Troublesome knowledge (1)

In this blog I am proposing lines of enquiry for the future – suggestions and possibilities – none of it set in stone but they are there to ask questions and suggest ways forward.

Disappearing down the rabbit hole of regret feels like a waste of energy and also a fairly self-destructive path to take. It feels like transformational learning (2) is just as much about stopping doing things (unlearning) as much as exploring new knowledge and new ways of working. Recognising damaging triggers and unhelpful habits might be just what is needed in bringing resolution to tricky times. Findings ways to share a message for others about not being too judgemental about what we are doing and that thinking that other people are deficient and useless may well be a reflection of own inner critic. Mindfulness and self-compassion have a huge amount to offer those of us who ride the treadmill of negativity. My inner monologue has been harsh and mainly critical for many years. I have not had any real sense of my own self-worth or confidence in my moral compass or professional skills before, during and after my career hiccup. There has often been a significant mismatch between my inner beliefs and how people have interpreted my actions. I clearly come across as confident and self- assured – competent, articulate and intelligent.  Verbal dexterity and a solid foundation of values has masked a chronic and searing insecurity, an attachment to naysayers rather than noticing can-doers and seeking affirmation. It seems an odd mismatch but one I have navigated in the last few years and has been knackering and self-defeating. Unwittingly the bullying and misrepresentation of my mental health 3 years ago has done me a great big favour – given me new knowledge and insight that no academic study could have given me.

Bringing awareness to those thoughts and feelings has made a huge amount of difference to my well-being over the last few months (3). Rather surprisingly, working in an elitist organisation with high ideals and aspirations has boosted my sense of purpose and meaning. I find I speak up at meetings with assurance and clarity – assertive but not strident. I confess publicly to being enthusiastic and passionate about knowing more about our student journeys within the institution. As a result I am finding allies and allegiances that I hadn’t expected to be there – I am thrilled that they are and I am hopeful that there are levers within the institution that will enable changes to attitudes that might make a difference for everyone. I have found that helping undergraduates understand themselves more holistically can make a positive difference to their learning experiences. Being kind and curious can be influential and keeping an eye on the sphere of influence instead of my sphere of concern helps conserve my energy and preserve it for the focus I find energising rather than losing it in wasteful and inefficient ways (4). Knowing that changing my approach to things is the only thing I can really influence has saved me from trying to change others – a great lesson that has taken rather a long time to learn.

It is still a work in progress but it does feel like I am more consistent and less reactive. The power of being proactive and finding what Ken Robinson calls your element (5) has made a huge shift in my work experience and one that seems sustainable and also one I want to keep learning from.


  3. Emotional Agility by Susan David

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