Originally posted on August 22, 2021 @ 2:46 PM
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.
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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/.
Rob Long says
Thanks for sharing Rob.
I find most people who come into safety are looking for that ‘vocation’ to be a ‘helping professional’ but then quickly get crushed down by the culture of the industry that is about telling, fixing, counting and being an amateur. It doesn’t take long in safety to be moved from seeking a vocation to realising its just an occupation.
Rather than helping, Safety has created this industry of NOT helping and yet, this is why they came into safety, to help. and soon after entering the industry they realise that they have NOT been prepared for their job. This is how Safety robs people of meaning and purpose, the essentials of Vocation.
Then they and are often made into this marginalised trouble maker at the edges of management who polices regulation, publishes injury stats and manages paperwork.
It’s interesting that when you go to the helping professions like at Wayside Chapel, there is no talk of ‘heroes’ or ‘saving lives’, its all about ‘meeting people’ and any sense of superiority or arrogance is not present.
I suspect the same would be at Lifeline, how else could you work on the phones without: humble enquiry, effective and reflective listening, Unconditional Positive Regard and a disposition of care/helping. I would think that a few hours on the phones at Lifeline would very quickly get the nonsense language of heroes and ‘fixing’ out of your Discourse.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way in safety but it has become this over its very short history, emerging from engineering and science. Indeed, I would imaging it would be very difficult making the transition from safety to any helping profession, which is why many safety people get locked into safety, even though they want to leave.
I remember that first group at Uni who enrolled to do SPoR looking for a better way of doing safety and quickly realising that this was not about safety but about a reorientation of how to view being, living, learning, thinking and meaning. From there it then became much more about why didn’t I know this, and help me know more. Interestingly, my pathway into safety was the reverse, I came into safety after a long career in helping professions and was stunned at what I had encountered. It was even more breathtaking when I learned the industry had no ethical framework or will to learn. It still hasn’t.
All encouragement for what you do at Lifeline Rob, its a tough vocation but so meaningful and fulfilling.