Sunday, 16 March 2014

You are not Atlas carrying the world...

So it has been quite a few days since I last posted, I haven't been idle... the brain has been working away at a few things. 

One thing that has taken my fancy was a little quote that I came upon in a book store recently. Vandana Shiva, the philosopher said 'You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.'

There are a few ideas that spin from this for me, I apologise in advance for the meandering nature of this post. 

Firstly, it takes me back to thinking about leadership. We, as leaders, may have to shoulder more responsibility at times but that does not mean that the burden is all ours to carry. Indeed if we are the only ones invested in a positive outcome then there is something wrong and I would suggest we need to step back and take a good look at ourselves and those around us.
How do we engender that sense of shared responsibility (and this can be in our families, in our work, in a social or service group or in a classroom)? Here are a few ideas for a starter: 
  1. Does everyone agree in what we are there to do? 
  2. Does everyone believe in what we are doing? 
  3. Do they know what their role is? Do they want to perform that role? Do they have the skills to perform that role? 
  4. What does success look like to each person involved? How will they know they have succeeded with the mission? 
  5. What turns them on and what switches them off? How can you find out? Think about the environment they are working in, how they like to be rewarded or recognised, where they get their energy from etc 
What else would you add to this list? 

Going back to the quote, another part that I take from this relating to leadership is the importance of nurturing yourself and realising you do not have to always be switched on and making things happen. Celia Lashlie talked about the importance of tending to your own soul to help you to fulfill the mission of giving your best to those you work with (although she was talking about teachers and children I see this relates to other leadership situations), in fact she went as far as to say if you don't look after yourself you will bleed out and potentially become soulless in your work. And we don't want to go there! So, how do you nurture yourself? As Celia asked at the Teachers Matter Conference this year, what boundaries do you put in place so you can replenish your soul? 

On a personal note, I have recently taken myself out of the rat race for a few weeks and have found that there was so much happening that I was simply missing because I was so wound up and go, go, go all the time. I was passionate about what I was doing, that was how I sustained it for so long, but I wasn't mindful enough to nurture myself. Once I had finished my previous role, for a short time, I just stopped and rested. Then as I started myself up again I have found I am able to access creative thought more easily, that I am more self reflective, that I am able to focus better, that I am achieving greater clarity, seeing more opportunities and I am more comfortable taking risks. I know I am lucky to have had this window of time to nurture myself but am now very aware of the merits of making this a priority going forward. 

It is said that engaging with nature is one of the most nurturing things you can do, and I have to say a few days camping near a lake with little technology but good conversation and plenty of fresh air works wonders. So the final insight that I have taken from the quote above is that if we connect to nature then it is easier for the planet to support us. Simple things like... eating food that is grown, nurturing a plant, growing our own food, walking in the bush, forest or a park, having a picnic on the grass, visiting a river or a beach, going swimming in a lake or the sea, fishing, picking apples... well the list is probably endless! These little actions show that in making a simple connection with nature our souls can be filled at the same time. How simply wonderful is that? 

I am sure that there are many more insights that could be taken from this statement, if you wish please feel free to share yours. 

Remember, you are not alone and the burdens you carry are not yours alone. 
'You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.' Vandana Shiva


  1. An inspiring message Megan! Interesting the comment that Celia Lashlie made. When she said find time to tend to your own soul so that you can give your best, well, its taken me a while but Ive figured out how I can do that. I have found that if I can spend the first part of my weekend getting work done my head is clear to really enjoy the rewards of social time. And after social time I am really energised to put more into what I do at work. If I do it in reverse I find that no matter what I do that's pleasurable, it is burdened by the thought of the impending work that I haven't done. I no longer dread Sunday evenings! Hey thanks for sharing your blog. :) Jo

  2. What a great time management strategy Jo... thanks for chipping in, lovely to hear form you. :)

  3. Tending the soul - you are so right!! I'm a big advocate of work/life balance as you well know. You are right, passion keeps you chugging along for so long, but as you mentioned, what else do we miss along the way? We only get one life and we don't know how long we're lucky enough to have that for so make the most of it while we're healthy to do the things that bring us joy, whatever they may be but people and nature seem to play a big part for many of us in keeping us balanced.

    1. I have always admired how well you have maintained your work/life balance, even if at times your connecting with nature is a little more extreme than many of us (and results in one or two injuries!!!) :) Thanks for the comment x