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Navel gazing or essential work?


Now, more than ever, it is essential people who are in a position of leading others to do their inner work It is no longer a nice to do. Yet it is not uncommon for people to think that introspection and getting a handle on ourselves is still considered be a luxury or an indulgence. It used to bother me when I hear 'navel gazing' now I feel annoyed and angry when I hear this because it is precisely this type of attitude that sustains a great deal of unconscious and irresponsible actions. Being human, I own up to many actions my past and present journey of leading that has me cringing at my own lack of awareness or times when I acted in ways which were against my principles but I went along with it because I lacked courage. The difference is, now I am aware of what was happening and over time, I have been able to develop a reflexive ability to reflect, unpack and adjust and yes, that means saying I was wrong or I am wrong and to apologise.


I deliver a lot of workshops to many different groups of people and I am surprised at how much inner work has permeated our individual and collective lives. I think our acceptance of mental health, the need for wellbeing, the value of diversity and inclusion have opened us up to and an interest in our inner world- at least for some. Time and time again, I am struck by situations and difficulties created by a lack of sensitivity to self and others and how, with a little patience and small adjustments, we can make life better for ourselves and others to a very great extent. For example, yesterday, after a workshop on interpersonal skills, I offered to hang back for anyone with still unresolved queries to have some individual time. Someone stayed back. By listening to what the person was really struggling with and to be able to understand what she really needed, we were able to come up with a set of doable things the person could action on. It took 10 minutes. It also took deep listening, a desire for me to truly understand them, to get to the nub of what they needed so I/ we could find a solution that would be a good fit. The person's struggle was about their perceived 'negativity' in response to decisions which cut across some of their values and why they cared so much about what they did. If only their line manager could understand this and could get that all the outwardly expressed 'negative behaviours' were simply reactions from the unmet need of having more information on how the decision was made. So note, it wasn't why the decision was made but how. I think if the management team were able to do this, their working relationship with the individual would have been enhanced.


The above story is an illustration of the difference between a reaction and a response. Reaction is instinctive while response is learned. The inner work is about knowing, within my inner world, when I react, why I react, how I react and when this is needed equally, when I need to respond, how I can do that and what I can do such that my response meets the needs of other and self in a given context.


I will just mention here that our capacity to deal with complexity in the world- not only in the abstract, but in real day to day terms- is, dependent on the degree to which we are aware of the complexity inside ourselves and the extent to which we are open, willing and able to process the dynamics between what is 'in here' and what is 'out there'.


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