Flexibility and Authenticity: A Regenerative approach to work

City Women meeting at Browne Jacobson’s offices

Rev Dr Sally Nash is a Birmingham-based freelance theological educator, researcher, mentor/coach, spiritual accompanier, ministry consultant and Anglican priest, led our April  City Women lunchtime event with a voice of faith that connected deeply with experience.  In a world of “permacrisis”, which was the Collins Dictionary word of the year in 2022, or at least “permachange”, flexibility and authenticity are vital attributes if we are to adapt effectively, embodying regenerative practice.

Sally opened with a poem written by a Police Officer friend of hers (shared with permission):

I left me behind  

I left me behind with half mug of luke warm coffee as I ran out into the dark to start the commute  
I left me behind with my umbrella stood by the door so my hair went all frizzy in the rain as I rushed to another meeting.  
I left me behind when I loaded the washing machine with the sports kits still muddy from the weekend.  
I left me behind with the other unfinished tasks on my list at work.  
I left me behind in the rush to collect the children on time  
I left me behind playing kid tag with my husband.  
I left me behind.  
Retracing my steps.   

Authentic Celtic  Link to her Facebook blog page https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063608350497

Instead of “life in all its fulness” (John 10:10), we can easily find ourselves living “life in all its vulnerability” or “life in all its uncertainty”.  Change has its very real challenges, as well as its opportunities, and Maya Angelou, writer, poet and activitist, acknowledges: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

Drawing on her research, Sally Nash identified three areas for “regenerative practice”, moving from what unfulfilled and stressed to what is life-giving.  In these areas, flexibility and authenticity are hallmarks

  • Personal:  Alongside boundaries and self-care, self-awareness is important here.  It can take us a long time to be happy with who we are – and comparision is often unhelpful.  Bren Brown comments that ““Comparison is the thief of happiness.” She also recognises that “Comparison is the crush of conformity from one side and competition from the other – it’s trying to simultaneously fit in and stand out.”  
  • Vocational/professional: How far does my role bring with it a positive professional identity?  Am I comfortable or criticised when I share the fact that “I’m a priest” or “I’m a police officer”?  If I am going to be authentic is my role, it may be helpful to focus on the unique opportunity that I have: “What can only I do, where I am?”
  • Structural:  Within my work structures, how can I allow space of regenerative practice?  As a manager, am I honouring the colleagues in my team?  Do I have appropriate expectations of them, giving them space to flourish and offering space for professional development?

“We choose life when we give our energy and attention to what is life-giving, for ourselves and for others, just as we nourish and water the plants we want to grow. We only have a limited amount of energy. How often do we waste it on the ‘weeds’, the very things we do not want to grow.” says author Margaret Silf.  Sally pointed people to the Ignatian practice that is known as the “Examen”, identifying both “consolation” and “desolation”, as a helpful tool for regenerative practice. 

Some questions to consider:

  1. What are the elements which mean you sometimes feel like you leave yourself behind?
  2. What does choosing life look like for you at work?
  3. Are there barriers to being authentically you in your current situation?
  4. Where do you make your unique contribution?  Are there ways of expanding or extending this?
  5. What are the elements of regenerative working for you? What’s the first little tweak you can make?
  6. Who are your good companions who can support you on a journey to work more regeneratively?

Thank you, Sally, for leading our session in a way which made very real connections for all of us.  

Thanks, too, to Browne Jacobson for hosting our session.

For anyone from the Birmingham business community, if it would be helpful to have a conversation on flexibility, authenticity and regenerative practice, there’s an open invitation to meet up: just get in touch by emailing sarah.thorpe@chaplaincyplus.org.uk.

For more resources from Sally Nash, see https://ko-fi.com/rdsallynash (with downloads on the examen and 20 exercises for spiritual wellbeing).  Also, for reflections, resources and musings on faith, spirituality, ministry, youth work, chaplaincy and the rest of life, Marker Posts and Shelters offers regular blogs by Paul and Sally Nash.

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