He sat in front of me, shoulders hunched, moving his empty flat white to the side and said: "I used to love my job, was so proud that I worked for this organisation because I could see the difference it was making in our community. Now it's about the numbers, I constantly feel like I don't know what I'm doing, and that at any moment my job and livelihood could be cut from underneath me - I'm not functioning as well as I could be because of this fear."
I hear this same story countless times at my workshops, and it's not limited to the not-for-profit industry. Most industries are going through a significant transition that feels very chaotic for the individuals working in them. Once a business might've had a focus on the people but, as globalisation becomes the norm, it seems as though the care factor for the human working on the front line has been lost.
At the centre of everything is the human. But I'm noticing a lot of broken humans who feel lost and unsure. They want to blame the chaos and transition occurring around them.
I believe this feeling of 'everything is chaos' is because we're being asked to work from anywhere, and we're not sure of how to cope with this new way of functioning. Gone are the days when our parents had one job their whole life. Some people were taught to do the same. This easily fixable problem is actually that our brains aren't coping with this new way of thinking. But they can, and will. Our brains love working out of habit, a function we teach them. If we don't have to overthink about a situation, it leaves room for being alert when a threat is near.
These days it feels like we're living in a constant state of threat, mainly because we rely on income to ensure our basic survival needs (roof, food, water). When the environment that provides this income feels unstable, so does our brains. This can cause disharmony among peers, and we start focusing on how to survive. Competition and negativity becomes rife. What once might have been a community working together shifts to chaos and survival of the fittest.
You can change this belief. Understanding what chaos we think is in our life is the first step to helping us feel safe, even when external chaos is rife. Here are a few tips:
1. Write down in sections the areas of your life: family, relationships, finance, work, physical, health, spiritual.
2. What's working and not working in those areas?
3. What are one or two areas that need immediate attention?
4. Write one or two smalls steps you can take to address those areas. (It might be as simple as making a doctor's appointment.)
5. Reflect on what you would like each of those areas to look like in two or three years.
When we understand where we are at, our brain feels safe and works rationally. By writing down the threats as you see them, you will notice they are not as dire as you think. Life as we know it is different, but, as a client recently said to me in her epiphany that has shifted her thinking: "I've decided I won't become a victim to the chaos, I'm in control".
Moreover, so are you.
Grace McLean is the founder and CEO of NFP Connect