Lesson 6 – Receive gracefully

On a number of occasions, we received food, drink and medicine; help with accommodation and unsolicited, much needed directions. Villagers and fellow pilgrims, people we didn’t know at all, offered items when they thought we needed them. These random acts of kindness occurred without warning and were freely given – and always at a time when what was offered, was exactly what was needed. It was humbling and heartwarming.

The key to receiving gracefully is to ‘get over ourselves’. People most used to giving freely to others may find it strange and uncomfortable being a recipient of other people’s generosity, yet, receiving is the other side of the giving coin and needs embracing. A reminder too that gratitude needs to extend beyond an immediate need, to all that is good and great in one’s life. A ‘gratitude list’, reviewed daily, is one way to do this. Entitlement attitudes and deficit thinking is best avoided.

Lesson 5 – Ask for help

Some days, there was nothing familiar or remotely comfortable about some of the situations we found ourselves in. We relied on the help of strangeers for clarifying directions and finding transport, medical facilities, banks and shops. Everyone was happy to help us and we were grateful for their efforts.

The key to asking for help is to understand it isn’t a sign of weakness, rather, it is a sign of self awareness. It is about realising that sometimes, time is of the essence and input sooner rather than later, is the best option. It is also a reminder that in this arena also, we may need to get over ourselves and let the ego take a back seat for a while.

Touchstones for challenging times – Lesson 4 Be in the present moment

Walking 6-8 hours each day means arms and legs do their thing automatically and the mind is free to roam. Without the need to be doing anything else than walking (that and keeping a sharp eye on the terrain and potential hazards), the opportunity ws to be truly human beings, fully engaged in the present moment i.e. this minute, this hour, this morning. We were absorbed with what we were doing, seeing and feeling, with all that was around us.

The key to being in the present moment is to stop wasting energy and time looking back to how things are/were or, looking too far forward on how things might be. It is easy to ruminate endlessly on grievances, missed opportunities or past successes or events. Too much focus in the past or on the imagined future means we miss now – the present. The challenge is to remember that this moment, this day, will never come again. The past is gone, the future isn’t known and there is no guarantee we’ll have a tomorrow, so all there really is, is now. Focus on that.

Touchstones for challenging times – lesson 3 – Let Go

The best laid plans can go to pieces. It happens. Despite our intentions to walk every step of the 800 kilometre route, leg injuries necessitated the rapid development of Plan B and bus travel for a few days. It required us to let go of our expectations of ourselves and our original plans yet keep the end goal clearly in sight.

The key to letting go requires us to stop railing against things we have no control over. It means identifying the things we can control and identifying the things that aren’t in our control – it pays to know the difference. It requires us to see the new situation simply as it is. There is simply no point analysing it to death or going on about it. Alternative plans are needed, as is getting into gear, quick smart.

Touchstones for challenging times – lesson 2 – Self care

Despite adequate preparaton and preventative measures, leg injuries and blisters struck a week into the walk. Our recovery was relatively quick because of a good level of fitness, strong immune systems and healthy bodies. Numerous pilgrims who weren’t fit or adequately prepared had a miserable time and struggled from the outset.

The key to self care is embracing the – if it is to be, it us up to me – motto. Self care is our own responsibility and we can’t blame others for what we may or may not have done to date. Good, ongoing self care strategies are essential to cope with everyday life and ordinary challenges, as well as extraordinarily difficult times. This necessitates healthy eating, regular exercise, reducing negative stress, managing multiple stressors and having enjoyable, fun things in our life. Keeping one’s health and wellbeing is critical, because if it is lost, other losses inevitably follow.

Touchstones for challenging times – lesson 1 – Get over yourself

An 800km walk across the north of Spain in 2009 on the Camino the French Way provided six lessons for getting through challenging, changing times. The context involved 30km days, the Pyrenees, hills, hot and cold weather; back packs, accommodation in hostels of varying quality and comfort; two sets of clothing and leg injuries. Each day brought different challenges, interesting people and joy. The journey was mentally relaxing, spiritually uplifting, emotionally and physically challenging and ultimately, a reminder of important ‘life lessons’. It necessitated great adaptability to the unfamiliar and rapidly changing circumstances; and the ability to find the humour in every situation.

The key to getting over yourself is self awareness. How we see and experience the world is only how we see and experience it, no one else. We all carry well buried self-limiting beliefs, negative attitudes and expectations about ourselves and others that unwittingly hold us back or tie us in knots. And when faced with challenges, when push really does come to shove, we will find we can actually do more than we may ever thought possible. Getting over yourself requires making no assumptions about anything and avoiding judgements; having no expectations (of anyone or anything) and adjusting quickly to change. And if we’re really clever, deliberately setting our intentions for each day and deliberately choosing the attitude we want to take into our days lifts our game and energy levels immediately.

How inspired are you by what you do for a living?

The beginning of a New Year is often a good time to reflect back on the previous year and typically attention is on all the things we have done as ‘human doings’ – the achievements, large and small, as well as the disappointments and bits in-between. What is often missed in the reflection process is who we are as ‘human beings’ and in particular, our inner self. The Indian philosopher Patanjali said “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all of your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends limitatins, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself t be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be”. As you reflect on your past year, consider how inspired you are by what you do for a living and whether you want to make any changes, to bring all your faculties and talents come alive.

Ageism alive and well in NZ

A recent report in the newspaper mentioned, in tones of great astonishment, that a particular person was still in paid employment and they were in their 60s – the inference being, the person was too old to be working and how come they weren’t retired. I find it difficult to understand how an employee in their 60s is considered unusual in this day and age, given people live longer today than decades ago. I find it difficult to understand the spoken or unspoken inference that being in a certain age bracket means people are past it, lacking skills or abilities or debilitated by ill health, ailments or fragility. The ‘mature’ work force is deemed to be workers 45+ years and older and that’s a big band of people who may face employment barriers such as: ageism, responsibilities for family members, disability or ill health. Interestingly enough, these employment barriers are also faced by much younger workers, such as school leavers and parents in their early 20s or 30s.

New Zealand has an ‘aging’ workforce but that doesn’t mean it is a debilitated one. When this aging workforce leaves the workplace, many organisations will face a serious skills and experience shortage. Ageism against younger workers and mature workers needs to be eliminated because they are all needed now and for the future.

Demand for remote working options increasing, management coach belives

Many workplaces aren’t the most conducive environments to work in, especially offices. Many house large numbers of people in small offices or densely configured open plan spaces; they’re noisy, through colleagues, phones and equipment; and disruptive, through the nature of the work itself, i.e. interruptions. Small wonder then, the demand for remote working options are increasing. It isn’t for everyone or for all organisations, but it can be for others. Remote workers often report higher levels of engagement to their work and their organisation, in comparison to on-site workers; and higher levels of productivity and job satisfaction.

Common arguments against the adoption of remote workers are: employees will be ‘out of the loop’ and miss critical information or events; they won’t do their work, because they’ll be out doing other things. Yet these arguments can be mitigated if the arrangement is set up properly in the first place. Technological tools of videoconferencing, Skype, email, instant messaging and the telephone means ongoing communications and contact; discussions and agreement on what needs to be done, by when and how, means deadlines can be met and quality work delivered; and face to face contact, when required, means quality time (different to quantity time) with key people.

The EEO Trust (NZ) reports a recent survey showing 90% of New Zealand workers want flexible employment options yet only 13% of employers say they would make this occur. The Randstad World of Work Survey shows over 1/2 the people who work from home were more satisfied when working remotely and not based in an office. To read the report, go to the EEO Trust http://www.eeotrust.org.nz and find EEO Trust Diversity Research page.