16/04/20, Bonnie Clarke


Respond, Reset, Restart, Recovery,

I heard the Scottish Government are using these four words to frame their macro planning as we travel through COVID-19. Respond, Reset, Restart, Recovery and right now this feels really helpful for me as a leader when I am considering my own business planning framework.  I would like today to think about the first of these four words from a personal perspective.  Respond….

I know that there are going to be many times that I have to remind myself to respond to a situation and not react to it with acute emotion. I have noticed that when I feel out of control then this is often what might happen for me – and I imagine many others too. We have all recently been forced to make some difficult decisions really swiftly. Reminding myself to take just a moment of reflection has moved my thinking from reaction to responding.  I have relied on my instinct and my values of caring, making an impact and being responsible to help guide me.  Never more than now have I felt every cell in my body tingle with the feeling of being alive and galvanizing the energy and spirit to do the right thing in the moment, and so remembering to respond and not react has been even more important to me, as that clashes with the speed of change that has happened for us all in the last few weeks. 

My body has often reacted to the tension that we are all living with just now with incredible headaches, not sleeping and backache, but I have responded to this with some conscious self-care tactics. I downloaded The Calm app – which has been brilliant for centering me, helping me to get back to sleep when my mind would otherwise repeatedly replay worst case scenarios over and over.  I have also tuned into restorative peaceful music when I am busy working, lowering my heart rate and calming my breathing.  I have been doing Pilates on-line nearly every day, moving is as important for our wellbeing as breathing and vital when we have to stay indoor and are mentally depleted.

"If I can at least be truthful with myself then I will be emotionally congruent with those around me and I will be able to respond and not react."

I am lucky to have a beautiful horse who I see every day during my hour of outdoor exercise – she is like an extra big dog and needs a walk too. Being with my horse is the antithesis of my work day.  It is a balance in life that I know I am lucky to have and I am so grateful to have her in my life.  She is a sentient being who is like a truth mirror, reflecting my inner emotions so clearly to me.  She sees any emotional incongruence in the moment and she responds to me with a reflected truth that disarms me.  If I show up pretending that I am ok, hiding my inner turmoil locked inside me, my mare knows there is a disconnect. I am aware that my mare doesn’t have words and so uses a more holistic form of communication and assessment, but she nails it every time.  This has taught me a valuable lesson for every aspect of my life, as a leader, friend, daughter, partner; which is to show up being truthful about how I feel and what is going on for me under the surface.  If I can at least be truthful with myself then I will be emotionally congruent with those around me and I will be able to respond and not react. People know when you are pretending, perhaps not exactly what is going on but unconsciously we all sense when something isn’t quite right with someone.

So how does all that I have shared connect with the word RESPOND. We are all living through history and our lives have been turned upside down.  We have been given the gift of time during this lockdown and this has led me to reflect on all areas of my life and how I RESPOND to things is coming into sharp focus.  I want to be the person who has practiced responding and not reacting to all the drama that is unfolding in front of us as we venture through each new day.  I feel lucky, I feel energized, I feel scared and I sometimes feel cognitively unprepared.  I am practicing taking a moment to respond and not react.  To show up emotionally congruent, truthful about how I feel and hopefully this will arm me to make good decisions about the future, be there for my team so that I can respond to their needs and also be able to make the swift business decisions that will stand us in good stead for a prosperous future, having made space in my head moving from reaction to response.

I know that without action this is all just hyperbole and the question is so what?  I know that I need to practice this everyday so maybe thinking about the following little rituals or setting up reminders could help you too.  Why not try some of these.

  • Reflect on the day and write a note of the times you reacted to something – ask yourself what might have happened differently if you had taken a moment then responded
  • Have a Post It on your screen that just says RESPOND – how do I want to show up?
  • When you are on a Teams/Zoom call – speak last and spend more time listening with intent and not thinking about the next thing you want to say.
  • Think about how much of the conversation you are holding, why not try and see what happens if you let others do the talking first.
  • Carve out downtime – a walk without your earphones in – let your brain sink into the rhythm of your walk and enjoy the bubbling sounds of what is around you, try to tune into a bird twittering or the wind gently fluttering the leaves of a nearby tree.  Hunting out natures sounds is an unusual thing for many of us to do, and can be grounding and gives the brain a different focus.
  • Maybe sign up to The Calm App – one of my team has commented to me how helpful this has been, and he wasn’t someone I would normally have thought would be interested in mindfulness.
  • Have a schedule or routine that includes some sort of movement and stretching, sometimes we just can’t be bothered but I know that when I can’t be bothered and just do it anyway I feel so much better.  Action leads to motivation – I remind myself to be kind to my future self, doing this now will make me feel better in the future, even if that future is just 10minutes time. (I keep having to remind myself of this, and even when I don’t mange to actually do it – I still like to remind myself of this personal truth)
  • Finally accept that you are not going to follow through on some things, and that is ok.  Try one thing, practice, and see if it makes a difference, we have been given the gift of a different pace to life just now, we may as well explore and experiment to get the most out of it.

The point of trying these things is to slow our busy minds down so that we have the space to move from an emotional reaction to a thoughtful response. I do hope that some of these ideas are helpful.  I would love to hear how they work for you and if you have any other tips we can share.

Happy experimenting.


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