The first time I saw this photo, I sniggered. Like mother, like daughter, right? The young girl, fag in hand and a nice slug of Pinot Noir to gulp down. Hilarious. She probably wears high heels too. Maybe she speaks like her mum? Perhaps she has similar mannerisms and responses, just as her mum does? Hmmmm, I imagine if she copies the simplest of actions, then maybe she thinks in similar patterns, stories and language as to those of her mother; beliefs become shared, values get entwined. Don’t get me wrong, this will include a vast array of highly enabling and useful beliefs, values and habits; good principles that are life-affirming and nurturing to both mother and daughter.
This is where my insides did a somersault and twisted into a slightly tighter knot. What about the stories, beliefs, values, habits and actions that are not in service of happy and healthy human growth?! Does drinking wine and having a fag help the child to establish healthy habits? Does it set her up for success? Deep down, is there really a story that says I love you, care for you and will do my best to live and model the principles of a healthy human?! It’s hard for me to write these words and leave judgment to one side. That said, it’s just a photo. A staged photo. I am left to fill in the gaps for the bits of the story that I am not shown.
This article is not about the virtues of good parenting, rights and wrongs, better or worse. Parenting is work in progress for me too. As the father of a 15-year-old, I still make it up. I endeavour to do and be my best for her. And in doing that, I am absolutely sure I model some really unhelpful crap! I observe, I reflect, I ponder, I consider what next and then I act. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I get up each day and give it my best shot. So no, this article is not about families and parenting. It is about the enormous power and influence that is held within systems that determine what choices other people in the system, will make; organisations, communities, sporting teams and yes, I guess families too.
I’m a director in my business. I’m actually the founder of it. I birthed BTFI and brought it into existence. I’m a coach, a facilitator, a therapist and author. All of these roles come with a duty that I take seriously. Whilst I’m no Youtube Influencer or Instagrammer with 50 million followers, I recognise that what I think, feel, do and act out, has an influence on the choices that other people will make. My choices, my story, my actions informs the lives of others. I’m not GOD. I don’t put myself on a pedestal and encourage others not to do that either. I am just very aware of what goes viral and catches on (for once I’m not talking C-19) BTFI is small. We don’t have teams of people. But we still have influence.
Let’s turn to the big systems on this planet. The corporate giants who employ hundreds, thousands of people. A place where those thousands of people go home at the end of the day to families, to kids, to communities…..they take with them stories, actions, behaviours, beliefs and feelings. And they pass them on. They share them around. Sometimes intentionally, most often they just leak. Stuff seeps out with no consideration.
Imagine this for a moment. A corporate system where the hunger to deliver and outperform the competition is the main driver. In challenging times, the squeeze gets even tighter and this ripples throughout the organisation. Some leaders feel the intensity of this more than others and the only way (they think) to get their own teams to deliver is to push, beat, bully, blame and shame them into action. This energy is contagious. It gets passed around. Pushed down the chain. Then pushed back up again. It’s cyclical. The leader gets more frustrated as he continues to be driven hard to deliver by his bosses. He watches as the once achievable grand total of his bonus, slowly decreases. When this leader and their team players eventually arrive home, where does this toxic energy go? Is it merely left at the front door? Unlikely. It wants to get inside the house with its owner. The kids get to share in it. The wife picks up some of it too. Even the dog feels the burden. Wine helps to blot some of the pain out. Follow that up with a poor night’s sleep….and you can see the pattern at play. Spread this across an organisation’s culture, multiply that by the number of organisations on this planet and we are left with the ultimate recipe for a global pandemic of poor mental health.
The beliefs, the frustrations, the ego, the choices, the actions of just one person, do catch on. So, whilst I chuckled at the image of the mother and daughter in sync with their wine and fags, the truth in that photo is a little more chilling. Every day, thousands of organisations are being led by people who model a similar story of ‘wine and fags’, where there is little or no consideration for the impact that their own choices have on the lives of those around them. I’m not implying that being discerning and accountable for your choices is easy. It’s far easier to live life in an unconscious, sleep-like state where there is not a sniff of accountability in the air. It usually takes a significant JOLT to wake people from their slumber. A global pandemic such as C-19? A crisis of meaning and mental breakdown? A bereavement? A business crash? A relationship breakdown?
As I said, I take my duty as a business owner and a human on this planet seriously. I owe that to myself, to my wife and daughter, to my clients, my friends, my daughter’s friends, their kids….the list goes on. I’m a small player who endeavours to play big. My ask is that the Big players, Play Bigger. What might that look like?
- Be bold in what you stand for – speak with One Voice
- Live with greater consciousness
- Consider what you send viral across your system – it reaches further than you can imagine
- Design a system that is psychologically safe for people to play within
- Hold values dearly – and act accordingly – Talk Is Cheap!
- Talk about the impact of poor mental health – dismantle the stigma and make it as much a part of your daily discussions as numbers, metrics and growth.
- Ask yourself this, would YOU want to be lead by YOU?!
In the UK alone, the annual cost to businesses of poor metal health is £94 billion and over 91 million workdays are lost. This isn’t improving. It’s getting worse. C-19 has only deepened the spiral down. In the news today, we are hearing that the trauma cases in our front life healthcare staff have shot up since the start of Covid. Anxiety levels are at a record high. And in the time that you have spent reading this, 3 or 4 people will have taken their own life – that’s one person Every 40 Seconds. None of us are in a place to simply nod and move on from this. We must now act. You. Me. All of us, together.
World Mental Health Day approaches on October 10th and this gives us all the opportunity to unite and speak with One Voice. At BTFI we have decided to take on a challenge that will not only raise awareness for organisations and their people but educate them on healthy habits that can help build good Mind Hygiene. The One Voice Challenge is on October 12th and in a period of 18 hours, I will deliver 18 Keynote talks to 18 different organisations in honour of the 18 lives that are lost daily in the UK to suicide. This means that in just one day, I have the potential to reach 9000 lives. 9000 humans who are given the insight and choice to do life that tiny bit differently. And I’m doing this for free. All we ask is that the organisation commits to getting people on board to attend and that they make a charitable donation to CALM; Campaign Against Living Miserably.
My plea to you today is this; take a look at your own choices around your mental wellbeing. Consider this from the perspective of the quality of your own life and from the perspective of the many lives you touch and influence each day. If you are within an organisation of at least 100 people, you can take part in the BTFI One Voice Challenge and bag yourselves a slot for 500 of your people. Follow this link and from here you can read more, watch the video and sign up. Once you’re all on board, you’ll receive some bits and bobs from us to help you promote this to your people.
For too long we’ve thought that talking about mental health would be enough. Just talking about it will never be enough. It takes action. From me. From you. From all of us. Together. Speaking up with One Voice.