Firstly, there was no agenda, so I had no idea what I was turning up to, challenge number one. I had heard rumblings but intentionally ignored them and went with a open mind.
Having completed the two day training and having a chance to reflect I am still unsure on what I got from the training. There were a few valuable exercises but nothing new and frustratingly the exercises lacked real work life application. We talked a lot but whenever we asked how this would translate to a work situation the question was avoided. Challenge number two.
However the main reason I found the training challenging was that day 1 was all about self. I get mindfulness and getting in tune with your breathing - which was how we started the day. But then it took a turn, we had to focus on our personal goals for the next year, 5 years and 10 years. When I say it took a turn, what I mean is we had to think about these goals and then share them with our colleagues. That's quite the turn!
Here's the thing: I talk to Laura about our future plans, I talk to friends and family BUT I do not welcome the opportunity to talk to colleagues. Especially colleagues who I barely know and in some cases I'm senior to. I think I would have preferred talking to strangers.
These colleagues then became people we were accountable to, people who would know if we succeeded or failed. People who we were giving permission to check up on us in future. It was awful.
My goals are no big secret but if I fail I wish to do so privately. I don't want random colleagues feeding back on my personal success.
It wasn't just me who was uncomfortable. Imagine if someone had just broken up with a long term partner - their goal would be to find happiness and get through the next few months, not think of the next 5 years! How can you do that when you don't know what the next 5 months look like?! I didn't like that people were put in that position.
For me it brought up the fragility of life, when health - yours and others - is out of your control. Looking 5 years ahead could mean looking forward to a time without someone - why would you do that?! That kind of thinking does not work for me. In fact, it upsets me. I can have a rough plan but I don't wish to visualise it or pin all my hopes and dreams on it, I'd rather enjoy the 'now' and focus on the immediate future.
How does someone who has lost a loved one and is dealing with that, look ahead and plan for a future when they haven't finished grieving?! I feel like some pre-training due diligence could have prevented the facilitator opening up uncomfortable situations for some including me.
Outside of the big picture, heavier stuff, there were also a lot of people who had goals to give up work - this was a work training session and here I was helping guide someone to a future without work. I was confused. How was this valuable?!
Not only that, but throughout the training we had to take a number of moments to acknowledge our breathing and enjoy being present - I get that. It's something Laura and I actively work on - being present. Then we had to be grateful that 'everything in the here and now is great' - I didn't necessarily agree with that! Maybe it was the cynic in me but the more times the facilitator stopped us to say that the less great I got. The first time I was like 'actually I'm not great, I'm super stressed and owe one of the people in my team some info and I know not getting back to them is putting them in an awkward position'. It changed throughout the day to 'right now I could be clearing my inbox and making sure I am ready for the weekend', whatever the thoughts they were far from 'right now, everything is great'.
The best part of the two days was the debrief after the first day with a colleague I would put in the 'do want to get to know / friend' category. We got a drink and sat and enjoyed the view. We shared our thoughts on the day and decided that our main lesson was to give ourselves more time and space to think. Not to plan just to clear our thoughts. There is something about the sea and the beach that makes you feel so small and insignificant and some times that's nice. It makes you think without forcing you to write goals. It almost forces you to be present and acknowledge your feelings and accept that sometimes it's okay not to be okay.
In fact just like the waves kiss the shore it puts in perspective that you know that putting one foot in front of the other you'll move. Just by breathing you can make it to the next hour. We read Byron poetry and relaxed. I hadn't taken the opportunity to do that in weeks and it felt good.
This was my favourite verse from The Sea by Lord Byron:
You can find the whole poem here.
It also made me reflect. We have spoken in this blog previously about how I can be a bit of a dream killer when it comes to Laura and a bit too much of a realist, but here's the thing, looking back my life has been infinitely happier because it is free from expectation.
If I look back 5 years - and I can on this blog - I have done more, seen more, been to more places, experienced more than any dream could have predicted. I married someone better than I could have ever dreamed of marrying and do a job I enjoy more than I could have ever hoped. When Laura and I met in London we would have never have even thought about Birmingham let alone thought we would have moved here.
Now I'm not saying that you should have no expectations on anything or anyone, what I'm saying is don't limit yourself with expectations. Don't set goals and refuse to deviate. What's that phrase - life happens when you're busy planning for it or something. Sometimes when you're not okay it's fine to screw up the plans and make new ones. Sometimes it's okay to change the plans and sometimes it's okay to not have plans at all. Just take life as it comes and make the goal to survive and when possible, thrive.
Okay so the post took the turn of a rambling, but I was reminded by Australia's R U OK? day on the 14th September that the reality is that not everyone is okay all of the time - and that really is okay.