I read a tweet this morning by Paul McGee (@TheSumoGuy) that invited us to make a choice today. We could choose to be grumpy about whatever was irritating us or getting in the way of our life, or choose to be grateful for what we have and what is around us.
I was out walking the dog when I read this tweet and it made me think of my surroundings and look around at the beauty of where I live. I took this picture.
Now to you, you might be thinking, that is nothing special, but to me it sums up a walk through my village on a Sunday morning in the summer, and how lucky I am to live here. 2 minutes earlier I had been irritated by someone saying something annoying on Facebook and by my dogs insistence on sniffing every blade of grass. This tweet reminded me to not forget the reasons to be grateful.
I and I am sure most of you find it easy to focus on the negative, to expect the worst, look for what is going wrong, expect that people cannot be bothered to do a good job. This is our default setting, this was how we were taught to think. These neural pathways have been trodden on for years. So seeing life through an alternative lense is not easy, new pathways need to be formed. Also it would not be helpful at all to have a wholly positive outlook in life, for one you will seriously piss off your friends and family and two it is just dangerous, you have to keep your threat sensors on. The world is tough so you must be aware of dangers around you.
What is important is to have a choice, of an appropriate response and give equal air time to the negative and the positive.
There is a lot in my life right now that makes me feel sad and grumpy, and so it should because it is horrible, so I have been practicing everyday to give it air time, to appreciate the emotion, but not to stay there for too long. I have been trying to look for what there is right now to be grateful for, and boy there is an awful lot to be grateful for, in fact a lot more than there is to make me grumpy or sad.
The stuff that makes me really sad is important and big but is out of my control, so all I can do is articulate what I am feeling and give it the attention it deserves, amazingly that gives me the space, and energy to appreciate all the wonderfulness I have in my life. So in a way I am grateful for the bad stuff, as it has made me really examine what matters to me, I wish it hadn’t happened but it has and therefore I need to accept what it is, and move on. So I have chosen to be grateful, but only when I have chance to be grumpy. Being grumpy takes me to the place where I can see what I am grateful for.
I was having a discussion at work yesterday with with some wonderful people (Anthony Brookes and Janis Hostad) about resilience and how we can support people to recognise and embolden their resilience. We were asking ourselves what enables resilience and we started to dissect Coutu’s 3 behaviours of resilient people. As we were talking I noticed that we were talking about spiritualism, a sense that we are all connected. I said it out loud which now seems a bit ridiculous telling a Chaplain that what we are talking about is spiritualism, as if he hadn’t already realised. He was however very patient with me, and really rather excited about exploring how to create a message of connection, meaning, and compassion that does not appear to be wedded to one religion our other, but is accessible to all regardless of faith or lack of it.
This got me thinking about the latest video of Brene Brown with Russell Brand, where they discuss at length spirituality and where a seeming denial of it can lead to the blind pursuit of wealth without regard of wider society. This was something that really resonated with me. I spend a large part of my working life spreading the message of compassion, both self-compassion and compassion to those around yo, to create connections, which creates collaboration, which can create meaningful long lasting outcomes. But then I come home and turn on the news and hear the rhetoric of hate, difference, and protectionism. Lesbian couples being beaten up on buses, young women being racially abused on the tube, a father and young child drowning trying to get to a better life, politicians encouraging disconnection, politicians being physically attacked in the streets. I am sure I could create a longer list, as there is always something new reported everyday, reminding us of our differences, creating fear. It makes my heart sink, some days it feels like I am swimming against the tide trying to get people to view the world through another lens, that lets us see the connections we have with our fellow humans. A lens that encourages us to see them as human beings, to see them as mums, dads, sons, daughters, cousins, aunties and uncles, with hopes, dreams, fears, and optimism. As Brene Brown says it is difficult to hate someone close up, so move in. Move in and recognise your hopes, dreams, fears and optimism in theirs. We are all complicated, and flawed, we are all contradictions, so lets recognise, reconcile and appreciate.
Don’t get lost in the rhetoric of fear and protectionism as that denies our innate desire to search for and find connection with those around us. It is biologically necessary for us to nurture and support our species. Don’t fall for the de-humanising language used by people that want us to create disconnection in their desire to accumulate personal wealth. Connection and compassion creates more sustainable wealth for all.
I found this poem in the back of my notebook. I cannot remember writing it. I did but I don’t know when. I know it is about foggy. It is a positive poem. If your foggy is troubling you, take heart you can rise.
When the noise gets too much I rise,
When the poking and prodding gets too much I rise,
This week has been a week has been a week of creating visions for the future and laying down some plans for making those visions a reality.
The week started with an afternoon meeting with the inspirational Janis to discuss plans for training Nurses in Compassionate Clinical Supervision. This year we are introducing new trainers so we thrashed out how that would look. We then planned the content for our refresher sessions for existing Clinical Supervisors. This is when me and Janis are at our best, when we start being creative. We came up with some great work, none of which I can share (Janis would kill me if I let the cat out of the bag). I will share it once we have delivered it. We also finally came up with a working title for the textbook on Clinical Supervision we plan to edit. For the first time we managed to get some ideas for chapters written down. As usual it was a brilliant meeting, so inspirational and really productive.
Wednesday saw me meeting up with another inspirational woman Nicola (one of our Practice Development Matrons). I help Nicola with the post induction support program she runs for our new registrants. This currently consists of 2 catch up days offered to our new Nurse registrants. During these days we combine, personal and professional reflection along with practical skill acquisition. We have done this for 2 years now and we are starting to plan what we will be doing for our next cohort of graduates and more importantly the first cohort of our Nurse Associates who will be graduating in May. Now what we are doing essentially is useful, however there are a few issues that still need resolving. One of them being that with the ever increasing complexity of healthcare and the demands put on the new registrants, by themselves, their colleagues and the public we felt that we needed to offer them something else that helped them recharge their resilience. This was where my mind started to tick over and I managed to summon the marvelous Janis into the room. Now Janis, Janis’s boss, Tony (the coolest, kindest, Chaplain I know) have recently been playing with an idea coined by Janis as Rumbling for Resilience (nod to Brene, but this is all Janis, she even has a dance for it…don’t ask, I am still rumbling with that). This idea was at the request of Janis’ boss to address the stress she was seeing amongst the nursing staff within their Health Group. A germ of an idea began with Janis and was added to by Tony who had done something very similar in his previous job, where he would open up the Chapel for people to drop in during the afternoon, have a drink and a cake and talk to people about how they felt, or what was happening to them. As we know sharing your shame and discomfort diminishes those feelings and can restore your self esteem. So we have been playing with this idea mixing it with some structure with the informality of a drop in session. It hasn’t got off the ground yet but we are doing some work on that.
Anyway lets get back to my meeting with Nicola, so Janis and her rumbles entered my head when thinking about what additional offers we can put into our package for new registrants. My idea was that we could offer a resilience rumble (drop-in) once a month for new registrants where they could talk about their experiences with people going through the same thing in a protected environment with a very light facilitation. We would then offer 1 to 1 Clinical Supervision to any of those that needed it. It needs some work to get this up and running for May but I can feel exciting times ahead, rising to the challenges modern healthcare throw at us. During our discussion we touched on something I want to explore further, and that is one to one support of our new leaders, something that is mentioned a lot but due to the workload always seems to drop off. So I have been thinking about what an offer for supporting new and emerging leaders that is realistic and workable would look like. That is the challenge, to develop coaching and supervision programs that are responsive and become part of the fabric of the work place. Funnily enough I am looking at a course that focuses on the strategic element of coaching and how to embed it into the culture of an organisation.
On Thursday I met Steve our new colleague (Senior OD Practitioner) a thoroughly agreeable chap, as I mentioned earlier exciting times are ahead. I also had a lovely catch up with my friend Becky. We discussed all things, coaching, supervision, parenthood, getting older and blogging. We all need a comfortable chat to replenish our soul, and Becky certainly provided that on Thursday.
Well Friday, I am not sure what went on, on Friday. I spent most of the day being late for meetings. A lot of restorative discussions with some coaching. A great day but a bit of a blur.
So that was one of those positive weeks, where you can see all that needs to be done, but instead of filling you with dread, fills you with excitement for the challenges and adventures ahead. Bring on next work.
2019 is nearly a week old. Last week I looked back on what I had achieved in 2018, so this week I thought I would look forward to what 2019 might have in store for me.
The most pressing issue I have on my mind, is to further develop my connected living project. Well that is the first time I have called it a project, I was just grappling with the words to describe this thing I call connected living. The first word that popped into my mind was concept, but it is more than just a concept, it is actually a thing now, it is not just in my head any more, I have the beginnings of a book, a presentation and 2 coaching programmes, so it is definitely a project. So by the end of this year I want to have a full package to offer to people. That means finishing and publishing the book. The presentation and coaching packages are good to go. I have used the presentation with a team at work, but as it is my presentation written in my time I am eager to share it with people outside of the hospital. I would love to share the message of connected with yourself and others to a wider group of people. I know I have this forum but actually communicating this message to people face to face is so much more powerful and the message becomes real. People can see how the concept of connected with yourself to enable stronger connection with other others is not just talking and that there are some simple actions you can take that will make a difference. So yes finishing and publishing the book is important but getting my message out there through talks and one to one coaching is also important.
My plan (which is still in development) is to raise my profile as a coach and to raise the profile of my project. That requires networking and moving outside my comfort zone. My default attitude is introverted, therefore I do struggle sparking up conversations and selling myself. With this in mind my first action is to practice this new habit of talking about my passion I have for this project, and my passion for supporting people to reach their personal best by looking for the resources within themselves, by connecting with themselves. Over the next few months I will be continuing to connect with myself and embracing my own complexity to help me connect with those people outside my circle of supporters to create new connections and sell my project to them. Clearly when I write this plan down for myself I will have much more detail, about when I will start how I will know when I am practicing this effectively. Also what will I do when I meet obstacles and setbacks, and how am I going to use my core value of courage to give me the motivation to continue when I face these problems. Over the next few days I will be detailing the actions I will actually be taking to make this plan real. Who am I going to talk to, how will I create the opportunity to talk to these people, what message do I want to get across, and so on. I will not be doing this alone, and I will be using a coach to create the support and challenge I need to ensure the plan I create is the best I can come up with and to support through the implementation. So that is my plan for putting myself and my project out there. If you want to support me in this project or you are interested in understanding more about connected living please get in touch by messaging me.
Then there is the plan I have for completing my book. So firstly I plan to finish the outlines for each chapter (the ones I have been sharing). Once I have done that I will look at the feedback and then go back to put more detail into each chapter. Once I have done that I have a few people that are willing to proof read the book, prior to me publishing it. I have given myself until December to complete this process, so this time next year the book should be available for you all to buy.
I offer two 1 to 1 coaching packages and a presentation to groups, if you want to know more or you would like to book me please get in touch, I am happy to do talks to voluntary groups for a much reduced price.
The other day I made the mistake of watching Toy Story 3 alone. Oh god it was carnage. Now I enjoy this film and I also know being a sensitive soul I generally shed a tear at the end. Normally however there are members of my family around me, namely my sons who will have a laugh at me for crying at a cartoon. In fact Jack points out to me that I cry watching almost anything, including X-Factor (well I love to see people trying hard). Anyway none of these filters were present.
In hindsight I should have thought on and given the film a wide birth. But no, I thought I would be alright. I had things to do on the computer I said to myself, so I would not get completely drawn in and it would provide a pleasant backdrop to my work. That worked fine until the final 2 scenes. The scene where Andy is preparing to leave, and he walks into his bedroom with his Mum. She looks around the now empty and bare room. A room us as viewer of all 3 films recognise as a place of fun and adventure for Andy and his favorite toys, that is now is just an empty shell. All his toys and pictures packed away. Well the look on her face grabbed me, and it started. It started deep down in my heart and rose up to my mouth, I let out a little sob then the tears started and just did not stop for the next 10 minutes, accompanied by increasingly louder sobs and the obligatory snot bubble. my face was all contorted and I could not help rocking. If anyone had looked in through the window they would have assumed I had just been told some terrible news, and not watching a kids film.
As you all know, I have 2 boys. They are my world and I am so proud of them. They are 16 and 18 years old and over the next 2 years will be leaving home. Ben will no doubt leave next September. I want them to leave, and I want them to be successful and independent. Like every parent I want the best for my Children, but I would also quite like for them to stay young and need me, the way I am used to them needing me.
I have been starting to prepare myself for Ben leaving home for a while now. Many of his friends left home in September, so it has been on my mind since then. I think just watching Toy Story 3 brought those feeling to the surface. I realise now post sob that this is all part of the process of change that we are experiencing as a family and what I am experiencing as a parent.
There is nothing like a good ugly cry to let out all of those unhelpful emotions. It then gives you some space to create clarity in you thoughts. I felt so much better after it. I wish we all could feel more comfortable with full on sobbing, instead of repressing it. If we don’t let these feelings out, they just muddle our thought processes, and we end up being much more unhappy. In fact I was coaching someone recently that had a good old cry, we just sat there for a couple of minutes whilst they just cried. Once they had finished we had such a productive conversation, once the blocking emotions had been expressed. I did notice that they kept on apologising for crying, and I realised that was something I do. There is no need to apologise for doing something that is so useful. From now on I am going to practice not apologising for crying, I am also going to allow myself to have a good ugly cry and not repress it. I am going to appreciate the snot bubble. In fact I think that should be my mantra for the New Year.
APPRECIATE THE SNOT BUBBLE!
Have a lovely Christmas and New Year, and if you feel the need have a good old cry, you will feel so much better.
Below is the first half of Chapter 3, exploring why we might avoid vulnerability. Let me know what you think. If you want to know how to embrace your vulnerability you will have to wait until the book is done, I don’t want to share too much..
Do you embrace your vulnerability?
The other day I was facilitating a team building session, and I had asked the participants to pick out at least 5 values that they felt were important to them. Not what they thought they should value but what they really valued. This is more challenging than you think it might be. As it is difficult to find the words that describe your values I provided them with 3 pages of words that describe thier values. I then invited them to use the lists of values to start them off, but reminded them that they were not wedded to that list. Nobody used any values that were not on the list. Now this could have been that they were happy with the wide selection, or that they did not feel comfortable enough to tap into their individuality for fear of getting it wrong. This fear is driven by our shame. We all know how shame attempts to diminish us to make us less of a person. We all know now how to combat this shame. We do that by confronting it and talking about it with our fellow ashamed friends and colleagues. The problem is, that you have only just read the chapter on how to combat that shame. Fair enough you may have read Brene Browns work on shame and vulnerability, but shifting your shameful paradigm takes a lot of practice flexing your empathy muscle. So what else is there to do but avoid shame at all costs by not putting yourself at risk of mucking things up. “Probably best if you play it safe….remember the last time you tried to express your opinion at a meeting….you made yourself look a right tit”. I have said that to myself so many times. It has always led to me keeping my mouth shut in a meeting instead of letting people know, what I have observed or experienced as I was fearful that I would not be taken seriously and be dismissed, therefore diminishing my self-worth. The probem is with this approach is that it can end up having the same effect as the one you were trying to avoid. People could start to think that Matthew never contributes to meetings, he somehow appears disinterested, and is not engaged. Don’t get me wrong embracing your vulnerability is not about running off at the mouth at every opportunity. But perhaps I could have just been vulnerable and spoken up, and trusted my judgement that what I had to say had value. If it didn’t then the conversation would move on, I may feel a little silly, but I it has not harmed me.
The difficulty with avoiding vulnerability is that it is driven by our limbic system, as is shame. It is evolutionary neccessary for us to live in groups (something we will look at in depth later in this book). So it is important to us not to look foolish, as foolish means weak and less useful to the goup, which may lead to us being cast out and left to starve to death lonely and unloved. Yeah I know a little extreme. The thing is the limbic system is primitive and it’s primary function is to keep us and our species alive. It does not care which century we are in or how dangerous our outside world is. If it is left unchecked it will assume any threat is a threat to life unless advised otherwise. Therefore when you notice that another member of your team is ridiculed behind their back for making a suggestion at a meeting, your limbic system makes a note to put in your memory bank, so the next time you are in a meeting and consider making a suggestion your limbic system, goes and gets that note and waves it in your face, saying don’t do it, you then get that funny feeling in your stomach and your mouth goes dry and you say nothing. The urge to say nothing is as strong as it would be if you were alive a thousand years ago about to question the leadership qualities of your village chieftan. Only you are not likely to be cast out or get your head chopped off. The limbic system has know time uderstanding the current political climate it is just interested in you staying alive, it leaves all that stuff up to your frontal lobe.
So there you are embracing your vulnerability and confronting your shame is not going to be easy. Your limbic system is always going to scupper things and avoid vulnerability at all costs. Don’t worry though there is a way to manage how your limbic system responds.
Before we explore how to create the right conditions for you to be able to vulnerable it is important to explain why avoiding vulnerability and being a slave to your shame is not just toxic, it can be down right dangerous. Vulnerability avoidance can stop us from speaking up or acting when we see things are going wrong, things have been missed or when someone is acting with malicous intent. History is littered with testimony from bystanders that either did not think it was there place to say anything, they didn’t like to say anything or they were too afraid to say or do anything. I am not saying that to be able to embrace vulnerability you should put yourself in harms way. There have been occassions in history and to this day where people may be in mortal danger if they spoke up or acted on what they saw. Some of those people put themselves at risk and others didn’t, now that is a whole other debate that I have no wish to get into. If your life is in danger you are going to make decisions based on your values and what you are faced with. I am more concerned with situations much more common place, situations that happen on a daily basis.
As part of my role as a Clinical Nurse Educator I teach Human Factors (risk management) to Health Professionals. The basic premise of this is that we are all at risk of making errors or contributing to errors as part of the error chain. One of those human factors that creates an environment for error is a steep authority gradient, where someone is clearly in charge. This leader however is not interested in discussion, and likes to let everyone know that they are in charge. Everyone is expected to do as they are told and there are consequences for disobedience. No doubt you can all think of examples of leaders like this either first hand or through stories. So imagine you are working in an environment like this, say for instance that you are a junior nurse on your first ward and you are involved in the resusitation of a patient. The resusitation is being performed by a domineering Consultant who is barking orders at everybody. All involved a clearly nervous, no one is acting until they are told to do so by the Consultant. You notice that the green oxygen tubing that is attached to the bag and mask that the consultant is using to provide respirations to the patient is not attached to anything. It is you first ward but you are pretty sure that your tutor told you that the oxygen should be attached when using the bag and mask, but the Consultant is really shouting at everyone and you are too afraid to speak up just in case you have got it wrong. That patient subsequently dies, now how would you feel? Like you I would like to think that I would have spoken up, and faced the wrath of the consultant, and some of you would, there are some of you who wouldn’t. Now imagine you are 18 and that Consultant is in his 50s with 30 years experience as a Doctor, how easy do you think it would be.This is not a real example, however I have witnessed situations where an authority gradient has put patients at risk, and I have read incident reports from all over the world describing this behaviour. There lies another problem, we have all heard examples of this behaviour and have a perception of the type of people and the situaitons where this authority gradient might be present. When you hear these stories your limbic system becomes very interested and lays down memories in your memory bank, just in case you encounter such people or those situations. So when you come across something that remotely looks familiar your limbic system leaps into action to ensure your safety. So regardless of whether or not this person and the culture they work within operates a steep authority gradient, you will behave as if there is one. So you start to percieve that if you speak up or act on your initiative that you will face sanctions regardless of the lack of concrete evidence. This perception of a steep authority gradient is just as dangerous as a real authority gradient. Our limbic system is on the whole very useful but it can be a right pain in the arse if you don’t manage it.