What to do when there is no RIGHT decision – my thoughts while in self isolation COVID-19

As I write this I find myself in self-isolation, working from home, awaiting the test results for COVID-19 of a person who had close contact with a person I had close contact with.  Back up one person, and they tested positive to COVID-19.

It’s been a long week – considering it’s only Wednesday.

I was faced on Monday morning, before I had consumed my second coffee, with having to make various decisions around cancelling a large event that night and closing down a number of services that our workplace provides to the community.

I am not decision phobic – I make dozens of them every day.  Some important and some less important.

But this week has been really challenging. I was forced to make decisions quickly on things where I had only the information in front of me. I made the decisions as best I could – lamenting the fact that, in my mind, there was NO RIGHT decision.  My gut churning as I gave the directions to cancel events and reduce services.

I was nagged by the sense that no decision I could make would be the ‘right’ decision.  I talked this through with a close friend. He said to me “So if there is no right decision, what is there? What is left if there is no right decision?”.

I had nothing. My brain was fried, I was in flight or fight. I didn’t want to make these decisions and I didn’t want to continue making them this week – knowing there were more to come.

Now these decisions aren’t simple. My decision to close a service to our community is not done lightly. I will get as many accolades for each decision as I will rotten tomatoes and vitriol.  That’s par for the course – what I was struggling with was the impact these decisions have on those already impacted by this pandemic in our community.  I close a library, I don’t just close a library – I take away social connection, the ability for our community to borrow books and resources, I take away a safe meeting place.  In making such a decision, I also protect my staff, my volunteers, and ultimately, maybe, I protect the community.

Rock.  Hard Place.  You’ll find me in middle.

That night I was tossing and turning – and then it came to me.

If there are no right decisions – then there also cannot be any wrong decisions.

There can only be the best decisions I can make in the moment – based on what I know at the time.  And personally, based on my values and my love for my people and my community.

And that is how it is.  The best decision.  Not right.  Not wrong.

I’m self isolating (along with 5 of our staff) because that is the best decision we could make at the time. I have intense feelings of letting my teams down. And that’s ok – I can feel those feelings and still know that it is the best decision we could make at the time.

I’m well, I’m pretty fit and I’m not compromised from a health perspective. There are people in our community who are not so fortunate. I’m not staying home because I’m afraid I have COVID-19. I’m staying home because I love the people around me and I want to protect those people who are most at risk.

So as we all navigate these times, let’s know that there are likely no right decisions.  There are likely no wrong decisions.

Please don’t let that stop you from making a decision, the best decision you can make right now with the information you have.

The other insight that has really hit me this afternoon – is this.

It’s not about me. 

It’s about what is right for me to do right now, this minute to take responsibility for my place in this world and my actions.

Here’s to working from home until I know I am not posing a risk to those most vulnerable in my workplace and my community.

I’ve stocked up on the essentials like gin, tonic and corn chips.  If anyone has a spare roll of toilet paper you can leave it on my front porch.

 

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

Ichigo Ichie – Let’s go Moment Hunting

Have you heard of Ichigo Ichie? Have you ever been Moment Hunting?

I recently took a  walk through some of the most beautiful countryside in Japan where I had the privilege of staying in mountain villages with local host families. At one such stay, high in the mountains, I had the pleasure of meeting a lady by the name of Setsuko.  Setsuko shared her wisdom with me on a number of counts, and she taught me about Ichigo Ichie – or Moment Hunting.

Setsuko lives alone.  Her husband died many years ago. She told me she never got to travel but wanted to see the world – so she opened up her traditional home as a guest house to pilgrims on the Kumano Kodo. That way, she told me, the world comes to her every night.

Setsuko’s English is very good.  She didn’t speak a word of English prior to taking in Pilgrims – everything she knows  she learned by listening and speaking with these visitors to her home.

She is truly a woman of the world and she need not leave her dining room.

I’ve always believed the best way to experience a country (or part of it) is to walk it – I would add that staying with generous local people in their homes adds a further dimension and is such a privilege.  I was blessed to meet Setsuko and she remains in my heart.  

 

Ichigo Ichie
Moment Hunting Japanese Cherry Blossoms

What is Ichigo Ichie?

On a wall in the guest room I was sleeping in at Setsuko’s home was a small wooden plaque with some Japanese writing on it.  I asked Setsuko what it said.

She asked me to sit down and began to explain to me that it was Ichigo Ichie – a Japanese four-character idiom (yojijukugo) that describes a cultural concept of treasuring the unrepeatable nature of a moment.

In essence, the message of Ichigo Ichie is that what we are experiencing right now will never happen again.

In living Ichigo Ichie, we are asked to value each moment like a beautiful treasure.

We are asked to become MOMENT HUNTERS. I fell in love with this concept.  Moment Hunting.  It makes me feel a bit like a Warrior on an adventure …..hunting down moments.

Moment Hunting and Ichigo Ichie encompasses both the idea of observing and cherishing each moment, and the practice of harnessing that attention to achieve harmony with others and love of life.

Setsuko told me that when we do this – we are living Ichigo Ichie.

 

Moment Hunting
All those moments to hunt

Living Ichigo Ichie

This hit home for me as I had found myself being extremely present in all my moments along this solo walk along the Kumano Kodo.  Immersed in what my eyes saw, what I could smell, and what I could sense.  What I didn’t know at the time was that I was living Ichigo Ichie.  I was moment hunting.

I’ve committed to bringing Ichigo Ichie back to my day to day life.  I’m a Moment Hunter in training, and I’m excited about this journey.

When was the last time you went Moment Hunting?

What moment is in front of you right now?

Are you present to it fully? Cherishing it? Harnessing that attention?

Are you living Ichigo Ichie?

“Let your life be your Message” Mahatma Gandhi

Written by Michelle McFadyen

Michelle is the founder of Life Support Australia. She is a writer, an adventurer and a traveller, a corporate leader, a student and a teacher. A Strengths Profiler, Conflict and Strengths Coach, qualified Counsellor and Positive Psychology Practitioner,  Michelle’s focus during her extensive career in senior executive positions in the corporate and public sector has always been on people.

Michelle loves to hike and travel and makes this a priority in her life. Her experiences include annually guiding groups across the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, summiting Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mt Kinabalu in Borneo and trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. A solo 920km pilgrimage across Spain has kept those fires alive, along with a recent hike across the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route in Japan.

Learn more about Michelle on the Life Support Australia About page.

Mind your Language – How our words affect our life

How we speak, to ourselves and to others, can have a significant impact on our lives and our perspectives.  It’s time to be a little more conscious and mind our language.  

It is true – our thoughts become things.  What we focus on intensifies.  Our language affects us.  

I love to listen to podcasts on my commute to the office and I try really hard not to get caught up buying the books of every person I hear interviewed on my favourite shows.  But this day, listening to Alicia Dunams on Mark Shapiro’s Are you Being Real? podcast, I couldn’t help myself and I hit Amazon to purchase Alicia’s book as soon as I stopped driving.

Unlike some of my other impulse book purchases, when this one arrived, I dove straight in to it.  It seemed not only inviting, it was also small and looked pretty manageable.  The book is called “I Get To” and is focused on how using the right words can radically transform our lives, relationships and businesses.

Well I’m so happy I exchanged my time to read this book.  “I Get To” –  is full of great advice, stories and anecdotes and I found it very action oriented with small things I could start doing immediately to improve the way I used language, both out loud and in my head.

Now to be clear, I have no affiliation with Alicia Dunams, or with this book in any way – except that I brought it and read it.  So I am only recommending it to you because I really loved it!

There are many gems in this book however I am going to focus on the top three that really landed for me. The ones that I’m taking in to my life every day.

 

Mind your language - tin can communication
What are we telling ourselves?

“I Get To”

So let’s start with the title of the book – “I Get To”.  By changing our language we can also change our perspective.  The basic premise here – and it’s not new – is to approach our language with a pivot from “I should” or “I have to” to using “I get to” instead.  I’m trying this and I can tell you, it definitely changes how I perceive what I’m telling myself and others.  I get to rise early and go to the gym.  I get to go to work today.  I get to cook dinner for my loved ones.  I get to spend time on things that light me up. I  get to do the washing.

I’ve even added to this myself by committing to reduce my use of the word “should” and replace it with “could”.  I could go to the gym.  I could have done that differently. 

Mind your language.  

“Yes, if”, instead of “No, because”

The premise here is that generally speaking, ‘No’ is followed by an excuse whereas ‘Yes’ is followed by a possibility.  So instead of ‘no because’, a ‘yes if’ can change your focus from obstacles to opportunities.  I’m committed to using this in a few corporate meetings to see how it goes over and what it brings.  

Mind you, I am a firm believer in the ‘Hell Yes or it’s a No’ concept- if we are in fact a definite No – then we should honour that – no excuses necessary.

“I’m committed to..” vs “I’m trying to..”

I’m trying to give up smoking, I’m trying to exercise every day.

I have a tendency to keep promises I make to others much more stringently than I do the promises I make to myself.  Gretchen Rubin calls this the Obliger tendency.  You can take her quiz here to see what your tendency is.

I realised that (maybe because of this tendency), I knee-cap my commitments to myself by using the word ‘try”.  That way, if I fail, well….I tried.  A cop out really isn’t it?  Making a commitment to myself however, well they’re strong words and they come with accountability.

So that’s my goal, from now on I’m going to try, I mean from now on I commit, to changing my language from “I’m trying to” to “I’m committed to”.

 

Mind your language - Time for Change
Committed to change

A simple and easy read

There are in all, around 40 tips in the book.  It’s a bite sized, easy read and a really good reminder about how our language, and the actual words we use, if we are intentional, can transform our mindset and our communication with others.

So – the lesson I took away – mind your P’s and Q’s – mind your language and notice the difference it can make in your life.  I’d recommend this read – I’m sure, like I did, you’ll get something from it.

“Let your life be your Message” Mahatma Gandhi

Written by Michelle McFadyen

Michelle is the founder of Life Support Australia. She is a writer, an adventurer and a traveller, a corporate leader, a student and a teacher. A Strengths Profiler, Conflict and Strengths Coach, qualified Counsellor and Positive Psychology Practitioner,  Michelle’s focus during her extensive career in senior executive positions in the corporate and public sector has always been on people.

Michelle loves to hike and travel and makes this a priority in her life. Her experiences include annually guiding groups across the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, summiting Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mt Kinabalu in Borneo and trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. A solo 920km pilgrimage across Spain has kept those fires alive, along with a recent hike across the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage route in Japan.

Learn more about Michelle on the Life Support Australia About page.

 

 

What does a dream coming true look, feel and taste like?

When I was younger I was so in love with the idea of Spain.  I wanted to learn the language, travel to the country, immerse myself in the culture – even since my teenage years.  I wasn’t sure why, not then or as I got older, but I was strongly drawn to the country.  I must admit at the time I really didn’t know too much about Spain, only that I wanted to be a part of it.  In fact, when I was a very late teen, I was so desperately in love with Spain (or the idea of Spain) that I went ahead and got engaged to a Spaniard whose name was Antonio.  Such was my desire for Spain….

Needless to say, that didn’t work out (possibly becoming engaged to someone because you love the country they were born in could work out, but for me, well, no).  But what did work out, after many years, was my desire to travel to Spain.  After years of keeping that dream alive, I left on a jet plane to spend the best part of three months in the country I’d dreamt of since I can remember.

I travelled first to France to start walking the Camino de Santiago Frances Route from St Jean Pied de Port all the way across the country to Santiago de Compostella.  That’s a trek of about 800km.  After that I extended the hiking on to an extended route out to the ocean, the Camino Muxia and Camino Finisterre.

I spent my first 40 days and 40 nights in Spain as a pilgrim, with all of my possessions in my backpack.

 

hay field
Resting wherever I could…

Of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who arrive in Santiago each year on the various Caminos, only about 5% walk on to the coastline with most of these going from Santiago to Finisterre (a 90km extension).  Finisterre was known as the end of the world and for me, it was more important a destination, or completion point, than Santiago was.  However I also wanted to walk to Muxia, a town further north on the Atlantic coastline, and even less than 5%  walk here first, and then on toFinisterre, a 120km extension from Santiago.

Following the Camino my travels took me to Ourense, Salamanca, Madrid, a week long stint in Portugal, Seville and the Andalucían area, and to end the trip, some time in Barcelona.

So did my dream to travel in Spain, walk the Camino and experience the culture and language of this country come true?

Sure.  You can see it did by the previous paragraphs.

But what did it look like, what did it feel like and what did it taste like?  Was it all I dreamt it would be?

What did this dream coming true look like?

It looked like fear sometimes.  It looked like love sometimes.  It looked like Groundhog Day sometimes.

It looked like me with my backpack on, walking 30km a day in the searing heat. Swearing a lot, sometimes.  Other times, just walking and taking every step as it came.

It looked like beauty.  It looked like poverty and despair.

It looked simple, and significant at the same time.

It looked like my comfort zone, and then it didn’t, and then it did again.

Heaven and Hell.  Wonder.

It looked like I thought it might.

It didn’t look anything like I thought it might.

 

jumping
It looked like this sometimes

What did this dream coming true feel like?

It felt like love.

Sometimes it felt like fear.

It felt like loneliness and then it felt like connection and belonging.

It felt frustrating, and it felt freeing.  It felt right, and sometimes it felt wrong.

It felt painful.  A lot of the time.  Blisters, muscle soreness.

It felt joyous.

I felt grateful.  Emotional.  Emotional a lot of the time.

I felt shattered, and also full of energy.

I felt at home, when I wasn’t feeling homesick.

I felt strong, except when I was feeling weak.

Torn. I felt torn.

I felt done – physically, mentally and emotionally.  Then I’d have a beer and a chat to new friends, a meal and a sleep.  And I didn’t feel done anymore.

It felt so right.  Walking day in day out.  Only a few decisions to make each day – where will I sleep, what will I eat?

It felt easy.  It felt hard.

Sometimes I would feel like quitting.

Sometimes I would feel like I could walk forever.

I felt disgust – when watching a bull fight.

I felt overwhelmed. In awe.

I felt brave and full of fear. Sometimes at the same time.

I felt guided.

I felt that the universe was consipiring  to provide me with what I needed. Not necessarily what I wanted.

 

heart
It felt like discovery

What did this dream coming true taste like?

For me, it tasted like Tarte de Santiago.

 

tarte
The taste of dreams coming true

In keeping my dream alive to walk the camino, for many years I’ve been making Tarte de Santiago for my family and friends. A traditional cake based on almond meal originally fed to pilgrims walking. The first time on the Camino that I had a slice of Tarte de Santiago was …well a little surreal for me.  I was alone and in a small village as I took my first taste.  It was at that moment that I understood what a dream that comes true tastes like.

It also tasted like pilgrims meals day in and day out.  And then it tasted like tapas and octopus (not something I would try again) and tortilla and red wine.

It tasted like shared meals with friends. New friends from all over the world.

So what now?

So I am settling in to return to work and back to my life in Australia after fulfilling this lifelong dream which in the end, was exactly everything I expected and dreamt it could be, and at the same time, completely different to anything I expected and dreamt it would be.

It also provided me with more personal growth every day than I could have ever imagined.  I was graced with beautiful new friends, some who I know will be in my life for a long time to come and others who were in my life just for the moments they were meant to be.

 

horse
Ultreya – onwards with courage

My belief in the goodness of people was tested and at the same time, confirmed, over and over again.

My belief in myself was tested, and at the same time, reaffirmed time and time again.

Not everyone will understand my journey.  That’s ok because it isn’t their journey to understand.  It’s mine. And even if I don’t fully understand it, that’s ok too.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.  See what happens.

I know my journey gave me so much.  There is a saying on the camino that “the camino provides”.  I agree and I experienced this day after day.  I have a new saying for the camino to add to that one.  “The camino also takes away”, and that is just as important.

Don’t confuse your path, with your destination.  Enjoy your journey.  Thanks for the memories Spain!

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.