Our nose stops smelling when we’ve been sniffing the same thing after a while.
Our ears stop hearing the background noise of traffic and planes.
Our nose stops smelling when we’ve been sniffing the same thing after a while.
Our ears stop hearing the background noise of traffic and planes.
When we think of resilience, authenticity, decision-making, quality questioning, maintaining psychological wellbeing, relationship building, giving feedback, listening… we talk about developing these as skills. Teaching people for them to learn. This is not the most effective way and here’s why…
Last night a group of coaches, HR pros and leaders gathered in the pretty town of Castle Donnington to talk about wellbeing and explore what’s not working, why are the figures going up, what is needed? All facilitated by Debbie Leafe using Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment.
In the context of the work I do with clients – reconnecting them to their innate ability for connection, clarity and calm – this session was important to me, both to give our delegates an experience of those innate qualities on the day, but also for them to explore what wellbeing really means and what really needs to happen.
Seeking happiness seems to be the thing to do. These are the messages all around us: Go on this holiday to be happy. Eat this food to be happy. Get this job to be happy. Have the perfect family life to be happy. The research would say we’re wired to go towards pleasure and away from pain and therefore we should seek a life with maximum happiness. But could this be an over-worked concept that isn’t serving us?
All that’s ever going on is we’re having a full 4D experience of the power of Thought. Every single moment of every day.
You’ll be familiar with search engines and algorithms in tech work. When you search for a new sofa suddenly new sofa adverts pop up everywhere on every social media channel, on every search engine page. Showing you what you need.
I was with a Board team last week who were talking about change. How it takes courage and can be hard because we’re having to lose something of us to adopt something new or move to something different.
This is true but only when we attach to our personal thoughts
When we attach to our personal thoughts it’s like putting square wheels on a racing car. We clunk along. Sometimes stopping all together, unable to move forward. Certainly not able to quickly change direction when needed. But we believe in these wheels, we created them. Even if “horrible” or “negative” there’s a familiarity about them that brings comfort. We know where we are. We’ve adapted ourselves to drive with these wheels, forgetting how things used to be before we had them.
Then we start to consider maybe this isn’t ideal. Maybe I would benefit from a smoother ride. Normally we start working hard to change the wheels. Intellectually analysing how they were fitted, what they are made of. But some of the bolts seem stuck. Or maybe there’s a square wheel we subconsciously like the look of so we find a justifiable reason not to change it.
Now we’re driving with 2 square and 2 round wheels. Better but not exactly a smooth ride. Then you meet someone who glides on round wheels. You’re fascinated & slightly freaked out by their difference. It reminds you of glimmers in your life when you’ve glided, when smooth wheels suddenly appeared and for that short while you enjoyed it! Thinking it must have been what you were doing at the time that created that feeling, you repeat the activity, repeating the external conditions to create the smooth-ride magic as often as you can.
Maybe you didn’t realise that you brushed off the truth of what was going on because it seemed so simple and we all know simple doesn’t win kudos prizes.
The truth is that round wheels are our natural state. Round wheels are what we are born with. We just acquired the square as we grew up & blindly followed the square-creating rules of the world. Once we really see the truth of how the square are created, moment-to-moment, and what they really mean, then our attachment to them drops away with a natural ease and we slip into the round. The natural place we fall back to. Our innate state of clarity, wisdom and wellbeing. From here we glide round the corners, speed along the straights and rediscover a life of richness and fulfilment. All the while connected to our innate brilliance.
If you’re curious to learn more, this is what we’re going to be exploring through LearnConnctDo this year. The thread that’s going to weave through all the sessions.
We’re starting on 14th March* with an introduction to the psychological understanding that underpins this smooth-wheel place. The Eventbrite will be up very soon on this page – if you don’t want to miss it jump on the mailing list by getting in touch with me here. As last year, all ticket profits will be going to Twenty:Twenty as we continue our partnership with this wonderful charity. Thank you to PKF for continuing to host us so we can maximise how much we donate.
*3-6pm at PKF Cooper Parry’s East Mids offices (near East Mids Airport).
It might just be me but I find this incredibly sad and I hear my internal voice of desperation asking “what on earth are we doing??”.
I also wonder how many people find expectations of self-care just another stress to add to the pile of other things “I’m not good enough at”.
It’s all with good intention but it’s not getting to what really needs to be got at.
Yes, look after ourselves better but not in this way.
Not when looking after our own health is a to-do list or goal.
I have a lot of time for you Michelle Obama (assuming she actually said these words in the quote!) but self-care can’t be attached to a “we need to” i.e. “we should”. Anything along those lines is a force, a push, a cajole, a tell, an expectation that’s being put on us from outside of us, a standard that if we fall short we’re rubbish (and then we give up).
Yes, look after ourselves better but not when we believe we have an important role to play in getting things “right” with our health and wellbeing, because the more we do this the more we get in our own way.
Layering our thinking and piling expectations into our heads only takes us further away from our innate wellbeing that we already have inside us; in all of us. It takes us away from letting our system right itself, which it does all the time if we stop meddling.
Instead, when we drop all that thinking, looking after ourselves becomes the most obvious thing to do. Anything else just looks bonkers! And we don’t need someone outside of us to tell us what to do or how to do it.
If you’d like to talk more about what this means for you just get in touch.
LEARN new things,
CONNECT with like minded people,
and then go DO something different to make work better!
We’re excited that PKF Cooper Parry are hosting the event at their amazing East Mids offices (check out the image at the end!) and we’d love to see you there. Click here if you already know you want to book. And read on if you’d like to know more…..
P.S. Please make sure you check out the great boat metaphor for self care at the end!
Now, over to Janice…..
I have a little self-care graphic that I keep visible by my desk. It’s a simple hand-drawn graphic that serves as a reminder on those busy days of the things that keep me healthy. It prompts a bit of structure around my self-care and reminds me to keep it high on my agenda. And as you’d expect, the more I engage with activities that nourish my soul, the more rewards I reap. Not only in that short-term joyous time of connection with whatever it is I’m doing but for the long-term too as I continually reinforce those behaviours. Reminding my brain and body what it feels like to be nourished with those feel-good vibes on a regular basis.
And why am I telling you this?
Because hands up! I haven’t always been great at self-care. I know that self-care can be difficult. And so if, by any chance, I can enable your journey to greater self-care to be a little less time-consuming than my own then I’m happy to share my ideas.
So what makes self-care so difficult in the first place?
We live in a forever changing world, where we’re moving at a pace we, perhaps as humans, have never moved at before, constantly driving forward to keep up, take new stuff in and change. Our minds are constantly stimulated. Our mental health continually pushed to its limit whilst we strive to live our lives to their fullest. And with that we are continually challenged to keep everything in check (work and life) AND to deal with whatever has cropped up.
So its no wonder when we live in the world we do that life or work can sometimes ‘get in the way’ and can knock your self-care routine off-balance.
But here’s the thing…
There is ALWAYS going to be something that will get in the way. The experience of life is not one that is always in balance as much as we’d like it to be.
And these days we perhaps find that it’s unusual to get a ‘steady’ moment in work or in life… That is, unless we create one ourselves!
And so to create one we will….
On Thursday 16th March, I’ll be facilitating a session on self-care at the quarterly LearnConnectDo gathering. Learn > Connect > Do was founded by Helen Amery who is passionate about making work better. So if you care about making work better too by being better connected to your own self-care and if you have ‘people’ as the core focus of your work : HR, L&D, OD, coaching, leadership and management, then we’d love to have you along.
I appreciate that it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which meeting, activity or event is the most important for you to attend in any day. It seems we’re forever prioritising. But let’s not forget that “Learning self-care is like building your own lifeboat, plank by plank. Once you’ve got your boat, you’ll still be rocked by the waves of life, but you’ll have a feeling of safety, and a stability that means you can pick other people up on your way.” (Nadia Narain & Katia Narain Philllips)
So if you are ready to build the next plank in your own lifeboat to get to that feeling of safety and stability, book on here…
It’s not that unusual for people to cry when they work with me. Stopping the daily busy-ness and task-focused activities to pause, reflect and to think well can often bring things to the surface that people hadn’t noticed were there. Our always-on and busy lives lead us to sweep things under the carpet and carry on with an “it’s all fine” and “I’m fine” face on. Sometimes a client’s upset is “normal level” upset, sometimes it’s a symptom of medically-recognisable anxiety for which they need different help than I can provide. And when I say anxiety, don’t picture “jibbering mess, barely able to function”. Instead picture the reality which is genuinely what’s in front of me – capable, confident leaders who are very skilled at what they do and who are able to hide their anxious turmoil REALLY well.
It happened to me too. Not anxiety but definitely the surfacing of a collection of stuff which I’d been sweeping under my carpet for about a year. For me it was starting yoga that brought my tears to the surface and my yoga teacher tells me I’m most definitely not the only one. Taking time out to spend an hour in my own headspace while doing gentle yoga poses, flows and meditation gave me that non-task-focused space to allow my hidden stuff to come to the surface.
Since then yoga has become a weekly class and I don’t cry. Doesn’t mean I never will, nobody and no life is perfect, but for now I’m not. I’m also going to seasonally-timed yoga & art retreats for 5 Sundays this year. They’re amazing, luxurious time out from everything. I’ve worked with a fantastic therapeutic coach who helped me look deeply into myself and my past to reconcile some things and help me feel OK as I move forward, which has also helped with some relationships around me. Still some work in progress but a definite, significant shift, and lots of learning about me as coach.
And so what? Well, all this reflection was prompted by reading some good news in the world of mental health – that organisations are starting to make talking about mental health OK and that they’re providing solutions. The fact that The IOD are talking about it and not just The CIPD is a significant step in the right direction. Being able to help people consider a range of support options is brilliant to meet different people’s needs. Yoga doesn’t work for everyone, and neither will coaching, but an Employee Assistance Programme might, or counselling, or medical support, staff networks or buddying, and more.
For me, coaching on its own provides fantastic headspace to reflect, and I’ve also expanded what I offer to clients, making walking coaching and yoga + coaching definite options for those who want to give them a try.
Whatever’s right for you, the more you can address the causes and check under your carpet more regularly the better.
[Photo credit :https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bansky_street_cleaner_-_Chalk_Farm_(1205714884).jpg]
A week ago on 9th March was the latest Learn > Connect > Do : an event held quarterly in Leicester which is for people professionals who care about making work better through doing great people stuff. These are also people who care about giving back while they learn and I’m delighted that we raised a fantastic £130 for Twenty:Twenty through ticket sales. This will enable a young person to get support with transport costs to get to their local centre to learn, or to go for a day out to celebrate their learning successes! And even more than that, with the professional backgrounds we have there are so many other ways delegates can get involved and support these young people into jobs they might never have considered an option before.
Each time we meet we have a topic to discuss and learn about, and a facilitation approach for people to experience so that, if they think it could be useful to them or their organisation, they can go away and explore more for themselves. This time we talked about Wellbeing – what are we doing about it at work? – facilitated using Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment approach. The event was sensational! One delegate said she didn’t know what to expect of it “but that it over-delivered by far!”. Makes it all worthwhile 🙂
Having chatted, got to know each other and captured the questions all the delegates brought, I started things off with an intro to the Thinking Environment and how we’d use it as a group. It’s a very different way of behaving together and so it needs careful set up to agree with the group how it’s going to work and why. I highlighted how the Thinking Environment really connects to what we know, and are continuing to learn, about how our brains respond to threats, and also it has a strong connection to the theory of Human Givens which is about the conditions needed to help people thrive.
Andrew Harris then shared 8 (plus a bonus 9th!) top tips about how not to be effective with wellbeing. You can read more about these in a great blog Garry Turner wrote after the event. It gave a great, concise injection of information and advice to feed the later conversation.
Janice Keyes then took the reigns to help the group choose the top question they wanted to focus on – the choice was broad with aspects like influencing top leaders, showing ROI, engaging managers and employees, developing managers to have conversations about wellbeing, communicating what’s happening and what’s working, developing a strategy…..From all those options the group chose this question: “If wellbeing means something different to each individual, how can an organisation develop a strategy with the flexibility to meet those needs?” Great question!
We then got into the Thinking Environment group activity. The evolution of everyone’s thinking was fantastic – there was great diversity and appreciation of each other for new ideas that were introduced. And laughs, especially when Rhodri highlighted the (unfortunately too often) sad truth that we only need the term “work-life balance” to demonstrate the fact that when we come into work at 9am we die, and only come back alive when we finish for the day. Like David D’Souza’s Reverse Superman Effect.
Something that struck me was that the same goals we have of empowering people to take responsibility in work, to have clarity of the end game and everyone’s roles in that, and to help people more often choose what they do and when they do it are the same for the topic of wellbeing. Therefore if you have a great, empowering, coaching-centred and human organisational culture, wellbeing is naturally part of that and doesn’t even need a separate strategy. Wellbeing is the vehicle, not the destination” as Mark Gilroy so beautifully said. The addition an organisation might bring is around education about physical and mental health, nutrition, sleep and exercise…. For continued pondering…..
The discussion was so rich and diverse I didn’t feel I could do it justice on my own (these photos show a snapshot of the brilliant thinking that was going on) and so I asked the delegates to send me their thoughts on it. Here’s what they’ve had to say…..
Jo Lee wrote a whole post about it.
“I read Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think” a while ago and I’ve heard it talked about a lot but I hadn’t experienced the thinking environment in action. The thinking environment that Helen created last week gave me the space to think, to go with whatever came to mind, to let my thoughts evolve, without feeling I had to compete. I felt very calm. My takeaway was how powerful something so simple could be – just being able to speak and listen without interruption. Who’d have thought of that?
My individual takeaway about wellbeing was less about the organisations and strategies that the question we talked about posed. More about personal responsibility. How we all have a responsibility to recognise and say how we are feeling – like a wellbeing contract with ourselves. How what we mean by wellbeing can change, for us as individuals, as a society and how we live our lives. I am also mindful how important people managers are in the whole wellbeing agenda but how they may not feel equipped or mandated by an organisation to promote wellbeing or respond in an individual way to the people they work with.”
“The Thinking environment process is powerful, moving, insightful and challenging. Powerful and moving in terms of the depth of listening and understanding that one draws from the process. Insightful as one hears and learns on a completely different plane/level. Challenging as, I at least, am used to competing to be heard (in relative terms), so the serenity and calmness of the process is genuinely mind-blowing. This is a process that I have already promoted to some colleagues internally and I will practice it in my own time also.
The Fit for Work presentation from Andrew was excellent, very insightful and engaging. I learned a lot about the aims and process of this organisation, but I also took away the consistency of challenge, like so many other people interventions, that exist around introducing effective wellbeing into organisations i.e. leadership buy in, effective line management training etc
“The session was a perfect fusion of process (thinking environment) and content (wellbeing) with each being integral and complementary to the other. To have the opportunity to talk and listen in such an uninterrupted, focused and purposeful way was illuminating and made for one of those ‘moment in time’ sessions we all hope for as facilitators. What was most striking for me was the synergy between the process and the content – our own wellbeing (many of us reported feeling calmer and clearer) was being enhanced as were discussing the topic. I am already thinking of how I can use this approach for teams in crisis and for leaders who are under significant pressure”
“So many gems. I appreciated hearing from others about how to promote wellbeing as a strategic consideration for any organisation. Helen’s facilitation of Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment was positioned expertly, and a timely refresher of a highly valuable facilitation tool, one which enriched the quality of the conversations throughout the session. All this, topped off by the knowledge that a portion of the cost is being donated to a worthwhile local charity. It’s easy to cover a lot of content in a short amount of time…but to also have time built in for reflection, networking and practical takeaways, that’s something special. Time well spent.”
So thank you to all the delegates for their energy and wonderful thinking on the day. Thank you to Janice and Andrew for facilitating the session with me. Thank you to Mark for taking fab photos. And thank you to Bianca for supporting me with the very important and hidden administration to make the event happen.
If you’re interested in joining a future event, the next one’s 8th of June 3-6pm at The Observatory in Leicester. If you’d like to go on the mailing list, email me. Or keep an eye on the website, or on Twitter (#LearnConnectDo) or on my LinkedIn.
It would be great to welcome you to this growing community!