words are revealing here. Pat talks about "I can chose to enjoy today; I can see what I want and I can strive and do what I can to work toward that. I've talked to people in the organisation. I realise is that I get strength, not from the talking but from the doing." Pat knew she couldn't control or predict the future. She knew to live in the future was only possible in her head. What she did have - concretely and really right in front of her - was today. She could take the day and make it into the best possible. Pat was actually a difference maker because she focused on the present and made it the best.  It's not always easy but is the way. Of course we have to plan and make decisions. However we always do that in the present for the future. We are not mean't to live in the future. Paradoxically by owning herself and the present Pat was making the future. What she also saw was that to let go of the fears is freedom but feels like awfulness to start with. Pat believes all will probably be well. She does this because she has seen it work out well a thousand times before. She also knows that her worry often tells her untruths. If we thread these strands together we find a self ownership of herself in the process, a focus on the present and a belief that things would somehow come around. She lived in what might be called a state of hopeful tension. There were moments of worry and unrest but also hope and a look to a future while being anchored in the now.

The last thing was Pat's questioning of her motives and reasons. Was this needs or wants? It's a good question. Sometimes what we call need is actually just what we want. How do we tell the difference? One suggestion might be that a need is a thing we require at this moment for our deep development and growth. It's something which is essential to our becoming who and what we are. It may not be essential tomorrow but it is today. Without it our authentic growth would come to a halt. Or perhaps key aspects of it would. Pat described her role as "a role which has enabled me to flourish and pursue my passions ...using my skills to support others to reach their potential". It sounds like Pat needs this role as it helps her see and release her skills and gifts. The big challenge to Pat will be that if she is moved will she have the same space to grow and flow? Kate Cowie in her amazing book 'Finding Merlin. A Handbook For The Human Development Journey In Our New Organisational World' makes a key point on this. She writes that, "if our working environment is not providing us with the stimulation we need - our responsibility to ourselves is to seek an alternative place of work, one which will foster ( rather than hold in abeyance or,worse, stymie) our ongoing growth." We can confuse our needs with our wants usually due to powerful emotions dominating the picture. We can also fail to note our needs. This brings us back to where we started - the giving away of our power. Our needs are important. They call and grow us. We shouldn't ignore them. In a busy 24-7 world where everything is go this may sound like luxury. It's actually life itself.

 Living with uncertainty isn't easy. Holding it together can be real challenge. Pat shows us not only that it can be done but one way how it can be done. Some of the best wisdom is that found in the market place and there where the Pat's of this world live and teach the rest of us if only we will stop and listen.

 Lisa Falkingham. Service Improvement Team.Leeds Service Improvement Team
 John Walsh. Support Manager. York Street Health Practice. Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust      

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