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Train of Thought...
November 2002 - Choices

I have been reminded every morning this last week of the drought gripping virtually the whole of Australia. Seeing bare and bleached pastures and sheep that look as if they have been imported from Ethiopia is a sad sight indeed as I tuck into my cornflakes. We all think how beautiful and majestic Mother Nature is when we head off on holiday to marvel at the Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island or some other exotic destination. Those of us living in the cities all too easily forget how harsh and cruel Mother Nature can be as we mutter about sprinkler bans..

Despite the hardship that pervades much of the country, I am struck by the resilience of those battling that drought and continuing to work that land. There is a spirit out there that would put many of us city dwellers to shame.

What is it that enables these people to continue the fight? They almost universally have a vision and a belief in their ability to survive no matter what Mother Nature might throw at them. I suspect that vision and mental discipline are a huge part of their ability to survive and ultimately succeed. There are lessons here for all of us.

I have had many comments from members expressing how much they appreciate things like the Library Corner as they never get the time to go to the library themselves, they are too busy preparing for accreditation and putting out fires. I know exactly what they mean. I have been there. But whose fault is it when the treadmill of life takes over? Man supposedly differs from other animal species through having rationality. Rationality means choice and ultimately we have to accept responsibility for exercising that choice.

Life here in Perth has picked up a rhythm of its own and I am becoming increasingly pressed for time - you wouldn't believe how fast these column deadlines come around! I could very easily live for my work particularly as my dear wife, Lata, is still in New Zealand cleaning up the mess I left behind! One lesson I learned in Wellington, however, was that once work pressures assume the upper hand it can be very difficult to wrest control back. The reality is that the more you do, the more there is to do. It is a bit like money, the more you earn, the more you need.

We all have times when deadlines are hanging over our heads. At times deadlines are externally imposed but most of the time we agree to the timeline for a project. How often do we say "Yes" when we should say "I think that will be fine but I will get back to you and confirm that". Considering the size of the word, NO! is an incredibly difficult word to enunciate. A couple of years back I got to the stage of including the following as a goal for my own performance appraisal - which of course never eventuated! - "Learn to say NO!"

There is no question that with equipment down, software crashing around my ears and capital proposals being chased, I will put in extra time to deal with the issues. It is important to remember though, that there is always a point when it is time to step back. There comes a point when the return for continued effort starts diminishing rapidly. Recognising that point is a pretty important lesson to learn.

One rule I have set myself, and am determined to stick to, is that I will not bring work home. Once through the door in the morning my foot is to the floorboards, but once the Department door is locked behind me at night, the issues are locked away as well. Sure I may cogitate on a problem as I walk home or whilst walking along the Swan in the evening. Sure, I may draft this column whilst curled up in an armchair listening to some Wagner, Beethoven or Jacques Loussier. I am, however, operating in cruise control, of my own choice, at my own pace.

I have learned to make choices and have wrested control of my destiny again. Before changing my job that was proving very difficult to achieve. I am working as hard as ever, and I suspect achieving more than I have for a long time, yet at the same time I have more energy to relax with. I walk through the door each morning feeling invigorated and stimulated. I am maintaining a balance that keeps my vision clear and in front of me. I have a focus and issues are kept in context. Without that vision, it is very difficult to keep things in perspective and maintain control of your destiny.

No matter how big my day to day problems may be, though, they pale beside those our farmers are facing. Their passion for the land, their vision and their ability to remain focussed on the bigger picture, however, is an example to all of us.

Kevin

November, 2002

PS. Every rule needs an exception. The exception to the "say NO!" rule is not saying no to Cecilia or me!

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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