There are three words that describe the feelings I’ve had this month but it’s taken some time to pin them all down.
I’ve been thinking in those rare moments of peace when I’m out running…what’s that feeling I’ve got? It’s been a subtle feeling not wholly negative but it’s definitely clouded my thinking. I keep trying to pin it, to understand it, to give it a name and find a solution. But so far I’ve been unable to put it in the solved box until a colleague gave me a very good metaphor. That allowed my questions to get answers as they worked out of my conscious on a long run.
I used to do a lot of open water swimming. I live 4 miles from the beach so twice a week I’d be in the sea with club members exploring the waters. Tide and weather dependant these would be easy 45 minute sessions, often wondrous as you could see the bottom despite being two hundred metres from shore. There were days when waves and chop made it hard, but not impossible. I had the strength, skills and confidence to still be able to safely swim as well as enjoy the challenge.
There was one day though. One day where the sea was so rough that it caught me out with not enough skills to cope.
We were in a large group, with some of the life saving team and many very good swimmers. We set out swimming into the waves and then turned to swim lateral to their path to shore well outside of the breaking zone. Then the wind and tide changed, the waves shifted in direction and became less predictable in their rise, fall and break. It was fun for a while but the more lungfuls of water I took in, the more I swallowed the less fun it became and the more I started to question if this was still the right thing to be doing.
I swam until I no longer felt comfortable. Making the choice to head for shore also meant I recognised the stressors. Concentrating on swimming and not allowing panic to set in, not burning up essential energy became my focus. The waves tossed me about and it seemed that no matter how hard I swam, the shore remained out of reach until the surf started to form around me. Then I was able to relax and swim with each wave, resting in the troughs. I had stopped fighting the current and allowed it it take me diagonally towards the shore.
So turbulence. Every day there seems to be change. Accepting that and flowing with it has been helpful. Not fighting against the channels it comes through but allowing the change to create its own energy has become a new way. Coping with turbulence is the new normal.
The pressure and challenge I felt from various confrontations has really made me question my role in all of this.
Have I taken the right approach? Have I got the right skills to lead this in terms of IP&C? How are my team viewing me and how can I lead them when I’m feeling considerable doubt and pressure?
I’ve learnt a lot in the past 4 months about myself. I thought I’d worked under pressure but this is a whole different pressure. I’m still retreating to think but I’m learning to talk before I’ve retreated too far into my reflection cave. But the learning I gained from the events I have encountered left me with more questions than answers. It did leave me with a period of serious self doubt but now, maybe that is not such a bad thing for a leader to have. Maybe, now that I’m on the up and not in the down this is what should happen.
So disillusion. With the changes, the challenges and confrontations I’m wiser but not happier, and that at the moment is alright.
I have a great and strong team. Within our morning meetings we have encompassed well being and as part of that one of my wise colleagues has led us looking at who and what we are in this unusual time. It’s been helpful to think in all of this that we are trees in the wind, it may be blowing, it may be making us sway but our roots are deep. Any seeds that fall, or branches that break are opportunities to learn.
Blocks I previously saw stopping me are now prompts to look in a different direction for a solution.
Whilst I’m often standing at crossroads, with no signposts to help me actually just making the decision and following that path is the decision to take. You never know what could be learnt even if it turns out to be a wrong decision.
The learning I gained from the clash of opinions earlier in the month has been used every day. So what stung to begin with has now been inspirational for me to learn and work with during this pandemic and beyond.
The metronomic effect of running allows me to meditate, to prompt those thoughts that are deep to float up to the surface and move on from their anchors. Each step is a positive one. Today was great. Today I managed to get to the point where I was floating, where time and effort disappeared and I could just run. This is the zone where it all comes away and I can see more clearly.
This has allowed me to get a better view on whats going on and how I’m feeling. I have been through a lot of turbulence, challenge and change which has led to me feeling disillusion but all of that has also allowed me to find a new perspective. The perspective is also allowing me to see that my emotions are up, and down and that this needs to be accepted. Not fought against.