In a time when so many are on empty… how do we fill our vessels?

Here we are, at the beginning of another calendar year – and nearing our second full year in a global pandemic. Who would have thought as most of us headed to work from home in the first quarter of 2020 that we would still be navigating this uncertainty two years later?

Even as we navigate the pandemic’s continued impact, those of us who work with business leaders are also watching closely as “the great resignation” continues to unfold, throwing many organizations into additional turmoil. As I reflect on this phenomenon, I find myself wondering: how much of the foundation for the great resignation was laid by the pressures and lack of fulfillment people experienced in pre-pandemic work? Were those strained working conditions unable to withstand the additional challenges brought on by COVID-19?

In our work at MRG, I have the privilege of not only supporting coaches in their work, but also providing coaching directly. I am astounded at how often clients tell us that coaching is the only time when they get a chance to pause and to reflect. They reveal how much it means to them to have a safe place to talk, to reveal, to wonder, to rage, to quake, to imagine and to ponder. And I’m struck by the realization that while this need is not new, in our current reality, the need is more intense and more urgent.

I’ve also been reflecting on the importance of the roles we all play as coaches, as consultants, as teachers, guides, and facilitators. As the fault lines in many organizations grow wider and individual resilience and motivation wobbles and wanes, our services are so urgently needed. While we once provided lift, we may now be providing a lifeline.

And while many of us are not facing the risks nor experiencing the weariness of front-line workers, most of us would acknowledge we too are weary. In the words of psychologist Adam Grant, we are languishing.

So, if we are feeling depleted, even as clients need us more than ever, where do we go from here? Well, if you have spent any time with me, you know I love a Zen saying: you can’t serve from an empty vessel. Long before the airlines were telling us to put our oxygen masks on before we helped others with theirs, Zen teachers knew how important it was to take care of oneself in order to have the energy to take care of others.

However, in a pandemic world – when stress is high and opportunities for relaxation and self-care are exceedingly rare – what does this look like in action? As I have been pondering this, I have been reminded of something many of us did as children. I remember collecting shells, sea glass, rocks and leaves and cherishing them as if they were rare treasures. Maybe you did the same – or maybe your collections included cards with sports players on them or stamps or bugs or gum wrappers or comic books. Seen through the adult lens all of these objects may seem quite ordinary. But with reflection, I can reconnect with my youthful sensibilities and feel the thrill of discovery and the unbridled joy of beholding my collections. I wonder if it is possible to take a page out of our childhood wisdom and find wonder and joy in more ordinary things.

My work-from-home desk faces a window, and for two years I have been marveling at the birds (so many birds!). I have been struck by the ingenuity and tenacity of the squirrels (…at least when I’m not yelling at them). I get to watch the amazing changing of the light over the course of the day. Yesterday, I made my first cold brew batch of coffee and I’ve signed up for singing lessons. Of course, none of these small moments feel the same as travelling the world for work and pleasure, or a weeklong rejuvenation retreat, or even a full on family gathering. They may not even equal the feeling of going out to eat or going to a show. But bits of me are coming back, I feel a little more full, a little more complete, a little more energized and curious. And so – with my vessel just a bit more full – I have a little bit more to give to my family, my colleagues, and my clients.

So, my wish for all of us – beyond health and safety – is that we find ways to fill our vessels so that we, in turn, can help others fill theirs.

From all of us at MRG, I wish you a year of nourishment, discovery, and finding rejuvenation in the smaller more ordinary joys, and in spirits, hearts and minds lifted with renewed hope and optimism.

Warmly, Tricia


About the author

As president of MRG, Tricia uses her penchant for bursting into song and bringing out the best in people in approximately equal measure.

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Anne DeFrancesco
Anne DeFrancesco
15 days ago

Thank you so much Tricia. I wish you and the entire MRG community the same sense of hope and joy.

Tricia Naddaff
Tricia Naddaff
14 days ago

Thank you Anne!

Vicki Foley
15 days ago

I love this! And I hear your beautiful voice saying these words to me as I read. Thank you for sharing. I wish the same for you, Tricia.

Tricia Naddaff
Tricia Naddaff
14 days ago
Reply to  Vicki Foley

Thank you Vicki!

Linda Scott
15 days ago

Thank you for the pause Tricia, awe shifts our perspective, giving a sense of greater connection with the world and being part of a greater whole. This sense is also reflected in Stoic philosophy and I thoroughly recommend Donald Robertson’s book, How to think like a Roman Emperor and the example of Marcus Aurelius in responding with resilience to intense challenges.

Tricia Naddaff
Tricia Naddaff
14 days ago
Reply to  Linda Scott

Thank you for the recommendation Linda!

Carol Ryan Ertz
Carol Ryan Ertz
12 days ago

Thanks Tricia for sharing your own pause and reflection time! The simple actions you are taking will bring you joy in ways yet to unfold. Often, I’ve yearned for honoring the simple things in life and this pandemic has helped to illuminate what really brings me joy. As much as I yearn for those travel experiences, New Orleans Jazz Fest type concerts, and big family gatherings, it truly has been the quiet moments taking a walk (w/o head phones and a podcast), simple excursions to unexplored places in Maine, and consciously staying open to possibilities that have brought light in… Read more »

Joe Maressa
Joe Maressa
9 days ago

Great wisdom Tricia. Though part of our identity is from work an even greater part is the quality of our relationships with family and others. It is natural to be focused on only the things we see in this world. There is another reality I spend more time on and that is what is not so visible meaning the spiritual dimension of our life. Why are we here and what is really going on. And watching birds is a big clue
Thank Signora

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