Hello? Hello? Any body out there? Feeling isolated?
The feeling of isolation can come at anytime where we feel disconnected. We don’t have to be physically alone to feel isolated, though that helps – if you know what I mean. Today, we are remote, we are apart, separated out of necessity, not choice. We did not ask to work this way, but we have to.
I feel hard done by. Forced out of how I want to operate into this isolation. This was not my choice. My emotive response to this lack of choice feeds my feelings of isolation. Clearly, the mindset of isolation is a key element.
So as we sit in our isolation in the middle of the coronavirus epidemic what mindset do we hold that will help us through. Even though we might be surrounded by immediate family, there is always the danger that we do feel isolated, set apart, disconnected from real life (whatever that might be), from colleagues, from society. Let me share a story…
The image you see was taken as we approached one of the checkpoints on the race to the magnetic north pole. Three of us in the team – Chris, Phil and myself. We took it in turns to lead with an order of rotation and specific roles to play. Well in 2 of the 3 positions anyway let me explain.
The chap at the front was in charge of the micro-navigation – to successfully navigate our path through the broken ice – a tactical approach to our journey. Vital, but dangerous on its own. The chap in the middle help the macro view – to scan the horizon, monitor the angle of the sun, the changes in the wind and the movement of the stars to ensure we kept on track – kept heading north. The strategic view. There is much we can take from this in our current situation on the need to balance the tactical and the strategic – to deal with what is immediately in front of us, but not to deviate from the long term vision and purpose of what we are here to do. But that is not my focus for today.
Rather, what about the person at the back. What was their job? What could they do? Well, not much really. Rest, relax … errm!
How they coped depended on their mindset at the time. They were totally isolated. Even though your team mates are just in front of you, you cannot communicate with them – you are covered for head to toe, your face is hidden deep in balaclava and under your hood – any exposed flesh would freeze in seconds – you had not choice but just to be with yourself in beautiful isolation.
“Agh, my hips hurt” “I just cannot get warm” “How much longer to go? Pants – another week at least. What am I here? Why did I sign up to this? Slow down chaps. I hate the food and I’m fed up with Phil’s snoring and Chris farting. I hate this. I hate them. Aaaarrggh GET ME OUT OF HERE ……!
Wow, this is beautiful. No noise. Just silence. No sign of man. The air is so clean. Deep breath.Hey, look, paw prints of a family of polar bears. What an honour to be here. I wonder how the team are getting on? Phil looks fit. Chris seems happy. We are a good team. How’s the pace? Shall I put on some pressure for the back? What’s happening? I better get ready for my turn at the front.
Those two people are the same person, ME, just with a different mindset – one a prisoner of their own mind, the other a free agent. I believe isolation and even disconnection are a matter of choice. The physical reality of not being able to communicate, or connect, of being in isolation, out of your control, of being prey to the environment has not changed for either scenario. I was physically in the same place. But what was different was my approach, my mindset, my reaction, my choice.
We may not have chosen this way to work together, but we have a choice in how we respond. I hear much noice of people being isolated and for real there are some people who are in horrible situations of being completely alone in the world – no family, no friends, no opportunity to connect. As a truly gregarious person, I feel for them terribly and hope that this situation has alerted society to their plight and that we come out of this with a far greater sense of compassion and reach out to those in need.
And there are others who have a hermit preference who are just loving this. Maybe, as we move to a more physically connected world we should also recognise and be compassionate with their desire for space and privacy?
But in reality, team, none of us are alone at work. We have our families and friends, we have each other, we have our customers, suppliers, partners. I may not physically be with you, but, boy, I am with you in spirit and in a familial bond defined by our common endeavour.
Physical isolation or detachment may not be a choice, but our reaction to it is – and I have never felt closer to you all as we peek into each others homes and lives. We speak from our front rooms, our conservatories, our attic offices or our bedrooms. The pictures on the walls and the books on the shelves reveal more about who we really are. More than maybe we would have shared before.
Let’s foster this forced proximity and come out the other side knowing both ourselves and each other that much better. Pah – what isolation.