How to make every Monday a Wild Monday
How I decided to live a wild and precious life within the 9-5 I already inhabit, and how you can do the same
A few years ago, I was sitting on my sofa on New Years’ Day, chatting to my sister and husband feeling a bit glum about the world. We’d had an incredibly busy Christmas, eaten and drunk way too much and I was looking down the barrel of dry January, a busy time at work in a job I didn’t enjoy and my husband being away for several days leaving me quite literally holding the baby.
I asked them what new year’s resolutions they had made and the pair of them looked at me in surprise
‘We don’t have any. Yours should be to get a new job.’
Really? I could do that could I? I could change what I was doing?
I immediately started to think of all the reasons why I couldn’t – I’d done a lot of training to do the job I didn’t enjoy (nine years in all and that’s not counting various Master’s Degrees and Diplomas), could I flush all that down the toilet? The bit of the job I enjoyed – teaching students – I could only do if I continued to work as a GP, and I felt trapped.
There was never enough time to do the stuff I really loved, and I couldn’t think of what else I could do, where I could do it or if anyone would want me to do it.
But still, there was that challenge. I could do something different, Why had I left it so long when for years I had been living a life in which I felt trapped, limited and frankly pissed off?
Then I came across the last line from Mary Oliver’s poem ‘The Summer Day’
‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
That stopped me in my tracks.
She was right, my life is so precious, and I only have one. I have a number of friends who have been through heart wrenching therapy for cancer who can testify to that. I realised that no-one on this earth can plan my life except me, and as such, I am responsible for holding, shaping and making this precious life as wholesome and creative as it can be.
Hold on a minute – don’t you have to do something crazy and incredibly brave to live a wild life? Move to the Alps and set up a business community? Set up a medical programme in Madagascar? Live in the Indian Ocean running a recycling and sustainability project? I have friends who have done all of these things.
This isn’t an option for me, I have stuff going on here – the kids are happy in their schools, my other half runs his own local business plus the fact that, actually, I quite like it here!
So what did I do?
The first step was to own the problem, I wasn’t satisfied, change was needed. I found a coach and started to explore my options, my skills and my passions. I went to see as many people in as many different occupations, workplaces and stages of life as possible to explore what the world really needs.
I put myself out there and tried to be curious about everything. What made people happy at work? What did other people love to do? What were the common causes of pain for people? I began to see a pattern that I had already noticed as a doctor – that people like me felt trapped, overwhelmed and helpless in their jobs.
As a GP, I was constantly signing people of work with ‘stress’, many of them ended up on antidepressants, taking a lot of time off or eventually leaving their jobs. I noticed that a lot of these people needed support to make the changes needed themselves, often in looking after themselves, putting in boundaries, and being able to prioritise their workload. This is something that GPs just don’t have time to offer.
Luckily, part of my job involved teaching medical students about professionalism and leadership and I had notched up quite a bit of experience in how you teach some of this stuff.
I got myself trained further in coaching and team coaching so that I could use this in the real world, I began running wellbeing workshops in organisations and ran training sessions on resilience and coaching. I started to coach teams who were having issues with communication, resilience and workload. I soon noticed that this made a real difference in people’s lives.
But still there was that question – how do you have a ‘wild and precious’ life on a Monday morning in the 9-5 and 24/7 you already inhabit? To find out, I had to go to the mountains.
I was lucky enough to be put in contact with The Happy Start-up School http://www.thehappystartupschool.com who have been grappling with these issues longer than me. They run a retreat every year in the French Alps where a group of people get together to think about how they want to run their businesses, what they want to achieve and how they can do it in a way that is consistent with their values, ideals and approach to life.
After overcoming more logistical challenges than a short expedition to the North Pole, I was able to disconnect from the real world for a week where I experienced first-hand what it would be like to be able to live a ‘wild life’ in a beautiful place surrounded by great people (and yes, great wine and food which always helps).
While I was away, I was able to do a lot of thinking, chatting and reflecting and realised that, for most of us, having a ‘wild and precious’ life will not involve moving away, taking massive risks and starting anew somewhere wild and exotic.
What it would mean however, is living a life true to your interests, passions and callings. It involves making those small changes that enable you to live generously, freely and without inhibition within the life you already have.
So how do we do that?
Well, there’s no silver bullet. There’s no one self-help book that can help you (although I can recommend several – that’s another blog!). But you can do small things to help achieve this:
- Learn to say ‘no’ so that you can say a huge ‘yes’ to the things that matter
My diary used to be open to whatever and whoever asked first. I now jealously guard time off and try to live by the adage ‘It’s either a ‘hell yeah’, or a no’ www.sivers.org/hellyeah
- Take control over those things which you can control and stop stressing over the things you can’t
So your boss has never offered you some extra training to progress at work? Look for the course yourself, find out how much it will be, how much time is needed, plan how others will cover your job, explain why this will benefit your organisation. Make it easier for her to say ‘yes’.
If you work for an organisation which is never going to have the resources to enable you to do what you want to do, then move. You have control over that.
- Do more of the things you love and less of the things you hate
A friend who is a consultant at the local hospital was complaining about how much time she spent in the evenings peer reviewing journals and writing articles. This wasn’t necessary for her particular job, gave her no advantage in her work and was time consuming and boring. She thought it might be good for her career in the long run.
After talking this through she decided to focus instead on teaching and training which she enjoyed doing a lot more and was a lot better at. Her involvement with training eventually got her noticed at College level, increased her influence and helped progress her career.
- Take inspiration from others, the universe, and your own soul
Read some things that were written before computers existed. Uncover some ancient wisdom, practice prayer, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude – whatever works for you to connect with the deeper truths within the Universe. You’ll be amazed at the inspiration and ideas that come to you in these times.
- Work out what your skills and passions are,
Every year, GPs have to undertake an official appraisal. At every appraisal, I had been puzzled by how difficult I found it to stay up to date with the latest guidelines and clinical journals. Was I just lazy? Why couldn’t I do this?
Yet I was constantly reading stuff – just not the stuff about latest treatments for blood pressure or diabetes; it was the stuff about motivation, exercise, the importance of rest, how the brain makes decisions, how to look after yourself and how to change the way you react to stressful situations.
What I was passionate about and interested in wasn’t what I spent a lot of my time doing. It was this mismatch that was causing me the misery and dissatisfaction.
- Work out where your skills and passions overlap with what the world needs
I have a great passion for singing. I do a great ‘Let it Go!’ in the shower. But, I don’t think the world needs another singing Elsa.
Connecting my ideas about personal resilience, health and wellbeing with coaching, leadership development and team resilience in the workplace has been the what the world seems to appreciate from me.
Spend some time thinking about the skills and passions you already have which have been really appreciated by others. Think about what makes you angry in the world – this may be an indication of what you’re the most passionate about.
Find that sweet spot and then go for it!
By taking these small steps in your own world you can begin to live a wild and precious life – but this won’t come to you gift wrapped and ready to be opened. It’s a journey and will take time and effort. After all, the first line of the quote from the poem is
‘Tell me, what is it you PLAN to do’
- Take the time needed to plan
Put time aside to do this, spend time thinking, talk to friends and family, explore. Make a plan.
I can guarantee that it won’t work out in the way that you think it will, but you never know where the journey might take you.
So how did this all work out for me?
My life is not perfect by any stretch of imagination. I still get overloaded, I forget a lot of this on a daily basis (ask my family) but I’m in a much better place – and I’m still on the journey.
I still live in the same place, I still do some of the same things, AND everything is different. I run leadership courses for GPs around the country. I get to go in to businesses and organisations and help people thrive at work. I get paid to share what I’m passionate about!
Oh yes, and I’m still a GP, meeting people who desperately need to make changes to enable them to thrive in their own lives. That hasn’t changed but it’s become part of my story, part of the wild and precious life that I live out every Monday morning.
I founded Wild Monday to help individuals, managers and teams plan to live a wild and precious right where they are, in the 9-5 and 24/7 they already inhabit. I would love it if you would join us in the quest for a wild, and precious life. Do contact us if you’d like to know more firstname.lastname@example.org