The Learning (and unlearning) that Revealed my Vocation
It was in March 2012 that I transitioned from working full time in organisations, to starting a consultancy. I remember the time well, sitting with colleagues and friends brainstorming a business name. The result, Dolphin Safety Solutions.
The “Dolphin” part I remain proud of; a metaphor for connection, wisdom, and play (https://blog.padi.com/10-fascinating-dolphin-facts/). The last word though, ‘solutions’, would become the cause of internal conflict and dissonance, something that I would later recognise as a turning point in my life, a move toward my vocation.
It all began at ‘Winter School’…
This was the start for me (and many others) in what I’ve referred to as the ‘learning adventure’, that is the Social Psychology of Risk (SPoR). An adventure indeed, commencing as a post-graduate program in a university setting that, over the following years emerged into (and continues as), a learning experience like no other.
There would be visits to places like, The Wayside Chapel, cemeteries, the parliamentary triangle, factories, construction sites and most memorably to Linz in Austria.
Remarkably, this ‘learning adventure’ both revealed and moved me toward my vocation in life, where I’ve recognised that, rather than ‘helping’ through providing ‘solutions’, at the heart of my being, ‘helping’ means serving and attending to others.
As many readers of this website will also have experienced, the writings of Dr Rob Long were the genesis of this ‘adventure’, and change. It was through reading some of the early 1000 Blogs on Risk by Rob, that I began to recognise the impact and influence that symbols, signs, language and our communing with others (among many other factors), have on how we relate to and be with each other, and of course how we make sense of and, in our world.
Readers of this blog may remember that all this learning and reflecting lead to the collation of my thoughts being (self) published in a reflective journal (book) called Social Sensemaking.
It was the ‘learning adventure’ of SPoR that guided me to recognise the importance of reflecting and journaling, which ultimately led to the book.
Since publishing it, some readers may also know that I made another meaningful career move, into what is a truly ‘helping profession’, through my work with Lifeline.
I started as a volunteer at the local Centre in 2012, before moving to my current role with the national organisation several years ago. More importantly, I’ve completed the training required to be a volunteer Crisis Supporter. This aligns strongly with my vocation; my reason for being.
In contrast to the dissonance and incongruence noted above when I worked in Safety, I now feel a real sense of purpose and meaning in my work. It was difficult to have this same feeling in Safety, where the work and expectation often moves us toward fixing and controlling others (‘solutions’).
Could this be one of the greatest opportunities for those working in Safety, to move toward a ‘way of being’ that is truly with and for others, attending to their needs? Imagine what ‘person-centred’ Safety might be like? Imagine too if the Safety curriculum had a better understanding of people and our socially constructed world (https://safetyrisk.net/isnt-it-time-we-reformed-the-whs-curriculum/)?
The significance of making sense of things socially, has created a new way for me to see the world and I continue to reflect on this.
I’m grateful to maintain contact with Rob too as we reflect on life and its meaning. He continues to ask questions that cause me to think and contemplate, not just about the meaning of ‘safety’, but also on what it means to live and be (with others).
Rob recently shared with me an email after someone ordered Social Sensemaking via his website. This encouraged me to take Rob’s lead and brush the dust of the book, which is why I now offer it as a free download, which you can do here. Rob will also make it freely available via his website soon.
I know and continue to meet many people who work in Safety who consider themselves as ‘helpers’, as I once did. Perhaps though, the real challenge is to recognise the difference in helping others by offering or providing ‘solutions’, as to an approach and a way of being that is focused on serving and attending to their needs. How might this occur in Safety?
How far are you along in recognising your vocation and reason for being? What does it mean for you to ‘be’ with others? What does helping mean for you?
These are questions that may stimulate you too, to reflect on your vocation.
An unashamed plug…. if you’d like to support our work at Lifeline, you can do so here.
Help is available from Lifeline 24/7…
If you, or someone you know is seeking help and/or connection, Lifeline is available, 24/7 in Australia on 13 11 14, or via our text service on 0477 13 11 14 and our chat service (both available 12pm to 2am) via https://www.lifeline.org.au/.