It had been one of those crappy days. We all have them from time to time. I had hopped off the bus and was making my way up the hill homeward bound feeling sorry for myself and bemoaning the eight meetings in one day and the need to manage my diary better. Suddenly I thought of Brian or Jenna and how they would have given their arm to experience a day like that.
This is a very personal story. Some of you will relate to it, others will feel uncomfortable and that's fine.
The idea is to share how you could create balance and perspective in your work.
I used to be very serious about work. I'd put on my work face every day. There was no place for vulnerability nor showing too much of my true self. Home and personal issues were left at the door.
Then, 14 years ago we lost one of my best friends and my wife's brother-in-law, Brian. It came out of the blue. This was followed a few years later by his eldest daughter (13 at the time) having a brain tumour the size of a tennis ball removed from the back of her head – fortunately she has made an almost full recovery and is now studying medicine. But to make matters worse, her sister, the youngest daughter is now 23 and is fighting a momentous and incredibly courageous battle against a rare form of cancer — rhabdomyosarcoma.
Unfortunately, it doesn't stop there. Nine years ago, my sister's daughter, Jenna, passed tragically months after a double lung transplant. It followed a four-year fight against a rare and often misdiagnosed lung disease, pulmonary hypertension. After her death, her Dad, my brother-in-law was diagnosed with multiple myeloma or blood cancer.
To cap it all, my wife's brother was diagnosed a few years ago, at the age of 59, with early onset dementia.
I live in awe of their respective families and the grief they have and continue to endure, but more importantly their outlook on life. The deaths and the suffering endured by our various family members has given me a rare perspective on what is important in life.
Now, when things are tough at work, or I'm dealing with a crisis for a client, or I've had a bad day, these personal tragedies give me perspective. I think of them and what our families have gone through, and are going through, and it forces me to re-evaluate my situation which typically results in the realisation that things really aren't that bad.
It has also taught me that it is OK to bring my authentic self to work and that there is always time for appropriate humour in situations, even when things are tough.
I have no doubt there will be people reading this who have had an even tougher time of it. And there will be those who haven't experienced nearly this level of loss. Irrespective, my question is twofold:
What perspective can you bring to create the balance to the issues you face at work and how do you use that perspective to help change your mindset to think about and approach things differently when the going gets tough?
Perspective during hard times whether at work or in our personal lives is important.
It can help us manage our emotional wellbeing and we are all aware the impact things like stress and frustration can have on our mental health.
The perspective I gain by thinking of my loved ones, past and present and what they have or are going through, helps me avoid being consumed by negative emotions. It allows me to see the bigger picture. And it's amazing how this enables me to switch into a more open and resilient mindset.
When I use this technique, the problem I am facing or the crisis with which I'm dealing (I do a lot of work in crisis management) shrinks. It doesn't mean I dismiss it or treat it with any less importance. Instead, I am more clearly able to see it for what it is rather than be consumed by it. My approach, instead of being framed by anxiety and stress, is framed by a positive, open mindset.
How often have you heard things like “learn from your mistakes”, or “take this as a learning opportunity”? A negative mindset sparked by anxiety and frustration makes this difficult but by maintaining perspective, you will be able to learn from challenging experiences. In fact, you'll probably find that you will more readily embrace these challenging situations and see them as an opportunity for development.
One of the outcomes of being overly stressed at work is how easily we lose sight of the big picture.
One of the unsung things I've discovered by taking a different perspective is how it helps me stay focused on the longer-term goals and, as a result, prioritise better.
Our lives are a messy mix of joy, triumph, love, and sorrow. But the dark moments which are devastating and seemingly unbearable, can transform our existence. They have forced me to embrace even the most ordinary moments. I have written before about this in this blog but if we learn to relish life's simple joys it can create a paradigm shift in our thinking and approach.
It's taken me years to learn and appreciate this, but I can live my life fully with purpose and gratitude thanks to the perspective I have. I find even the smallest moments are opportunities to cherish, revel in, appreciate and potentially grow.
By embracing life this way, I am honouring those in my family we have lost and those who still fight every day and every step of the way.
In loving memory of Brian and Jenna.
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