The Good Work Book Blog
A significant aspect of the work we do at Reach Potential revolves around teaching people how to protect themselves from environmental stress: the effects of disturbed energy generated by both the physical and the social environments. Commonly referred to as ‘atmosphere’ or ‘vibes’, environmental energy may seem an unlikely cause of significant personal discomfort. However, it is a powerful source of inner uneasiness in these times of turbulent change.
Environmental stress, like all other forms of stress, causes the body to respond as if it is in a continual emergency. You go into flight or fight - or the paralysis of a rabbit caught in headlights. When the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol are released continuously, the body's natural ability to return to physiological balance as well as emotional calm and mental clarity is gradually eroded. This leads to a vicious circle in which you need inner balance to find solutions to the stress-creating problems but the stress hormones themselves lessen that possibility.
At the time I am writing this post, extreme environmental stress is being generated by the effects of dramatic Earth changes: earthquakes, extreme and unusual weather events, underground nuclear explosions, and the melting of the icecaps. The magnetic and geophysical stress in Earth itself has an effect on the body itself putting pressure on physiological systems that may, for reasons specific to the individual, already be vulnerable. Fatigue, anxiety, and illness can be the result of environmental stress being added to personal issues.
The loss of body resilience will also diminish your capacity to handle work, financial or relationship pressures because physical weakness inevitably affects mental clarity and emotional balance.
Stress from planetary disturbance creates negative emotional consequences at a community level. As individuals we unconsciously pick up the despair, anxiety and grief that radiate invisibly from groups directly affected by disasters, even if those folk are oceans away. You might experience this distress as washes of ‘inexplicable’ anxiety or disturbed sleep.
If you are skeptical of this statement you can observe for yourself the infectious nature of group emotional energy as it occurs in everyday situations closer to home. We are liable to ‘feel’ with others when we in a crowd of ecstatic fans whose their team has just one a match. Far less happily we will feel sad with mourners at a funeral even when we are not close to the deceased or outraged at violence perpetrated on strangers. Research has also shown that depression in one family member affects the rest of the family. Similarly when a person enters a work culture, she or he will quickly be drawn into that group culture whether that is uplifting or demoralizing. If you are a highly sensitive individuals you will know that your ability to sense group discomfort can be a major reason for social anxiety and/or withdrawal.
The Perfect Storm
In earlier times environmental stress, planetary and social, was largely tolerable. Nowadays the constant onslaught of political turmoil, social breakdown, and technological revolution means that when extreme environmental stress is added to the mix, you are liable to be caught in a perfect storm of chronic or intense anxiety. Even those folk who are basically resilient to negative energy are wearied by it. In short, if you are feeling fragile at the moment you are not alone.
However, it is possible to take measures. If you wish to create a positive environment insulated from world or community stress the requirement to learn how to take appropriate measures to protect yourself from it is not really optional: it is essential. Without such skills it is difficult to cope with crisis, let alone problem solve.
There are many ways to lower the effects of environmental stress but you must begin with your own anxiety first. In doing that you will create a micro environment of calm for others to benefit by. An effective technique for soothing personal stress can be found in The Good Work Book (page 66.) This visualization when repeated regularly also gradually trains the brain to let go of stress quickly.
Are you feeling that you have lost direction in life? Are you suffering physical, emotional or mental stress that makes no sense because you believe you doing all that you can to stay healthy, resilient and purposeful? Chances are you may be suffering the effects of spiritual stress.. It’s a form of stress that is all too common in these crazy times when the old ways of approaching life are no longer working out.
Of all the types of stress, spiritual stress is the least recognized and, therefore, least understood. It arises when you have unconsciously adopted a position about living your life that lacks an effective balance between your current human needs and the spiritual imperative to grow beyond the present into a more authentic expression of your unique self. This imbalance is reflected in a distressing sense of powerlessness to create the well-being in life that you want.
A human being’s spiritual nature expands through seeking opportunities to learn how to give and receive Love in practical ways, as well as to operate from the heart-connected wisdom of the higher self. This urge exists throughout life because it ensures happiness and fulfillment no matter what your age. However, if some part of you is consciously or unconsciously fearful of, or unwilling to, accept such growth, spiritual discomfort becomes inevitable because the resistance closes access to the insights that will relieve difficulties. People suffering this kind of stress are liable to feel blocked at every turn.
Such resistance has a number of sources, but the overall effect is create a powerless life that is either a plodding, resigned existence with little expectation of improvement, or one which relies on spiritual fantasy to create a (false) sense of connection to higher wisdom. In the latter case, a person believes they are being supported at a spiritual level because they engage in spiritual practices, but the facts of their lives suggest otherwise; their life, to a significant degree, does work as if they are blessed.
Spiritual stress is hard to pick up because once it sets in it cascades into other types of stress, especially mental and physical problems, so that the symptoms described here are not necessarily definitive. Note carefully: Suffering one or two of these problems is not enough to be diagnostic. However, some of its characteristics are: mental fogginess or disorientation; self-hatred; a sense of loneliness; over-sensitivity that causes social withdrawal; self-punishing behaviours; sadness and grief at a feeling of loss of God; and finally ego-driven conflict with others showing up as rigid self-righteousness or victimhood and blame. Spiritual stress leads to many dangers and needs to be addressed both quickly and appropriately.
If you wonder if you might be suffering spiritual stress, the following questions may be helpful.
• Do you have an underlying unease that what you are doing is not ‘right’ for you but are confused about what to do? Examples: Does the work you are doing feel ‘stale’ whereas once it was enjoyable? (This question does not apply to work that you know you dislike and already have active plans to change it.)
• Does the demands of your job offend your sense of what is a genuinely beneficial relationship to the people you serve?
• Are you acting out of old attitudes that no longer fit with the kind of person you need to be in order to have a happier, safer or freer life?
• Are you tired of self-destructive habits, behaviour or thinking that no longer suit the more loving and healthier person you now want to become?
• Do you OFTEN experience self-doubt and/or self-abusive thinking?
• Do you feel you lost and without spiritual support or direction?
If you answered yes to several of the above questions, you may be suffering spiritual stress. It’s time to commit to action. In particular, you should invest in any kind of spiritual practice that draws you to your inner calm on a regular basis AND also develop those practical competencies that may be needed to empower you in specific areas of stress such as work, relationships or health. Once you genuinely commit to action, your higher self will put you in the way of opportunities to get you on track again. It may take time to reconnect with your inner centre where you can feel the calm and stability that are the signs of being spiritually balanced, but you will get there.
If you are unsure of the cause of any kind of unrelieved stress, co-author of The Good Work Book, Fiona McDougall is gifted in being able to diagnose the precise source of a person's discomfort, and give reliable guidance on the best ways to address it. You can book a short Skype session with her or email her for further details at email@example.com
© Siramarti Publishing Pty Ltd
Changing one’s life in order to improve it is like planning for a necessary holiday to an unknown foreign country: time consuming and uncertain. You feel exhausted and Spain sounds a great place to go for refreshment, fun and drinking sangria. But then the questions pop up. When is the best time to go? Can you afford it? Will you enjoy Spain enough to justify the effort of getting there? Wouldn’t it be better just to hang around at home and eat mac and cheese instead of being subjected to some strange cuisine that might just turn out to be bull’s testicles in sauce? In short, is a change of scenery really worth it?
It’s no wonder that many people resist making any change at all even if their current situation is quite dire because of the uncertainties that go with it. They fear jumping from an increasingly hot frying pan into a hellish fire. However, failing to take charge of your life when it is obvious that change is needed, it is like refusing to take a health giving holiday for fear of imagined disasters: at best you will end up with a narrow and restricted existence, at worst life will thrust change upon you that you are totally unprepared for.
Faced with the unknown consequences of any choice, whether it is a holiday, a change of job or lifestyle, there are two possible approaches: either plan the next move within an inch of its life, or choose to feel the fear and do it anyway ignoring that the possibility that the fear might hold a useful cautionary note.
The latter method is very tempting when you are desperate, or young and foolish. It has minimalist simplicity: I want out of the place I am in and this is the way I am going to do it. Don’t think any further. Knock yourself out.
Older and/or wiser people prefer to canvass the implications of any possibility to see what problems might arise before initiating any change at all. They fall into the trap of trying to ensure that every foreseeable eventuality is covered. Unfortunately, plans for change only go so far.
On a recent trip to Vietnam, I took the mature approach. I checked out most of the factors that might cause me discomfort but I overlooked just one thing: the humidity levels at the time we chose to go. Thirty-three degrees Celsius sounds delightful but, trust me, it is not necessarily so if humidity hovers around the 90% mark! I sweated so much my hair stuck to my skull as if I had just emerged from a shower without a towel; kindly strangers in the street offered me bottles of mineral water, while vendors of fans swarmed around like Australian bush flies. So I proved the validity of Murphy’s Law for the zillionth time. Life is a wild ride and if anything can go wrong, it will.
Nevertheless, change in life is inevitable. Unlike holidays you can’t choose not to go forward; therefore it is best to learn how to make change work for you. The trick to working with it is to take basic precautionary steps to ensure you will end up where you want to go in relative safety: if you want to go whitewater rafting down the Amazon, you need appropriate gear and preparation. But once the choice is made, take courage to move forward upon your decision. It is true that the adventure will throw up the unexpected. However, human beings are blessed with a wonderful ability to create safety nets through flexible thinking to solve immediate problems. Changes in life, even those that bring some discomfort, always enrich and educate so long as you take responsibility for making them as positive as possible as you go along. I survived Vietnam humidity by cycling between dehydration tablets, coconut water, air-conditioned buildings, the hotel swimming pool, and cold beer. I even worked it out after three days that the midday sun is not the best time to go sightseeing. (I admit to being a bit slow on the uptake there).
Like travel to foreign lands, the value that changing an unsatisfactory situation can bring is never obtained by simply dreaming about it or wishing for someone to take you there. The courage to change requires both responsible action and trust but it brings with it vitality and invaluable experiences with it.
If you are a person currently facing a need to change and anxious about the consequences of doing so, the brain reprogramming visualization, Releasing Fear of Change, page 87, The Good Work Book, helps to relieve known and unconscious anxieties.
© Siramarti Publishing Pty Ltd
Recently my husband and I enjoyed a delightful breakfast in a local café that offers particularly good food. We sipped our lattes and munched on eggs and bacon (him) and gravalax and potato croquettes (me) companionably. We gossiped about his work and my plans for my future. We talked family matters and our plan to add a new fur family member to it. It was a lovely experience in which I could rightly say that all was right with my relationship world.
Then we drove home and because it was the weekend when we got out of the car we spent a moment or two surveying our backyard, which has yet to be developed into a formal garden. It has a couple of raised vegetable beds, a row of lemon trees in pots, a heap of discarded rock and unsightly piles of second hand building materials set alongside an ill-tended compost heap.
I stared at it hopelessly. The fact of the matter is that this sight had assailed my eyes for the past 10 years and more. Why?
I could say that it was due to the fact that all our spare cash had been earmarked for renovations on our old Federation house. I could say that establishing a garden requires a lot of heavy manual work that I am not suited to. I could say that my husband’s and my own time has consumed by activities that are necessary to create an income. I could give many excuses, but the real reason that the garden has not progressed is because we do not work well together.
This problem was manifested in its essence on this particular morning.
I said to my husband, ‘I have been thinking that we need to design this area soon.’
He replied, ‘Oh yes, well, I have done that already. This is what I am planning.’
He strode forward and measured out a length of grassy sward that lies beyond the back verandah.
‘I’m going to run a retaining wall along here. The steps from the verandah will go along from there to there.’ He waved his hands to indicate his scheme. ‘The vegetable beds will be extended and I’ll put the new ones closer together.’
It was clear to me that a vision of this scheme was clear in his mind but it was considerably less clear in mine owing to the fact that I had never been involved in this plan. I was scrambling to make personal sense of his ideas and to engage in them.
As I have a natural tendency to look at lines and proportions, at the flow of paths and buildings that visually connect parts of a garden its various features, I translated his scheme into my own aesthetic perspective. It seemed to me that the location of his proposed retaining wall would give more visual dominance to the vegetable garden than to the extended area beyond it which looks out to a fine country landscape. In my own mind I saw the extended area as being more important to the pleasure of the garden than the vegetable patches. But in the speed of the exchange, I could not articulate that. I resorted to an immediate objection
I said, ‘I don’t know that I think the retaining wall should go there. Why not two or three metres closer to the house?’
My husband’s hackles immediately rose. ‘Why do you want that?’ he said in the tone of one whose arms are raised in pugilistic fashion.
‘Because I think the proportion of the garden will be wrong.’ I replied, no doubt in a tone equally defensive.
The conversation thereby degenerated into an argument about who was rigid and who was not listening, and who knew the most about design and who did not. I threw my hands up in resignation and my partner raced off to the next-door neighbor to smoke a cigarette he knows I dislike.
So it was that after a harmonious breakfast our pleasant connection was brutally cut. And of course the plans for the garden are liable to have been put on hold for another 10 years.
This story of conflicting visions for work, differing intentions, unacknowledged capabilities, mental rigidities, ego and poor communication strategies is repeated with far worse consequences the world over. The potential for the Good Work of one individual to be enhanced, respected and incorporated into the Good Work of another is negated on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, knowing how to develop a co-creative vision for work projects that harness the different dreams, perspectives and skills of all those who will contribute to it is a rare skill in a world where people still prefer and are familiar with leaders who will leave them little personal responsibility for outcomes.
In our sequel to The Good Work Book, I plan to tackle the difficulties inherent in creating co-creative relationships. (Readers will be pleased to hear that I aim to have my own backyard in order before we publish it. :-) I have just one principle in mind when I offer our guidance to other people: I have to have proved it works.)
In the meantime, I would love to hear your suggestions or personal experiences about the contentious issues of working relationship that you think should be covered in the new publication. Please add a note in the comment column.
When people complain to me about their jobs they often describe their problems in general terms: the boss is unappreciative, the pay isn’t good enough, or colleagues don’t communicate adequately. They will often say that they are looking for a dream job, but find it difficult to describe what it would look like. This is when I find that identifying the flipside of their stated dissatisfactions is the surefire way to uncover want they really desire for work: appreciation for effort, adequate financial reward, or a working environment in which communication is clear, comprehensive and timely. Put in those terms, clients can usually describe how wonderful it would feel to have the relief and pleasure of such possibilities.
Using the flipside technique to discover one’s dreams is almost too easy. The real difficulty lies in how to bring these dreams into form. And this is where the generalized nature of dreaming for a better future has a great disadvantage; due to the inherent largeness of dreams, they often seem so distant or unlikely that they are abandoned as unrealistic or compromised until they lose their essence.
The trick to materializing dreams, however, is to move from the right brain imagining of beautiful possibilities to left-brain practicality. To do this, start by pinpointing the tangible examples of your generalized complaints. If the boss is unappreciative, how does her exact behaviours demonstrate that? Does she criticize and rarely praise? Is she unaware of the extra effort you have put in or the positive results of a project you have participated in? How many extra dollars do you need to make the pay ‘enough’? What small change in communication methods or style do you need to make your job easier?
Once you have identified how your dreams look like in practical terms, you are in position to turn them into goals that you can act upon. You can ask the boss to reflect on what aspects of your latest work she likes, or for a pay rise that moves you a little in the direction of the security you want. You ask a colleague what he needs from you that would help him communicate more effectively.
Unfortunately achieving dreams in this way does not appeal to the impatient self who wants a miracle to drop from the sky. It does not feel satisfied by a small improvement in matters. It forgets that nothing on earth is created that is not achieved by one small step followed by another one. Impatience undermines the persistence required to see real results.
More importantly, however, is the fear of taking responsibility for the small step. It is often scary to commit to asking for or creating a change. It needs courage and skill to speak up and to ask for what we want. Many fear being judged or even punished for asserting their needs. It also means knowing how to present our needs in a way that does not threaten the other person or violate their own needs. Usually it means persisting until we get what is rightfully ours. This is the reason why The Good Work Book provides so many techniques to make creating change easier and less stressful.
One step at a time is not glamorous. It can seem but a drop in the ocean of discontent but it is worth reminding oneself regularly that every time you manage to create a small positive change, the closer you are to achieving the conditions of life that are part of your bigger dreams.
And every time that happens, you have contributed to the making of a happier, safer or more effective world. Your own personal dreams, ordinary though they may appear, reflect wider human and spiritual yearnings. They are your own contribution to creating the kind of wider world we want: a working world of personal respect, security and interactive harmony. A world of Good Work.
© Siramarti Publishing Pty Ltd