Back to Work: Drag or Delight? Find yourself or lose yourself in the daily task

roadworks-signAs we approach September, you may be going back to a regular job, or not.  Either scenario may leave you happy or blue.  August seems a good time to reflect on how work fits into your life.

I observe people talking a lot about work, but in a very selective way.  They talk about what they’re doing, maybe moan about the boss, but rarely say what work really means to them.  I believe that’s because work is so important, so personal, so bound up with their sense of self, that it’s too sensitive to talk about.

In the 1990s I led many weekend workshops on the theme Find Your Gift in Work: these groups gave a safe place and structures to explore how work and life can fit, and I feel honoured to have shared so many journeys.  These taught me a lot too: here are a few highlights:

  • Know what’s holding you back.  Do you have doubts or beliefs that limit you in your work?  For example, some people believe they should not earn more or succeed more than their fathers…
  • Are you re-creating your childhood family at work?  I was amazed in my workshops to see how often this happens.  For example, were you bullied as a child by your father?  Was the family always arguing?  Did you have a habitual role, such as the joker or the scapegoat?  Any echoes in your current work??
  • Reduce your financial needs.  It’s easy to feel trapped or pressured about work because of money needs.  Cut back on your needs, and free up your choices!
  • Understand about human sustainability.  I believe that environmental depletion and pollution has close parallels in human work: this is fully explained in my book, The Natural Advantage: Renewing Yourself.  If your work is exhausting you, you need a systemic view of the problem and how to change it.
  • Believe you can fulfill your passion.  First you need the courage to discover your vision, then you need patience and intelligence to make your dream practical.  You don’t have to jump off a cliff, you can find the right steps…

Whether you’re in work or out of work, if you’re unhappy about the situation, believe you can change it for the better.  And if looking within doesn’t give you the clues, look around you: notice what issues concern or excite you, and explore how you could make a difference.

All of these issues matter even more for most men, as their work is often central to their sense of self.  This is one of the issues you could explore on the weekend of August 28-31, at a weekend led by Alan Heeks and Nick Mabey: Manfulness, Mindfulness, Music and more.  For full details click here

Why Do Men Need Men’s Groups?

Men generally grow up seeing other men as competitors, and mostly have poorer support networks and interactive skills than women. Perhaps that was useful when fighting for the last bison on the plains, but it doesn’t help most men in 2015.

These days, most of us need high emotional intelligence and collaboration skills just to get through the average week. For men, these talents need to be learned in adult life, but where? Men’s groups provide a safe, supportive space for what can be a vulneraElder and the Ashble process.

I have been co-leading men’s groups for 20 years, and I am repeatedly moved by how the safety and simplicity of a circle of men is so affirming. Women don’t realise how much self-doubt most men carry: in a group of men, the first big gift is realising you are ok and accepted as you are. It’s also a great place to learn how to express, hear and interact with feelings.

A weekend retreat with no more than twenty men is long enough for a deep exploration, and there’s also a lot of fun and playfulness that emerges when a bunch of men, even strangers, feel free and safe.

Hazel Hill is a 70-acre conservation woodland retreat centre, near Salisbury, which I’ve been running since 1987. Being outdoors with plenty of space to hang out together round a fire, roam alone, or do some physical conservation work, is an ideal setting for men’s groups, and this wood has been used by many over the years.

On the August bank holiday weekend, I am co-leading a men’s group at Hazel Hill with Nick Mabey. Nick has lots of experience with Mindfulness, and almost none with men’s groups, and I’m the opposite. We’re excited by this combination, and because even we don’t know what we’ll be doing. Our aim is to create a sense of fellowship among the group and with the wood, and then explore the issues and questions which are hot and current among us.