Pooled Inspiration

By Jane Hooper, StepChange Training

When I was given a deadline for this article I thought “I’ll see if I’m inspired in the next couple of days. And the next day, there it was staring me in the face, true inspiration at 7.30am in the local leisure centre.

For several months I have been going for an early morning swim. Each morning I share the pool with a regular band of lovely people, none of whom I know well but there are lots of hellos and smiles and idle chit chat in the shower. Over the last few weeks one of my fellow bathers has totally inspired me; Kathleen is extraordinary and has a delightful aura of mischief around her. I don’t know her, in the conventional sense at all, in fact she doesn’t even know my name and yet she has had an immense effect on me. Kathleen is terminally ill with cancer of the oesophagus and it is extraordinary how she has managed to come to the pool most days with a totally joyous enjoyment of swimming, despite being so ill and unable to eat. She has a wonderful band of friends who I think help her with transport. Yesterday Helen, one of this group, brought in a card for us all to sign, as this week Kathleen is too ill to swim. The shower is full of people talking about her and it is wonderful to see one person have such a positive impact on others.

So what does this have to do with learning? As learning professionals we talk a lot about inspiration and motivation and as NLP practitioners we look for excellence in others to model. Often we look to public figures who have achieved extraordinary feats, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa et al.
Yet amazing people are all around us. Initially I noticed Kathleen because of her attitude; down to earth, practical, funny and self deprecating. She struck me an ‘old school’ in not wanting to make a fuss, and I loved her understatement last week when I heard her tell a fellow swimmer, as she rested at the end of the lane, “You go on dear I’m a little unwell with a tummy problem’. And her response when one of her ‘team’ Pat, offered to bring her in a wheelchair to swim if she became too tired “Oh no dear, that would be rather too…dramatic I think”.

I personally find her inspiring because I too have had the odd brush with cancer and her example and matter of fact approach appealed to me and helped dispel my own fears of a recurrence. Life is fragile for all of us but Kathleen demonstrates to me that if we choose, we can live life to the full if we have the grace, optimism and joy that she exemplifies.

I know I am not alone, this morning the changing room buzzed with reports of queues at her bedside and of her resilience and humour. Tales were told of how boys she and her husband had cared for in the children’s home they used to run, were visiting her with their offspring (some of whom calling her ‘Nan’). Everyone was extolling her influence and inspiration. One exclaimed how she has drawn everyone together. How often does someone we barely know touch our lives in this way? And what are the qualities that inspire us?

If I put my NLP* hat on I can think of Robert Dilts’ model of logical levels and observe the values, beliefs, competencies and behaviours that I have seen demonstrated in a very brief time frame of observation. There is determination, grace, concern for others feelings, self depreciation, modesty, optimism, positivity, interest in other people, directness, bravery, humour, warmth, courage.

If I look at motivating teams this lady demonstrates an awesome and seemingly effortless facility to motivate and galvanise people around her.
If I look at level 5 leadership** I see Jim Collins personal humility, compelling modesty, calm determination and unwavering resolve.
How wonderful life is that we don’t need to go seeking inspiration from motivational speakers. This was teamwork, leadership and motivation all wrapped up in one very physically frail body that just sizzles with energy from within. Thank you Kathleen.

*Neuro Linguistic Programming
* Harvard Review /Jimcollins.com

Jane HooperStepChange Training
t 01962 774077
m 07966 459876

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