Griffin & Tyrrell in ‘How to Master Anxiety’ (2007) draw attention to three 'pertinent Ps' that often lay at the heart of a person’s anxiety – including at work: (1) how Personally I take events; (2) how Pervasive I think the effects will be and (3) how Permanent I think the effects will be. Personalising in this context is a belief that when something I perceive as bad happens, it must have been about me and only about me. I am solely to blame. Pervasiveness is a belief that what has happened has ruined absolutely everything. Permanence is a belief that the negative impacts will last forever.
The key issue here is ‘belief’. As leaders, coaches and OD specialists, how well do we listen out for the implicit beliefs that lay in and behind narratives about the past and present and predictions for the future? They can reveal hidden perspectives, assumptions, values, judgements etc. that influence profoundly how a person, team or organisation feels, behaves and responds to its environment and circumstances. To explore and weigh up personal-cultural beliefs is at the core of critical reflective practice. How do you work with the pertinent Ps?
‘Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting.’ (Kouzes & Posner)
I honestly believed I was following Jesus until I took my first step into the Philippines. I had become a Christian some years earlier and, as such, had tried to centre my life on the Christ of the gospels. I say ‘tried’ because it has been a rocky ride so far. Highs, lows and everything in between. I swing from burning inspiration to faltering faith, from close to God to straying widely off the path. I always struggle with church-as-institution and with my own stumbling discipleship. Then I encounter a poor Filipina, a girl who grew up on a remote jungle mountainside, whose life transforms everything.
She is wild, crazy, passionate, funny and compassionate. Much like Jesus – whom she loves – she both inspires and terrifies me: inspires me by what’s possible; terrifies me by what it may call from me. Her life models her own radical mandate: ‘Whatever status or power you have, use it for those who are vulnerable; whatever money you have, use it for the poor; whatever strength you have, use it for the weak; whatever hope you have, use it to bring hope to those who live without hope. Speak up for justice and truth – whatever the cost. Pray.’ She lives it literally – and that scares me.
Where I see issues, she sees people. While I’m still thinking about it, she’s out there doing it. Her self-sacrificial lifestyle looks and feels profoundly reckless and unnerving. It unsettles me. It alarms me. It evokes a spiritual-existential crisis. It shakes everything in me to the core. Yet it also kindles fresh glimmers of light. I see amazing hope on the faces of people whose lives she touches. I see the ordinary-extraordinary miracles that God performs through her every day and it strengthens my own faith. She evokes a yearning in me to see and love Jesus and the poor more deeply: whatever.
Nick is a psychological coach, OD consultant and trainer, specialising in critical reflective practice.