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

 

 

I’m off to see my psychologist – and other things I say as I leave the office…

We need to step up – we can all help to reduce the stigma around mental health. The question to ask yourself is – in what way can I uniquely contribute to this issue?

There’s been a lot of progress around reducing the stigma associated with mental health – but did you know there’s still some people who shirk at the mention of a visit to the psychologist?

You might be one of them.

I was one of them.  I always thought you only saw a ‘shrink’ if you didn’t have your shit together. In fact I wrote about my first time a few years ago – you can read that here.  To say I was nervous is a massive understatement.

On an otherwise ordinary Monday morning  I read an article on Linkedin which was titled “Australia needs more mentally ill managers”.  Interesting title so I took some time to read it.

The article quotes David Westgate. 

“Mental health, especially within the workplace, will continue to thrive until senior executives stop pretending they are impervious to such problems. Nothing is going to change until they show that they are mere mortals like the rest of us”.

It goes on to suggest that corporations spending time, money and energy on courses like Mental Health First Aid and the like are futile exercises if those above them fail to raise their hands too.

The author of the article,  Jerome Doraisamy, goes as far as to say that if we, those of us in senior executive positions, won’t fess up, why on earth should Sally from accounts?

“Senior managers with the courage to admit they have battled demons, or still do, will win the undying gratitude and respect of those they lead.  Those who play out their careers in denial, will simply reinforce the stigma that mental illness is for the weak and something to be ashamed of. That success and mental illness are mutually exclusive.  And that’s rubbish.”

Whoa – that’s a lot to deal with on a Monday morning.

Later that morning

Later that morning our Employee Wellbeing team member sent an all staff email out advising that our organisation’s Employee Assistance Program providers (a psychology/counselling service) would be coming to our town and employees (and/or their loved ones) could come and have a confidential face to face session.  This is of course in addition to this service being available all year round through a phone call.

I almost deleted the email after I read it.  But I didn’t.  I took a deep breath, recalled the article I’d read earlier that morning, and pondered some recent incidents in our workforce and in our small community.  A team member dying from suicide, a tragic car accident taking the lives of three vibrant young people, years of drought, devastating bush fires, severe water restrictions….the list went on.

I also remembered we were having four funerals this week alone – three from one accident.  

My heart ached for our team members who were some of the first on the scene to the most recent tragedy.  Not their first, won’t be their last.  These are men and women who signed up to work in roles that did not contemplate their having to attend the site of accidents and other tragedies.

It made me angry – at first.  Seeing the effect this particular event had on some of our team – extending beyond just those who were on site.  We needed to keep them away from this – this isn’t what they’re meant to be doing.

That’s what I was thinking – at least until I shut my mouth and opened my ears and my heart.  When I did this – I heard a different story to the one I was telling myself.

You see, these men and women, fully aware that they didn’t sign up for this type of work, wouldn’t have it any other way.  Of course, they’d all love there to be no need for their attendance at such incidents, but there is – and when I opened my ears and listened I understood.

They don’t want to be there, they don’t want to see what they see, and they don”t want to feel what they feel – and they don’t want anyone else to have to do this either.  They also see themselves as a part of this community – and this thing they do – this dreadful part of what they do – they consider as a service to our community in times that are unbelievably difficult and challenging.

Wow – paradigm shift.  I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t see this before – I was in protective mode.  I needed it gently explained to me.    I am so glad someone took the time to do so for me.

So had I continued with the story I had crafted,  I would have pushed to have our staff not be involved at all – until I listened and understood.  Now my focus is on continuing to support these men and women in our teams before, during and after they attend these incidents.  To work as best we can to reduce their exposure.  To be there – for them – whatever they need.  To recognise both what they do and more importantly, why they do it.

 

Mental Health Awareness
Let’s raise our hand

Back to the email – am I willing to raise my hand?  

So instead of deleting the all staff email about our counsellors coming to town – I clicked on “forward” and sent another all staff email – not something I do lightly with over 140 staff – but this time it was coming from me, in a senior executive position. I was raising my hand.  

In the email I spoke of our recent tragedies, our awareness of the affect this has had on our teams and our community.  I spoke of my regular psychologist visits – this part I deleted and retyped a few times before deciding to leave it in there – to raise my hand so to speak.  I urged our team members to consider making an appointment and I offered to speak to anyone about the service we offer at any time.

Then I clicked on “send”.

Now maybe you think this was a good thing to do, and maybe you don’t.

All I  know, deep in my heart, is that I couldn’t hit the delete button, I couldn’t walk away from this.  I couldn’t not sent this email when our community and our workforce were dealing with so much.

If one person, just one, can read that email, say to themselves “wow Michelle sees a psych? She looks like she has it all together” (a comment I receive quite often) or can read on, open the brochure or maybe store the phone number away for later use, then I’ve made a small dent.  If one person books in for a session, if one team mate mentions it to another, if one person stops me in the tea room for a chat – then I’ve made a dent.

I’m not out to change the world , I’m still learning my place in it.  I am out to dent the world where I can.  If that means raising my hand and sending these emails, if that means sharing parts of my journey, the darker parts,  in support of others I care about, then I’m going to do that.  

What are you going to do?  What can you do to support the breaking down of the stigma that remains around mental health?  You’re contribution will likely be different to mine – but it will be a contribution all the same.

“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

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.