Green shoots: what nature tells us about our work

Photo by Hayley Maxwell on Unsplash

Here in Brighton in the south of England I’ve been enjoying the first signs of Spring. The blue skies and fresh, crisp air. And the appearance of the familiar green shoots rising from the earth, that I know will soon blossom into magnificent bright yellow daffodils.

Known as ‘imbolc’ in the celtic and pagan traditions, the beginning of February marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. It is a time of awakening after the dark months of winter in the northern hemisphere. It is the time of breathing into new beginnings, fresh starts and growth – and in this way is more important, more auspicious, than the traditional new year resolutions.

We may see these cycles in our working lives too. For me, it feels like I have been through a long winter….not just of slowing down and going inward, but also of gently nurturing and tending to the seeds of my work. Visioning into what I wish to achieve, how I want my book to be used, what support I can offer, what meaningful connections I can make.

These processes can seem long and drawn out – indeed, it feels I have been at this for some years, plugging away at trying to get my message on collective care and culture change in the aid sector out to different audiences. Sometimes it can feel like there are few immediate rewards; a bit like the apparently barren garden that is being tilled with few signs of life.

Yet actually there may be a lot going on beneath the surface, that we cannot see and which we cannot control. Like mycelium, the networks of fungal threads beneath the earth, many of which will grow into mushrooms, there can be a lot going on outside our visual field – new connections, new conversations – that only become apparent later on down the line, when we see our role in the creation of these new ideas and ventures.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I am finding this arising with my book now,  as its ideas and messages reach people around the world – a Kenyan aid worker in a remote region of his country; an early career humanitarian unsure whether they want to continue on this path; a senior HR manager keen to offer more diverse and inclusive staff wellbeing strategies; a CEO who is encouraging their staff to gather and read my book together. It brings me huge joy to find out that my book is resonating in multiple ways, creating these ripple effects across individuals, organisations and teams, after so many years of believing so passionately about the importance of this work.

I write this as a reminder to you that we sometimes have to be patient in our efforts to build and grow the things that matter to us. It may require long periods of stillness, or long periods of developing new partnerships and alliances, or sharing our message on social media, before we are ready to harvest and before we can reap the rewards. At times we may be searching for our prize in the wrong places, and so we have to keep coming back to our hearts to remember what it is we really want, where our passion and purpose lie. And we must maintain trust that our summer will come, when we can see the fruits of our labour.

Some fruits I’d like to share with you:

My Book Circle starts again on 16 and 20 February, different times and different fees according to what is best for you. Come join us!

I have just had this blog piece published by the Global Inter-Agency Security Forum, where I discuss the implications of burnout for security, and how to support staff in speaking up on mental health concerns.

Have you listened to my podcast interview yet with Elloa Barbour on the Heard Space? We discuss the motivations of humanitarian workers, why it can be so hard to speak up about our emotional struggles, and why I use the term ‘global majority’ and other decolonial language in my book.

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