Thrills, Stuff & Living the Mundane

Thrills, Stuff & Living the Mundane

I am privileged to be doing the work I do - engaging and working with the clients and colleagues I have. It would be a great shame to wake up and find that this is just a dream. Being an inquiring person I check by pinching myself regularly! That said, I am also challenged by what appears to me as clutter in my professional and personal life: redundant and unhelpful “stuff” that I do not value or use but appear unable to give back or discard.

Consequently in between the joy and the gratitude for the work and life I am belssed with, there are episodes of frustration and disappointment when I feel that much of my effort and attention is going into the ungraceful, less useful and unhelpful. It appears that amidst the gems of good work, I have managed to accumulate this other “stuff”: things and activities that simply get in the way of what matters most in the way I live and work.

Much of it this “stuff” clearly does not belong to me... Coming in deceptively benign form, it masquerades as the essential: people I want to see and rendezvous I must honour. I only recognise the “stuffs” true character when I am taken in. I am left lacking in energy; disappointed to have been naively expectant; feeling that my effort has been misdirected; left wanting to be more cautious.

In a recent gathering at a leadership seminar for middle and senior managers drawn from all across the world, I was surprised to find that my experience was by no means unique. The reality is that for most of us there are "gems" that enthral as well as "stuff" that disenchants...

As managers and leaders, our teams and organisations provide countless opportunities for us to experience ourselves at our most useful. We repeatedly find worthwhile places where we can make valued and useful contributions that make a difference to those we work with, lead or serve. Paradoxically, through these self-same episodes we have countless opportunities to feel disillusioned, disengaged, “taken for granted” or even “taken for a ride”.

Faced with disappointment, we then want to withdraw and become more cautious, and all in all less trusting of ourselves and of others. In so doing we succumb to the “stuff” and become less available: less able to make the valued contributions that we alone uniquely can make.

It may be that we should be challenged to imagine what it would be like if we could find ways of staying engaged with and even of loving this “stuff”. Perhaps through it we can find a new openness that is compassionate and connecting. It may be that the experience of “stuff” can make us less comfortable with what we habitually offer and become more curious about what we are reluctant to engage with.

Many leaders I meet have ways of working (often structured by many years of education, training and development) that enable them to address the enthralling and the less inviting actively in their work. For example - the teacher who works with all his students with dedication; and the surgeon who engages with all her patients with alacrity. Our professional ways of working are reinforced by codes of contact; by rules and etiquette that is followed as part of our dedication. But “stuff” challenges us to go beyond etiquette, beyond rules and expectations. It invites us to do what is helpful even when we are uninspired and disappointed by what we experience.  It demands that we seek out what is meaningful and connect with what is essential.

The challenges we all face in integrating the mesmerising with the mundane are due to the fact that life - in its fullness - is essentially made of both.

What is called for is the patience and tenacity to live in and live with both. In facing this, I am not the first to have arrived at this realisation. I am comforted to find that explorers and philosophers, having also wondered, have arrived at much the same realisation. The challenge we have is not what to do with “stuff”, nor is it how to get rid of it or make it more useful. Rather it is how to live in and with it. Perhaps even to feel at home and discover the wonder in it. My! That would be something!

Anthony Kasozi

 

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

                         T. S. Eliot


 

Anthony Kasozi is an experienced coach and consultant; Founder and Director of Quilibra (Consulting and Coaching); and an Associate Consultant and Tutor with Ashridge Consulting and Ashridge Business School, a Visiting Tutor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK) and  Associate of Acceleris Consulting (Switzerland).

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