The time for reflection is now…
Before I get into this post, I wanted readers to know that it’s very different to my usual posts. It’s shorter but also fully personal and very emotional. I felt I needed to share my thoughts and learnings in the hope that it might help some folks. I genuinely hope it does…
Last week was extremely tough for me, but the weekend was particularly heart wrenching. I had to watch one of my closest friends lose their 3 year old cat. They’d had him since he was 12 weeks old and he’d supported them through one of the toughest times in their life. More broadly he had been there with unconditional love and no judgement. As a cat owner myself and having been instrumental in supporting them getting their newest family member, there was a lot of pride I took in watching him grow up in that house. That made watching him lose the fight against a deadly virus all the more difficult.
Going through that situation with someone I’m so close to and it being so close to home, I was left reflecting on how I support family and friends, and ultimately, how I’m prioritising the different aspects of my life.
When going through a situation so close to home and supporting someone so close to you, it is easy to just watch them go through that pain and simply be sympathetic. It helps you to detach and support the person without getting entangled in the emotions. However, empathy requires a very different level of understanding. It requires you to put yourself in their shoes to relate to their feelings, which allows you to then help them share their pain. I’ve often found distinguishing the terms difficult, but I’ve come across a chart which I feel explains it quite nicely:
During the difficult period, I tried to be empathetic and consider how I’d feel in their position. I struggled with this because of the heartache it caused just considering my pet being in that position. Some may ask why I wasn’t going for compassion. The reason was simply because I didn’t believe there was anything I could do to relieve the suffering, other than be there for them. In the end, I was probably somewhere between sympathy and empathy.
Sunday was a day of reflection for everyone. Loss has always been a very difficult (and somewhat weird) concept for me, so I took the opportunity to think through the habits I had developed whilst being at home and working from home. This went all the way from closing my office door to deny my cat entry when I’m busy, to more fundamentally my work-life balance. I tied in the feelings I had trying to empathise in the moment and then look at how my behaviours were impacting my ultimate goal of looking after myself and spending quality time with those close to me.
Through my reflection, I’ve come up with a few behaviours I’ll start to incorporate into my daily working life and certain things I will no longer do. This goes from keeping a daily journal which I’ll use 5 minutes each morning filling in to no longer shutting the door to my office. I’m hopeful that these small changes will allow me to focus on my core priorities.
One thing I ended up being very grateful for is the focus my business leadership put on wellness (including weekly wellness hours). Having 2-hours a week has really given me a chance to look after myself. However as part of the that wellness advocation, openly talking about very difficult topics and providing community support is really something special. It’s amazing to know that I have colleagues I can talk to openly about these things.
I’m acutely aware that this post comes at a time where a lot of people are talking about Quiet Quitting, a term referring to folks who will only perform the duties specified in their job for the contracted period. Whilst I do appreciate that not everyone necessarily falls strictly within that definition, the ones I’ve encountered have. They’ve often referred to not knowing what they want to do in their life and using the time to reflect on their true passion and calling. I’ve always felt having a purpose and goal in life is important (even if it is very simply to enjoy yourself) but events like this often magnify the importance of this. It really is important to understand what your core priorities are and then use your time to help you achieve or maintain these.
Whilst I can’t fully comprehend that feeling of loss from a family (more specifically one which is so unconditionally loving and non-judgemental), having to support close friends through the process gave me a chance to reflect on my own priorities and what I wanted to do whilst I still had a chance. I wanted to share my thoughts on this in the hope that readers will take a moment to reflect on their own priorities, their own loved ones and any changes they’d like to make. As I said in the beginning, I genuinely hope it does…