Updated: May 11, 2020
By Belle Ellery
At LeadersHP we believe that in life and leadership, we learn some things from our experiences but even more so from reflecting on our experiences.
Our ability to "make meaning" of what happens to us is a key resilience building strategy and developing a reflective practise is a core leadership skill. We believe in this so much that, as a team, we consistently make the time to engage in reflection on how we are experiencing our work, as well as to share our personal reflections on how we are each leading our lives. Time and time again, we see how this process of shared reflection pays off by profoundly re-energizing and re-connecting us to meaning.
We also believe that everyone's voice is valuable, everyone's story important and that every team member, regardless of their role within an organisation, has a significant gift of leadership to offer. Our Belle (otherwise known as LeadersHP's Business Support Manager or "Alchemist"... because she turns stuff into gold) shared with us, the written reflection piece below.
There have been plenty of influential thought leaders who've offered reflections on the meaning that we could all make of this time. We are sure you will have read or heard various of them! As a team, we all felt so moved and inspired by Belle's words, and the meaning we made of them in our own lives, that we felt compelled to share them with you.
Mia and Matt
Prior to COVID-19 what prompted me to jump out of bed full of zest each morning were the simplest of things. An early morning walk with my dog, Poet… often so early that it was rare to encounter another person and it felt as though everything existed just for us to appreciate. A bike ride to work along bumpy side streets. A rain drop on a leaf. A smile exchanged with a stranger. Watering my garden. Watching the light and shadows dance across our office as the day grew older. Jumping in a puddle or kicking a pile of crunchy autumn leaves. Coffee. Holding my colleagues in long embraces (yes, pre-distancing, we did hug in our office!). Anyway, you get the idea.
I was busy. Very busy. From the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to bed and as a volunteer for the State Emergency Services, sometimes even getting woken up in the middle of the night to respond to an emergency call out. I went to the gym every day without fail. I had a list of goals. Fitness Goals, Personal Goals, Career Goals, Financial Goals etc. I filled every moment to the brim and because I loved everything I was busy with with such intensity I was blind to how full my days were.
Then COVID hit and it hit me hard.
First week; working from home was an emotional roller-coaster.
Second week; I realised that I was grieving my life as I had known it.
Third week; I was determined to grab life by the reins and take control.
This control looked like planning my days with schedules, writing more lists and trying to come up with a game plan so I could ensure that I came out of this global crisis ‘better’ than I went in! I was on a mission like no other! Every minute needed to be accounted for. I was going to emerge from this collective hardship better than ever!
I would promise myself each night that tomorrow I would do better, that I would be better.
I got to work immediately and made an extensive list of things I was going to achieve during this ‘extra’ time I had at home. A list for each day to stay productive and accountable AND then another self-improvement themed list. I will read these books, I will start writing that book, I will exercise every day, I will learn this new skill… and the list went on!
Then I would beat myself up if I didn’t tick every box on each of my lists and I honestly couldn’t figure out why I was feeling flat, unmotivated and depressed *face palm*. If I enjoyed a sleep in instead of getting up to walk Poet, if I spent too much time watching TED talks instead of reading a book or if I accidentally stayed up all night whittling a spoon (developing my newfound love of wood-carving)!
I have been stuck in this “I need a routine, I need a schedule, I need to be productive” space but feeling down and defeated when another day passed and it looked nothing like what I had planned.
And then, it hit me.
This pattern of behaviour and thinking is a self-set road block to experiencing happiness at the moment.
I AM NOT MY TO DO LIST!
We have had a lot of wet weather here this past week and as I do not drive, if I need to get somewhere, I rely on my feet. It was Thursday night and I realised that I desperately needed more soy milk (so I could make myself a hot chocolate)… it was pretty much an emergency! *giggles*
So I donned my rain jacket and off I went, the fresh air hitting my face as if it was the first time I had ever experienced the outside world. The feeling of the cool air travelling through my nasal passages stretching out to the very bottom of my lungs and the sound of the rain not so delicately falling on the hood of my jacket. I was beside myself with absolute bliss and joy.
As I was walking I became aware of how freely my arms were swinging and how open my chest and shoulders were. I was walking with a sense of gentle purpose, with a jubilant almost childish spring in each and every step.
A car drove past and I noticed the driver slow down and smile at me… or maybe with me. And it was in this moment that I realised that I had a sizeable smile on my face. I was once again reunited with my love and appreciation of the natural world and all of the little things in it. I could suddenly hear birds singing, as if someone had turned the volume up. I ran my hand along every slatted fence that I encountered. I picked a few sprigs of lavender from a neighbours front yard and I jumped in a puddle or two.
It was in this little quest to the supermarket that I had the
ah-ha light bulb moment, that whilst in "lockdown" I had unknowingly surrendered the most important things in my life.
This highlighted that I hadn’t truly acknowledged the capacity to which I was affected by the constant news updates, the heavier universal energy, the new online realm of life and I perceived this new and quickly changing climate as a dire threat, I responded with a disabling freeze response. At work, we talk about this all the time. But I didn’t realise that I had ‘frozen’ my life and the way in which I normally move through this world to try and protect myself.
I shut down by making more lists and trying to keep busy enough, with the thought that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t notice the true impact this was having on me. I was on auto-pilot trying to protect myself and I had forgotten to breathe.
I realised that I urgently needed to shift my thinking and re-evaluate my ‘COVID GAME PLAN’ for the sake of my own mental health and wellbeing.
My goals have shifted and changed with the current climate and the new way we are experiencing our day to day.
I am giving myself permission to feel positive in a world that is understandably quite dark at the moment.
One of my current goals is to allow myself to experience joy and happiness now whilst I set new daily habits and work towards other goals more in alignment with my values NOT what everyone on social media is doing or what I think I SHOULD be doing.
I am not worried about achieving things “before isolation ends” and phrases like “I’ll be so happy when this is over” or “I can’t wait for things to return to normal” are no longer in my vocabulary. I am grateful for each and every day, good or bad and I hereby promise not to put my happiness off for a milestone – I am allowed to be happy now!
Here's how I've written my newfound goals:
- I will be gentle and kind to myself today
- I will allow myself to experience happiness and joy
- I will give myself permission to enjoy this smaller, simpler, slower version of life
- I will freely experience joy during this time
- I will listen to myself in a more tender and sensitive way
I am celebrating the time I have to form new self-nurturing habits. This slowing down has given me the opportunity to learn so much about myself and I am proud to say that I will grow my way through this chapter of our lives and with each of my new habits I am building a more positive momentum to my life.
I feel as though I am more in alignment with my values and priorities and have a new outlook on what it means to be productive. It takes courage to change your habits (way of living). Being so busy pre-COVID had clouded my ‘why’. Those dark, grey and rain filled clouds reminded me to look inwardly, not to lose sight of what is important to me. Giving me permission to ask myself 'What is it that I need?'.
I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to refresh and re-calibrate. And I am once again looking forward to the beauty that each day holds within its simplicity.