John was very proud of the difference that he had made at the company. It was clear to me he had made huge progress in both getting the number of people being injured down and building a culture that has safety at its heart. However, he was hugely frustrated with his role, his senior managers’ attention to safety and most importantly the fact that people inside his organisation continued getting hurt, or worse.
Like many people in similar roles I have met, John was questioning what he did day in day out. Who he was being was reflected on how challenging a safety role is – in his case ‘trying to do the best thing for 2,000 people’. We talked about this for some time – how it is so difficult to hold the possibility of no one getting hurt. Constantly working towards that, when people continue to be hurt, seemingly confirming that this will never be possible – this was at the core of his frustration.
I reminded him of the many lives that have been saved from harm as a direct result of his work. These people would never know that they have been saved from getting hurt so hence they will never be able to thank him.
Whilst this conversation helped, it did not ease the frustration.
I know many people feel these type of frustrations. A common dictionary definition of ‘frustration’ is;
The conversation that seemed to help the most, was the one that explored the question, what causes you to be frustrated. It appeared to be the unresolved problems in the work he was doing. This naturally led us to talk about the gap between what he saw as possible and the current reality. This is where we got into the conversation as to what he was committed to – which he described as ‘no one getting hurt, and even more than that, every one of his organisation’s employees being healthier as a result of working for the company’. This was the real source of his frustration, his commitment.
Without commitment, there would be no frustration.
So given this, we were both able to see his frustration, which currently was showing up in negative ways, as a direct and positive consequence of the commitments he held. We reflected on the fact that we both wanted to share this, as there are probably many others, particularly in the world of safety who feel this frustration, and by reframing it in this way, may find new energy and ways to proceed.
When you deeply connect with your commitments, the things you believe and the world you want to bring into existence, the frustration with this gap that exists between where you currently are and your commitment is inevitable.
If you don’t want to be frustrated, don’t make any commitments! In some ways, the more frustrated you may feel, the bigger your commitment is…
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