We all operate from a personal philosophy, whether we are aware of it or not. When our career is in the helping professions, it is important that we take time to explore this notion of personal philosophy as it relates to our work; and further, as it relates to vocation as an opportunity for self-expression.
Step One – Examine your Personal Lens
Spend some time considering the make-up of your personal lens
- Identify values, attitudes, belief systems, personal experiences and assumptions – if you completed the self-reflective exercise in the previous blog, draw on your responses for this part
- What theoretical frameworks, ethical guidelines, and best practices form the foundation of your particular profession?
- What is the essence of the experience you hope to create for yourself?
- How can you engage in meaningful contribution
- Think about your personal style – your approach – how you do what you do in your unique and creative way.
Step Two – What Motivates You?
What are your personal motivations for working in the helping professions? What is your Inspired Intention? Here are some questions to guide your process:
- Did you experience a sense of calling, so often common amongst those who enter into a service vocation? If so, do you still feel called?
- Can you differentiate between an intrinsic (internal) motivating force and an extrinsic (external) one? For example, curiosity about others might be considered intrinsic in nature, while collecting the pay cheque would be an extrinsic motivator.
- What aspects of your work make you feel like jumping out of bed in the morning ready to dive right in?
- What motivators are most powerful for you right now? What motivators will likely be most powerful for you over the long haul?
Resist the urge to judge any motivating factor as right or wrong, good or bad. Embrace all the elements of motivation as a valid component of your experience. Some motivators will hold more power for you than others and will provide a wonderful source of information and learning for you as you reflect upon them.
Step Three – Draft Your Statement
Take all the information you have gathered in the exercises above and draft your personal philosophy statement. This is a living statement – you aren’t carving anything in stone! Here are some tips to help you with the process:
- Write your statement in present tense. For example, instead of saying, “I want to find opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways,” try “I have many opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways everyday.” Write and say it like it already exists.
- Use “I am.” These two words are very powerful so be sure to follow them with the purest intentions of what you wish to create in your life. Again, no “trying” or “wanting.” Focus on “being” and then “doing.”
- Ensure that you most deeply held values and beliefs at this time are reflected in your statement. This creates alignment and is very powerful.
- Focus on essence and experience as opposed to thinking in terms of a particular relationship, job position or employer, for example. Consider those elements that will make your experiences meaningful for you on a personal level.
- Seek congruence in your statement between your personal and professional life. Your personal philosophy statement is something that can guide you in all aspects of living.
Step Four – Live it Out Loud!
Bring your statement to life – live your mission in a conscious manner.
- Reflect daily on your statement and consider the ways in which you are living your philosophy and the ways in which you are challenged to do so.
- Refine your statement as you see fit and use it as a means for maintaining personal integrity in all aspects of your life.
Let’s get started!
Declare your Personal Philosophy Statements out loud right here!
Conscious Service in Mental Health
Nowadays, we are experiencing an almost epidemic of mental health challenges. Most of us will be touched by mental illness in some way, at some point in our lives. Whether this shows up as an experience with a loved one or a struggle that we encounter in our personal lives, the challenges of mental health are many.
We live in a fast-paced society with greater and greater demands on our time, attention and energy. This alone can lead to an imbalance in our lives that affects our basic self-care and eventually our overall sense of well-being.
Most of us can expect to be touched by loss and grief throughout our lifetime, which comes with its own unique type of mental and emotional challenge as we come to cope and heal from significant changes in our lives. When we are not in a state of balance to begin with, it is common that the process of loss and grief could potentially become complicated in nature.
Turning to alcohol and other drugs as a coping strategy can make us vulnerable to developing more significant mental health challenges. If we are using substances to escape our lives and our feelings, we are on a slippery slope indeed. Most of us know this and yet, there are staggering statistics to indicate that the power of an addiction or addictive tendency can be highly seductive.
Quick fixes, avoidance, and the general resistance of discomfort in our society do not support the slowing down that is often most necessary when faced with mental health and emotional challenges.
Vocations of Service
For those of us involved in Vocations of Service, we might experience a susceptibility to the development of stress related imbalances, emotional exhaustion, and mental health challenges. We know that there is a high risk of burnout in any helping profession. But, let’s remember, high risk does not mean it’s inevitable.
How we care for our own mental health is just as important as being present for others who may be experiencing their own challenges.
There are also those individuals who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses that are not part of what any of us might expect to experience in our lifetime. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression are just a few examples of common mental illnesses that people are experiencing today. As Service Providers, it is up to us to learn about various mental health challenges while remaining open and curious to the personal and subjective experiences of those living with it. These people are our greatest teachers when it comes to learning what will most serve.
Resistance Creates Isolation and Suffering
Stigma about mental illness whether formally diagnosed or part of a natural response to something traumatic makes accessing support and services that much more challenging. Our resistance to talking openly about mental health creates a barrier to the very energy and support we all need in order to strengthen our emotional and mental capacity and open up to healing.
We tend to think that mental illness is all in someone’s head. They are crazy and insane ~ not living in the real world. And that in some way, there must be something inherently wrong with them to have this “condition.” Or better yet, maybe, they are being punished for something.
Mental illness makes us uncomfortable. We have made leaps and bounds with regard to opening the discussion and we still have a long way to go. I think the fact of the matter is that so many more people are experiencing mental illness and mental health challenges that we are forced to begin talking more about it. It is no longer the plight of those on the fringes of society ~ those people we can simply ignore so we fool ourselves into believing that we are somehow immune to it ourselves.
Suicide rates are on the rise in our society. People are choosing to take their lives in response to overwhelming pain. For a long time, suicide has been a taboo subject ~ one that we don’t really want to talk about. But, we must. We must make it acceptable to talk about the emotional and mental suffering that many experience with as much ease as we discuss the physical challenges that people live with.
No one is to blame when it comes to mental illness and at the same time, we can all take deep personal responsibility for our own health on a holistic level and for our capacity for compassion when it comes to serving those who find themselves in the thick of a mental health crisis.
Linda Stalters is a retired advanced practice registered nurse and CEO of Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA).
Linda has broad ranging experience as a clinical practitioner, educator, advocate, organizer, and speaker. She is committed to driving improved patient care through education, patient advocacy, and clinical practice.
Hearing Voice of Support is Linda’s latest initiative to promote acceptance, support, hope, treatment and recovery for the millions of people living with schizophrenia and related brain disorders.
Let’s talk about mental health. We all have a stake in this.
Your Service Signature: Creating Your Personal Style
What makes you stand out in the crowd? Is it about learning a new approach? Brushing up on best practices? Achieving another credential?
In the helping professions, we share similarities in our formal training with some variation, of course. We learn about relevant theories, best practices in our particular field, various techniques and strategies.
When we work for particular organizations and systems, we are governed by a mandate and a set of guiding values.
Specific programs and services within these organizations normally have a central purpose for a particular group of people who access them.
There are policies, procedures, and protocols all in place to make our job easier and to give a sense of continuity and uniformity.
Why Your Service Signature is Important
Let’s not forget about your unique way of making your contribution; your personal approach.
Learning about the foundational theoretical underpinnings and specific methods involved in any helping profession is an obviously crucial element of your future success.
Some of it is really concrete. I think of nurses who are trained in various health procedures that have specific steps and in many situations, a scientific process. There is a right way and a wrong way to draw blood. And yet, at the same time, there are other softer skills that go along with that type of interaction which can provide an opportunity to show your service signature.
There is an opportunity for engagement and presence that might help the person on the other end of the needle feel more comfortable. And at the same time, it might offer a sense of lightness for the nurse in that moment of connection. It is in these moments that we get glimpses of joy and fulfillment.
Navigating The Grey Area
In addition to these more “technical” skills, the helping professions are mired in a great deal of abstract concepts that require some time for digestion and integration on the part of the learner.
When we talk about things like “self-determination” and “empowerment,” we are delving into a more gray area in that there are countless ways in which these ideas can be understood and even more ways in which they might be expressed in service to others.
Donald Schon referred to these as “soft skills.” Soft maybe; not less important or valuable. And not always easy to fully integrate into practice.
At the end of the day, there is a process involved in taking theoretical approaches and best practices from our heads to our hearts to eventually demonstrate it through our actions. These approaches and practices inform our personal service signature. They are a part of it, yet ultimately, it is you as the person who expresses it in your own unique way with the people you serve.
And it is the embodiment of that in your work that will create the space for connection with others.
It’s About How You Do What You Do
Focus on how you do what you do. What frame of reference do you come from in your work? What matters the most to you when you interact with someone? How do you wish to feel as you begin your day, go through it, and end it?
Your personal service signature will develop and evolve over the course of your career so check in with yourself for upgrades. And don’t be surprised if you completely change your mind about certain things along the way!
Your service signature is most legible and accessible to others when it is most natural to you. And this takes time and energy. It takes conscious awareness. You will know you have reached clarity when you can say it, feel it, and be it. So pay attention to that. It can be a really wonderful moment!
Let’s get started! I would love to hear about your process!
Start with identifying the foundational elements that inform your service signature including theories, practices, approaches, beliefs, and philosophies.
How do you describe your Service Signature?
The Capacity for Resilience
How would you rate your bounce-backability? When life hits you hard and you find yourself on your knees, how quick are you to stand back up?
It can be tempting to stay down there, face buried in the dirt, hands over our heads, wishing it would all go away. And sometimes, that is necessary for awhile. Some blows in life require a withdrawal from all that was previously considered “normal” long enough for the weight of what has happened to settle in on a level that you can get in touch with. Sometimes, we just need to catch our breath.
After the surrender, what’s next?
That’s where resilience steps in. Resilience is where our hope lives even when we can’t necessarily feel it. It is where courage has its roots ~ where we have that sense that we are grounded in something that will sustain us as we take our next steps into the unknown. All the resources that have the potential to support us in the process are stored in the chest of resilience just waiting for us to call it all forth. The very essence of our desire to re-engage in life is at the heart of resilience. It moves us beyond our capacity to survive and straight into our divine right to thrive.
So, what’s the catch?
Well, in order to recognize your capacity for resilience, you have to come face to face with some kind of adversity. You can’t bounce back from something unless there is first some contact with it.
But you don’t have to wait for life to knock the wind out of you to nurture your capacity for resilience. Everything you do to support yourself in your day to day life can become the foundation for greater stores of resilience when you need it.
Foundational self-care includes attending to your physical health and well-being ~ like how you feed yourself, how you move your body, how you rest, and how you respond to the needs of your heart and spirit. Because when the rug gets pulled out from beneath you, these are often the first things to go. When your foundation is naturally strong, you will be sustained for awhile before you start notice that your health is crumbling.
As you care for yourself in this manner as a regular practice, you are communicating self-love. You are letting yourself know that you matter to you, that you are present for you, that you care about yourself. And that may sound silly at first and that’s okay. But ask yourself how well you are present to you, to your own needs, to your heart’s desires and to the messages from your body.
Many… maybe, most, Service Providers I have known over the years are much more comfortable with giving than receiving and that includes the capacity for self-compassion. So, try to sit with this idea for a bit before you write it off. How well do you love you?
As someone who has chosen a Vocation of Service, it is part of your role to assist others as they connect to their personal sense of resiliency. You will be a much more efficient navigator in this process if you have discovered your own personal source of resilience along the way.
Jean-Paul Bédard is an author, advocate, and elite endurance athlete. Named one of the “50 Most Influential Canadians” by Huffington Post, Jean-Paul has used his profile as a public figure to speak candidly about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and of his battles with addiction and mental health issues. A veteran of over 140 marathons and ultra marathons, Jean-Paul received the “Golden Shoe Award” as the 2015 Canadian Runner of the Year.
You can read more about Jean-Paul’s incredible journey of resiliency by following his popular blog “Breathe Through This” (breathethroughthis.com) which has over 5 million reader/subscribers. A sought-after public speaker, Jean-Paul is known for his ability to infuse humor in his talks as he speaks candidly about coming to terms with serious issues such as addiction, depression, and trauma. Jean-Paul passionately believes life is not about “what happens to us”, but about “what we do with what happens to us.” His, is a message of hope, strength, and resiliency.
How have you developed resilience in your life?
Listen to our discussion below:
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