You know that voice in your head, that awkward niggle, that sinking feeling in your gut. It’s there for a reason as I found out big time.
In my Pushing The Edge chat with Andy Vasily – he talks of a frequent push from within
I just felt something was pushing me…
I just felt this constant push and a prodding. And kind of a continued push to kind of clarify my purpose.
And I didn’t know what that was. And with my close friends and my wife and a few other people I would always talk about this and we would have these great discussions.
Andy goes on – to speak about a major life incident – that provides to be a turning point in his life.
It’s this turning point that leads him to clarify what was at the heart of that constant pushing and prodding from within.
You can listen to my conversation with Andy Vasily by clicking the play button below (or listen on ITUNES HERE)
Andy’s push is connected to clarifying his purpose in teaching.
I want to take a look now however, at another kind of push from within.
This time – a voice or feeling deep within you – that functions as a signal or warning to you.
Here we go.
You know that voice in your head, that feeling in your gut:
- that tells you this is not good for you;
- that tells you this is taking too great a toll;
- that tells you it’s not gonna get better;
- that tells you to Get Out and Get Out NOW.
This is my tale of over-riding that voice, that gut feeling, and almost hitting rock bottom at work.
It certainly doesn’t end there though.
For this post, is also a tale of self-discovery and reinvention.
Indeed the paths I’m exploring today, along with my changed mindsets are a direct result of this turbulent period.
And there’s many tips for you along the way.
Above All, Trust Your Gut.
Ego versus Gut
It was to be a new chapter: a job that was quite unlike anything I’d done before.
I was excited to be branching out, to be developing a new suite of knowledge and skills. I couldn’t quite believe that I had this opportunity.
The clues that something was amiss however, soon became apparent.
They were little clues at first. Yet day by day they mounted.
It didn’t take long to realise that I’d stepped into an ALMIGHTY MESS – Culturally – Systemically – Process-wise – Communications-wise – Respect-wise…
The MESS went on and on and on. So much so that it was hard to see actually where the MESS ended, if it indeed did.
It was just there – always there – seemingly infecting everything and everyone.
And that included me.
Now I’m generally a pretty ‘up’ person – so when an obstacle arises I’m thinking ‘hmm how can we navigate over – around – or through this obstacle?’
And so I brought my A Game and went all out to try and sort through the ALMIGHTY MESS I’d stepped into.
I was so $#!!** determined that I wouldn’t let it beat me, that little by little we’d start fixing things, and lay a new foundation for a promising future.
YET no matter what we did – no matter the progress we made – it was never enough.
Just when there’d be a moment of YAY, someone’d wheel in another pile of X$$!!%% to fix – then another and another and another…day after day after day.
And that’s not even factoring in the incredibly demeaning and hostile communication that we regularly experienced – day after day after…
Night after night I’d go home, literally feeling crushed.
This culture , this job, this way of treating people so wasn’t me.
Night after night, I’d lay awake. Only sheer exhaustion would eventually give me respite.
Upon waking, I’d feel nauseous knowing what I was about to put myself back into. I’d be in knots as I drove to work.
I was becoming a shadow of Positive – Creative – Outside The Box, ‘Let’s see what we can do Greg.’
Eventually my incredibly patient and supportive partner (Simon) said:
What the f*!! are you doing Greg?
Get the f*!! out of there. You’re worth much more than that job.
Deep down I knew he was right.
I was stubborn though, so determined to prove that I could do it. That’s what Greg did. Right?
I didn’t want to be seen as a failure.
I didn’t want to contemplate what was next for me cos I had no idea.
I put my ego ahead of my well-being and relationships.
A glance back at the most frequent phrases and words in my journal at the time – tell the story:
overwhelmed…anxiousness…. panic…will I lose it?…annoyed…..exhaustion…anxiety… frustration…. emotionally strung out…angry…..when will this end?…frustration…p**!! off….wrung out….it feels like it’s never going to end.
It didn’t end.
The mess – the dysfunction – the hostile culture continued unabated. Indeed it seemed to ramp up more and more each day.
And I continued to override that voice within – that voice that had become louder and louder.
I continued to override that nauseous, irritating feeling within my gut.
I continued to let the concerns and fierce challenging by my loved ones pass me by (although I knew they were right).
AT WHAT COST?
I kept showing up, hanging on and on and on…but by what?
And WHAT WAS LEFT OF ME?
Weeks passed…..TILL that one day, when enough was enough.
THAT WAS FINALLY IT…..
Without a PLAN B and Without having FIXED the situation, I CHOSE ME.
It so wasn’t easy. I felt nervous as heck, sick almost.
But that moment of walking out the door for the final time,
that moment of getting into my car and driving the X$##!! away
I’ll never EVER forget that.
I said YES to ME.
I said YES to Simon and our relationship,
I said YES to Possibility.
That was then, this is Now
In moving forward and disrupting the path that was clearly injurious to my health and relationships, I had to confront three key ways of thinking:
Work is not your life. There needs to be more to your life than work.
It’s not all about YOU. You can’t do it all. Step back, detach.
You need to be okay with it not working out – with it being less than perfect or with it failing – and not keep on pushing.
It took a while… but I did get a grip and disrupt my taken for granted ways in taking on board these ways of thinking. Or perhaps more appropriately, these ways of being or living.
It took a while….but I rebuilt and found me again – And I began to trust in taking a risk or chance once more.
Where I am today – the myriad of pathways I’m exploring – the communities that I’m part of – are no doubt influenced by this turbulently challenging period.
And as I reflect, there are clear shifts in my business as usual approaches – in terms of:
- Getting better at saying ‘No’;
- Setting more defined boundaries;
- Knowing that my spirit – my being must be valued and nurtured, must be given space for expression; and
- taking a punt on that which fires me up and ignites me;
- even when there is no certainty, or no clearly defined way forward;
- even when it’s departing from a conventional path.
- Surrounding myself with positive, challenging people – who get me, or are at least willing to give it a go;
- Being mindful of what I’m feeding myself: mentally, physically, socially, environmentally….
- Recognising the value of iterating – that it doesn’t have to be A1, 110% straight up – that there’s value in shipping it and improving as I go;
- Learning to trust my gut feeling and running more often with it.
Trust Your Gut Resources: Part A
Now I’m not normally a journalling type but this daily practice during this murky, chaotic, and unsettling period actually helped me.
It gave me a way to detach (for brief periods), a way to critically unpack my self-talk, and a means of finding what was important to me again.
Each day after work, I’d complete the following four stage process:
1. Feelings: Here I’d list the various feelings that came up when thinking about work.
2. Event: Here I’d list the events (past, present or future) that were associated with these feelings.
3. Self-Talk: Here I’d jot down all the self-talk that was flitting through my mind.
4. Critical Reflection: For each example of self-talk I’d ask, Is it true/helpful?
- Then I’d ask, Is there an alternative way of thinking – or another way to view or read this situation?
- More particularly, Can I view this situation in a more positive, agentic way?
Some Associated Journalling Tips:
- Commit to writing regularly.
- Write openly and honestly, writing whatever comes to mind (no self-censoring).
- Write in a space that lifts and inspires you (especially given some of the darkness you may be writing about).
Trust Your Gut Resources: Part B
Check out three episodes of my podcast, Pushing The Edge with Greg Curran
- Take Care of You with Jason Borton – Jason has some particularly useful advice and challenging questions to share – in respect to teacher well-being.
- Reach Out to Thrive with Samantha Bates – Sam tells us how she navigates her self-doubts, and challenges her negative self-talk.
- Turning Points in Our Teaching with Andy Vasily
There’s further tips, insights and practical books to dip into via my Resource Pages below:
About Me: Greg Curran
As an educator with 28 years’ experience, I have a passion for Change and Innovation.
With a PhD in Education, Counselling and Coaching qualifications I have made it my business to understand change and innovation at a theoretical and practical level.
I have held leadership and co-ordination roles, having lead education reform at a policy, curriculum and staff development level.
Innovation has been a key aspect of my teaching, presenting, research, and writing within the Education sector.
For queries, Contact me here.