Why Overcoming Emotional Disconnect Starts From Within - Pat Divilly - Podcaster, Author and Facilitator

7 Feb 2023

The people behind the voices:

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

Pat Divilly

Podcaster, Author and Facilitator

The Employee Experience Podcast Season 2 Ep. 6

Why Overcoming Emotional Disconnect Starts From Within

This week’s guest on The Employee Experience Podcast is podcaster, author, and facilitator Pat Divilly.

Disconnect is one of the biggest societal challenges of our time, and our experiences at work play an important part. 

In Pat Divilly’s bestselling book, he writes, “Despite the comforts of the modern world, there’s an overwhelming feeling of disconnection.”

But while it might be hard to fathom, overcoming our disconnect with the world around us doesn’t start with others, but with ourselves. Discovering the approaches to our wellbeing that suit us best is key, particularly when there are so many distractions to contend with.

“We’re starting from below baseline and have to do certain things in order to be well in the world,” Pat tells Gillian. While physical wellness is key, Pat believes that “people are starting to wake up, hopefully, to the fact that the mind and the emotional body are the same; there has to be a consistent practice to look after those too”.

“These have to be proactive steps in an overstimulated world,” he says. “We’re always plugged in and that has a big effect on how we feel physically and emotionally.

“So we need to be proactive in our approach rather than hoping to be resilient. Resilience is a practice of falling out of feeling safe and comfortable, and then bringing yourself back. And that’s a case of having different tools. 

“If people know why they need to do something they’ll find their own way of doing it. We need to learn how to create safety within our own bodies.”

Pat shares the example of meditation. Instead of telling people they should meditate for their wellbeing, he says, it’s better to help them understand why meditation is worth doing. By giving them the opportunity to find their own way to it, or of finding a different way of creating the same result in their own life, that advice carries more impact. 

That’s why he believes organizations need to invest in consistent education and a choice of resources for staff, so that they can find the ones that suit them best, rather than token gestures and one-size-fits-all bandaids. 

Listen back now to hear Pat and Gillian’s conversation.

About The Employee Experience Podcast

The Employee Experience Podcast, hosted by Gillian French, is the podcast series for leaders pursuing innovative ideas to engage and connect with their employees. Listen to trailblazers across internal comms, employee engagement, and HR share the best ways to connect with employees, build healthy cultures, and deliver an employee experience where everyone can reach their potential.

Guests so far on Season 2 of The Employee Experience Podcast include:

  • Jane Datta, Chief Human Capital Officer at NASA, on employee experience, connection & leadership
  • Debra Corey, Chief ‘Pay it Forward’ Officer at DebCo HR, ‘Recognition is more important than ever for our wellbeing’
  • Hollie Delaney, (Former) Zappos CPO, on why empowered employees are engaged employees
  • Peter Cheese, CEO at CIPD, on what employees want: the changing expectations of leaders
  • Nadine Hack, CEO at beCause, on connectedness and openness: a company’s most powerful tools
Full Transcript

Gillian (00:00):
So delighted to have you here. I read your book and I follow a lot of your stuff online and congratulations. The book is called Fit Mind and I know from everything I’ve seen, it’s been a great success and I thoroughly enjoyed the book myself. I have lots of post-its and lots of highlights, alterations. So well done. Great achievement.

Pat (00:17):
Thank you. Thank you. That’s a good sign. It’s really nice when you see people writing on the book.

Gillian (00:21):

Pat (00:22):
Because I’m the same. I write on books when I have them because there can be so much in a book, and you only need one insight and it can change your direction, I think.

Gillian (00:30):
Yeah. No, absolutely. And yeah, I haven’t actually [inaudible 00:00:35]. I know a lot of people have Kindles and things, but I love to have a physical book and highlight bits and then come back and read bits again over time. So I definitely know this is one that I’ll be keeping and-

Pat (00:46):
Thank you.

Gillian (00:46):
And revisiting. So well done. Great achievement.

Pat (00:46):
Thank you.

Gillian (00:49):
So listen, I really wanted to have you here today. This is The Employee Experience Podcast for Workvivo and we get lots of people in. We talk about how to improve the employee experience and generally, we talk about things like culture and leadership. And over time, though, I have this sense that we need to talk about the employee as well and how they turn up to the organization. And I loved the start of your book. You wrote, “Despite the comforts of the modern world, there’s an overwhelming collective experience of disconnection, isolation, addiction, and depression. Our connection to others starts with our connection to ourselves.” And I think that’s a really powerful statement. And my favorite definition of wellbeing is the relationship with yourself, others and nature, and I suppose what I’ve just read out there really starts with yourself. So I’d love to just get your view from our employee experience, people arriving up to the workplace. There really is a lot about the relationship with themselves and how they turn up to work.

Pat (01:46):
I have a teacher and I remember he said to me that you put an animal in the zoo and the animal will get sick and it’s not through any fault of the animals, it’s the fact that they’ve been put in an environment that they weren’t supposed to be in. And so it might be a bit of a stretch, but in some ways, I suppose the modern world and the pace that we’re living at and maybe the amount of time in front of screens, and maybe the disconnect from nature and all of these different factors compounding will make us sick, I think, in some capacity. So I think it’s almost like we’re not even starting from a baseline. We’re starting from below the baseline and we’ve got to do certain things, in my judgment, in order to be well in the world. So yeah, that relationship with self. I think physically over the years people recognized that fitness was something you needed to do something to look after your physical fitness.

And I think people are starting to wake up, hopefully, now to the idea that the mind and the emotional body are the same, that there’s got to be a consistent practice to look after the mind and the emotional body. For me, I was a crisis meditator for years where I wait for the crisis and then I said, “Oh, I better start looking after myself,” and this was a recurring pattern. So I think that’s the wake-up call or was the wake-up call for me. And I think for other people, maybe it’s the same, that these have to be proactive steps. There’s so much against us, I think, in the environment in terms of, again, the distraction, the noise, the notifications, the expectations, the being plugged in all the time and the overstimulated world that we live in. I can find it hard myself to rest and to truly rest and not do anything.

So we’re always plugged in and that has a big effect on how we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally, and burnout and so many things can happen as a result. So that’s one stance I would take on it. We’re up against a lot and so we need to be proactive in our approach rather than hoping to feel good, hoping to feel positive, hoping to find perspective, hoping to be resilient. Resilience is a practice of falling out of feeling safe and comfortable and bringing yourself back. So we’ll fall into different states throughout the day of feeling anxious or stressed or overwhelmed, but our resilience is built on recognizing that we’ve left the state of feeling good and bringing ourselves back and that’s a case of having different tools.

Gillian (03:53):
When you look at these and a lot of research at the moment, we’re at an all-time low for wellbeing in the… Well, wouldn’t even say the workplace, but just in general, mental health that we’re seeing and particularly in women, actually. I just saw a survey recently from one conducted by Laya Health where women, and particularly younger women as well, are really suffering at this moment in time with mental health issues. Do you think that’s just an outcome of how we worked and how we’ve lived over the last while? And do organizations have the right things in place to deal with these unprecedented levels? In the EAP program that they have in place and the different things they’re putting on for employees, will that help or is it really just putting a band-aid on it?

Pat (04:37):
I think it’s challenging because it really is up to the individual in many ways. I know that in certain corporate environments, people are really being worked into the ground and there’s real pressure on people and maybe there’s not as much choice there, but I suppose from a personal experience, I remember in my 20s, it’s where I was self-employed, but I was working so much work and so much work and so much and I was blaming my work for being why I was stressed and why I was feeling disconnected and stuff, but I wasn’t recognizing that there was other aspects of my life. So I think sometimes we can jump straight to work and think, “I need to change my work situation. I need to change where I work or what I do.”

And we can think that work is causing all the issues, but my experience partially has been that when I can dedicate a couple of hours of my week to something different outside of work and I can find passion there and find the connection and find all these other aspects that are maybe missing and work, then tends to be something different.I show up to work today and actually enjoy it today because I’ve got something to look forward to this evening. So I think this is the personal responsibility aspect. And then I think education. I’m always a big fan of educating people on what’s actually happening. So what’s really happening to us is, again, we’re overstimulated for the most part. We’re getting into these agitated and overwhelmed states and it’s not a sustainable place to be. If anyone’s experienced anxiety, they’ll know there’s a massive physical output. It’s exhausting to be in an anxious state. So if we’re in a chronic state of anxiety all the time, burnout is inevitable.

But I think it’s just putting across the resources and the teachers and the education that people start to understand what’s actually happening in the body, because once you understand, then you can start to create change. I think awareness is the first piece. So I think that’s an important piece for the EAP programs to be putting in place. There was a lot of motivational speakers and stuff like that for years, but I think the motivation thing, for me, there’s not as much in that as there is in helping someone understand the connection between their body and mind because this really is the key piece. When I am stressed and anxious and overwhelmed, my world looks different and no amount of positive thinking or goal setting is going to support me because my body is telling me that this is not a safe environment.

And so if we can start to help people create safety within their body, within their environments, then their world will look different. So it’s an education piece, I think, is the key. If people know why they need to do something, people will find their own way of doing it. Oftentimes, people would ask me about how do you get people to meditate. If you help people understand why to meditate, they might not meditate ever, but they’ll find a way of creating the same results in their life, I think.

Gillian (07:12):
Yeah. And meditation’s really interesting. For a very long time, I’d recommend it for others but not for myself. I was like, “Oh, it’s not going to work for me.” And then about two years ago, I actually said, “No, I need to really do this,” and it’s changed my life and I couldn’t do what I did now. And for such a long time, it’s one of these things it’s like, “Oh, yeah. You need to [inaudible 00:07:39]. I need to eat healthy.” I know all that. And a lot of time, people will say that, “I know this, I know this stuff. You’re not telling me anything I don’t know.” But yes, if you don’t eat well for a long period of time, you don’t meditate, you don’t exercise, you’re on a spiral. Whereas when you do those things, you actually notice how much better you feel. But yeah, I think it is a case that sometimes with adults, we think we do know this stuff, but the actually doing of it and applying our learnings, I don’t know. There’s definitely a gap, but I personally have experienced and know that I have a structure now in order to be the best version of myself and to be healthy. I have certain things that I have and actually paint in place to make sure that I don’t [inaudible 00:08:24]. I should filter for too long. And it’s really, really, really helpful.

Pat (08:30):
I think maybe sometimes we’ve got mystical expectations with the meditation and we want to be able to levitate or do magic, but I always tell people if the only thing the meditation did was it was 10 minutes where you take deep breaths. And again, what deep breaths tell our body and our mind is that everything’s okay and everything’s safe because you think about when you’re stressed or you’re overwhelmed, the breath gets really short. And so if those 10 minutes meditation are just a chance to breathe deep into your belly and say, “I’m safe, I’m okay and there was nothing else that happened.” That’s really beneficial, I think, in itself.

Gillian (08:59):
What recommendations would you have for organizations, like you said, to inform people? And I do think it’s really great to educate. Would you think having an in-house person like, say, a profile like yourself working in a large organization or being an in-house psych or organizational psychologist or something that could do regular seminars but also be there for support for people? Do you see those roles into the future, or do you think it’s more an external thing a person should do themselves and we shouldn’t bring it into the corporate world?

Pat (09:31):
Yeah, it’s interesting because I think it’s shifted over the last couple of years. For a couple of years ago, I remember doing corporate sessions and it would always be a one-off session and it was like the band-aid that you mentioned where it was, “Let’s bring someone in this week,” and then something different next week and there was no continuity maybe to it. So I think there’s more comprehensive programs starting to land and starting to be available. I suppose that the key thing that comes to me is if we can help people understand why certain boxes need to be ticked, then they can find their own ways of ticking those boxes, and then maybe it’s a case of giving them different options within the workplace. So as an example, if I recognize the need for connection and community in my life and that can be really hammered home. Not that, “Oh, you need to have friends,” but actually show people, “Here’s what happens to your mental health when you spend too much time on your own and too much time in front of a screen.”

And that makes people sit up and take notice, then maybe you put a couple of different options on board. So there’s a jiujitsu class where you can meet people and then there’s salsa dancing class if you want to do that and there’s a psychologist so you can speak to, but I think really, it’s having a couple of pillars that you help people understand. Those few things you mentioned at the start were disconnected, so how do we help people really understand the impact of having connection in your life and how much that changes everything. There’s addiction, so how do we really help people understand why we go to addiction and then give them resources that they can choose what works the best for them, because while jiujitsu lights my world on fire, it makes me feel really good. It’s going to do the opposite for the next person, so I think its awareness of the concept and then given a couple of different resources that might support people.

Gillian (11:03):
I’d love to get your opinion on hybrid and remote working and the way the future of work is going. When you think about connection and the importance of it, do you think that we’re sleepwalking into a situation that may create more mental health issues? I gave the example recently myself. I know I’m extroverted and I need connection and need friends and work, but obviously, I have three kids at home, so it was handy for me to just work from home and grab a coffee at 11:00.

And then I made the effort, I went into the office and my husband was saying he could see a difference in my face. I had more color, I looked different, and I wouldn’t have said I was any way feeling, but I quite obviously knew after coming back, yes, I was more obese and it did have an impact on me and I do need it. And not that I think, I know that I didn’t even know myself. But sometimes yeah, are we sleepwalking? Do we think this is great, and everyone’s kind of using buzzwords, but long-term it may damage us that we’re not around people and we’re not having this human connection that we previously had?

Pat (12:09):
Yeah, it’s interesting. I saw Malcolm Gladwell was on a podcast there recently. For me, he’s a really in interesting author. And I think he was talking about this. I didn’t watch it all, but I think he was saying that we’re walking into bigger issues than we realize. I noticed myself. I’m self-employed and I work at home most of the time, so I’m on my own a lot at the time. So I have to make a conscious effort to go and meet people in the evenings and during the day. And like that, if I just fall into work for a week and I don’t think to meet people, suddenly, I don’t feel good and I need to look at it and figure out that there’s something wrong there. And then I can go a million miles an hour and have seven keynotes in a week and I’m meeting thousands of people in a week and then I’m back to my shell and I’m an introvert.

So for me, I like being at home on my own, but sometimes too much of that, of course, is not good. So I think coming back to our awareness piece that we talked about earlier, if we can teach people the importance of checking in on a consistent basis with how they feel and we can deliver that emotional awareness piece, which is really important, “How do I feel, and what do I need?” This is a key aspect. We talk about safety and connection, all these pieces, but how do I feel, and what do I need needs to be, for me at least, a daily check-in because some days, I need to be at home and I need that space and some days I need connection. But if people don’t have the awareness to check in with how they are, we ask everyone else how they are, but maybe we don’t check in with ourselves or have the language to say how we feel, and then maybe I can just find myself working at home because it’s more convenient.

And again, back to the piece you open with from the book, despite the comforts of the modern world, we’re experiencing disconnection. So for me, it’s comfortable to stay at home and not leave my house, but it’s not always good for me, but it’s a constant checking in with myself. That’s probably not a clear-cut answer, but…

Gillian (13:53):
No, I think it’s one of these things that we will have to debate, and I think it is important to debate these type of topics because one size doesn’t fit all. And I’ve said this, I think, on other podcasts and other talks, I worry sometimes that because we were separated through COVID and lockdowns and things like that, we do need to understand we need each other. We are successful because of our collaborative nature. And therefore, yes, it might suit me to pick my kids up and do, but who’s going to teach the next generation? And we have a duty of care to go in and teach and keep ourselves going with the next generation and they’ll teach us, but we can’t just think, “This suits me and I was going to do this and he’s going to teach my kids then when they finish school and go in.”

So I think there is a social responsibility and if you’re an introvert, I have to respect your boundaries and that you need time to recharge on your own. And likewise, if I’m working with you and actually you need to know that I need that chat with cup of coffee now and then have a chinwag. [inaudible 00:15:03] to the conversation just to get to know you a bit more. So…

Pat (15:07):
I don’t know if it was Richard Branson or someone years ago was talking about a system they had in the workplace. It was like a traffic light system where you had up at your office where you were at in terms of how social you wanted to be. So green was, “Come and chat to me,” red was, “I need some space,” and orange was whatever else. I think the practicality of the hybrid piece is if I’m going to be working from home, for me, a few things that are useful is obviously having a specific environment where the work happens. Having, as best I can, a time where it starts and it stops, having possibly a work uniform, so even though I don’t have to leave the house, I change into something different so it differentiates between, because one of the challenges and one of the reasons, I think, for exhaustion is that one thing rolls into the next, into the next and there’s no separation between different tasks, particularly if I don’t leave the house.

So a specific environment, a uniform at certain times, I think those things are useful. And then the fourth piece would just be, again, that check-in every day, that if I’m not going into the office, how am I connecting with people in the real world? Because I think it was Johann Hari that talked about this idea that what we’re doing right now, there’s a sense of connection, but it’s not true connection because we’re not in front of one another. So we could fall into that trap of thinking that social media and Zoom and all these things are ticking the boxes, and they’re better than nothing, of course, but you can’t be being in person with someone and being in proximity.

So if I’m going to be working from home, that’s certainly a key piece for me, is to make sure I’m getting out even though I want to stay home and sit on the couch because I’ve done a day’s work, but I need that for my mental health. And generally, there’s a knock on effect. You might not notice it straight away, but give it a couple of days of that isolation and you’ll suddenly be saying, “What’s gone wrong here?”

Gillian (16:48):
Yeah, I won’t even get it started on the metaverse. That’s a whole a lot-

Pat (16:48):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s fine.

Gillian (16:51):
Yeah, a podcast. I was looking at some version I really… And then I was questioning myself going, “Jenny, are you just getting too old?” The way sometimes people say you get to a certain stage and they were given [inaudible 00:17:01] the radio years ago that it would destroy all of us and you just have to move at the times. [inaudible 00:17:06] I really the metaverse looks like if I had to get your head around and particularly, from a connection perspective, I think it would really mess with our human minds and connection.

Pat (17:16):
I think we’re in it already without realizing it. We’ve been sleepwalking into the metaverse. Well, I speak for myself. I always try to speak for myself because I’m sure there’s other people that are a lot more mindful and everything else to what they’re doing, but I saw some research that was saying that they gave kids the option of going on a 5,000 Euro holiday, but they weren’t allowed to take photos of the holiday. Or they could get photos that were manipulated to make it look like they were on holiday but not actually go on the holiday. They all chose to have the photos so that it looked like they… So what that’s telling us is that for many people, I’m sure myself included to some degree, is becoming more fixated with my life looking good than actually feeling good.

Gillian (17:57):
Oh, my gosh.

Pat (17:57):
That’s sad.

Gillian (17:57):
Really sad. Really sad. We talk about belonging a lot in organizations and I’d love to get your perspective because I wonder, and you talk about that. I look back at the story in the book where you talk about the clay. Actually, it’s the first time and I do read it a lot. I hadn’t seen that story. Organization are really trying to ensure that people belong and make sure that they put things in place to help them belong. But I wonder, do we even belong to ourselves or there’s been so much through our childhood and growing up that sometimes organizations are trying in vain, but actually, we don’t even know ourselves what we want. So I’d love to just get your view on belonging and I suppose is there any hints or tips on how we would help people on that journey? Or do you disagree with me and think there’s nothing [inaudible 00:18:56].

Pat (18:55):
No, there’s definitely something in that. I think I reference in different books to this. They’re popping into my head, but there’s a book called The Nordic Secret and it looked at how in Scandinavia, they’ve become so forward thinking and how they’re reinventing how they do everything over the last couple of years and they’re some of the best places seemingly to live, but seemingly, up until I think the 70s, that wasn’t the case. They were just following the instructions of the government and they couldn’t really think for themselves. And so they set up 70 universities around Scandinavia where after school, you could go for two years and you learned about self-reflection, self-inquiry, meditation, journaling, and they were teaching people how to think for themselves and that that’s what shifted and pivoted the way we see those countries and the way people show up. But maybe that’s just a nod to giving ourselves some space.

Gillian (19:44):
No, that’s great. Yeah, no I think that’s [inaudible 00:19:46] and definitely [inaudible 00:19:46] something. Go on.

Pat (19:46):
I think as individuals, I’m probably just on this at the moment, but the idea of really knowing what your values are is the starting point. It sounds like a big question, but what do I want my life to be about? So I want my life to be about adventure and education and connection. And oftentimes, you mentioned the Buddha and some of our childhood conditioning and stuff like that. Oftentimes, the things we feel we missed out on in our earlier life, that can point to what we would really like our lives to be about. So if I felt like I never fit in, then maybe I really am driven by a life for connection. Oftentimes, the things we lacked or didn’t get are the things that are unconsciously driving us but I think as an individual, having an awareness as to what you value the most and you see that in the things you admire in other people.

We put people on pedestals sometimes just because they’re showing parts of ourselves that are really looking to come alive. That’s important for me. That just helps me have clarity. And if I’m in a work context and I feel a bit disconnected from my work or a bit lost or I feel stagnant in some way, if I can come back to my values and I can say, “Well, I value adventure. How can I bring a sense of adventure to my work?” Or, “I value education. How can I bring that sense of education to my work?” That, I think, is a key piece because obviously, a lot of companies will have their mission statement and their values and that’s the compass that helps them to pivot and helps them reorientate themselves.

And think as individuals, having that can be really useful as well because we get so caught up in what we’re doing but we maybe forget why we’re doing it. So if you have that why through your values, then that’s a… I won’t say an easy starting point, but I think it’s a solid starting point for people. Think about the end of your life, looking back, how would you describe some of the words that represented how you showed up in life and use that as a compass.

Gillian (21:28):
And I think that’s where a lot of pain comes from, working in organizations that don’t match your value system but maybe on paper makes sense. And I know you talk about the logical and we’ve hailed the logic and put the intuition and all that to one side and we tend to make decisions just with this rather than our hearts, and I think that’s definitely causes a lot of stress and burnout within people in organizations when they’re not truly lined up but maybe they have the golden handcuffs, or they’re tied in with things and they’re fearful to move. It’s very difficult to go in every day to a place that your values, it goes against your value system.

Pat (22:09):
There’s maybe two things on that. I love this idea. There’s sacred work and the survival work. So there’s times in my life where I need to do the survival work to make the money and to put food on the table and to keep the roof above my head. So that’s the survival work and there could be years or decades of that. And then there’s the sacred work, which is the idea that we all have a unique thing that we’ve been put here to do in the world. And I think if you have some clarity as to what the sacred work is, what you’d really love to do, and then you can start to see your current work as hopefully moving in that direction. So I always say if I’m in the corporate world and my dream is to be a yoga teacher, there’s a lot of that. I see a lot of that. That’s a common one, but if that’s my dream, I say the dream doesn’t start when you open the yoga studio.

For me, the dream starts when you show up to your current corporate work, but you’ve just got a different attitude. It’s gone from a job I don’t like to a place that allows me to put the money aside for me to go and study yoga teacher training. So that ties back to the why. Anyone’s going to lose their sense of purpose and their sense of fulfillment in life if they feel like there’s nothing coming from this job, “I’m just getting money and it’s not giving anything else to me.” I think this is one of the struggles employers are having. We keeping staff and hiring staff, it’s like money is not enough for a lot of people to drive them now at this stage. People are wanting freedom and want…

I think there’s a shout-out to that as well. I think too much freedom I don’t think is good for the head either. But yeah, I think that’s sacred work and that don’t beat yourself up if you’re not in the perfect job. Start thinking about where you would like to be and start seeing the current job as the steppingstone. When I was working in a pizza restaurant a few years ago and I had to do that for a while before I could do the next thing and that’s how it works.

Gillian (23:53):
But it didn’t bother you because you had a wider piece that you were working towards.

Pat (23:57):
It probably did bother me at the time in retrospect. No, it’s that-

Gillian (24:01):
Yeah, look at the pizza now. You never ordered pizza.

Pat (24:05):
No, I recognized what it was doing. There was a tipping point where I was like, “I’m make an X amount of money in the pizza shop and once I’m making the same amount from fitness classes, then I can shift and I can pivot.” So it served its purpose, but again, knowing your values, I think, can be important in helping you to make that pivot. Sometimes people will say, “I’m in this current job and I really don’t like it, but I have no idea what I want to do outside of it.” What do you value? What do you love to do? And also, there’s not-

Pat (24:29):
Sorry about tangents, but I think there’s nothing wrong because we have so much comparison and so much looking outward now. I think a lot of people come on to have a job that gets them lots of likes and stuff like this. And I think we’ve almost become disconnected from normal. I almost think there’s something wrong with being a normal person with a normal job and living a normal lifestyle. It’s sometimes this expectation to achieve more and to be seen and all this kind of stuff can be debilitating too.

Gillian (24:59):
Which is going to bring to my other question about girls having both. I remember on International Women’s Day, a lady got on the radio and she was like she has three kids, and everybody would say to her, “Oh, you’re not doing a course? Do you not have a part-time job?” And she’s like, “Oh, I’m home with three children [inaudible 00:25:17] them.” It’s a pretty important job, but that thing of, “Is that all you do?” Is kind of inbred into us now, that if you’re not doing two courses in the evening and a high payer job and three kids and that, then you’re not really achieving much.

Gillian (26:02):
You talk about goal-setting on your podcast that I listen to and it’s one of these things as well. For me, it’s around high performance. In the goal setting, do you think that that really drives anxiety? We’ve had Gary Keegan before and I had the debate about high performance that I think sometimes, in a work context, we’ve taken something and it’s driving pressure even more to people to be always high performing, setting builds. Can you not just be and just leave me alone? But I’d love to get your view on it.

Pat (26:40):
Think about yin and yang or structure and flow. So structure has been very disciplined, very clear, knowing exactly where I’m going, being very rigid. Structure is very much the doing, and then flow is formless and it just evolves and it just go with the flow. So there’s those two polarities. If you’re someone who’s too structured and obsessed by the goal, you’re going to fall into anxiety and you’re going to spend your whole life living in the future. If you’re someone who’s too flowy and just goes through the motions, you’re going to lack any form of discipline which is going to make you unreliable to yourself and unreliable to other people. So I think the answer is finding the middle ground between structure and flow. That’s what I’m saying with maybe the practicality of having specific work hours so that now I can be structured within those hours and what happens in those hours will be somewhat flowy.

But having that boundary in place is what it allows things to happen. So if you were to break it down, there’s certain people in life that are living in the future saying, “I’ll be happy when…” And so there’s anxiety in that, and there’s other people that are just going through the motions and don’t really have a vision and there can be some anxiety in that. I think the key is to have a vision and a goal or a sense of direction and some values that are driving that, but more importantly, to track mini wins and progress every day so that you’re not putting all your happiness six months into the future, you’re not putting your happiness on the next promotion in work, you’re not deferring your happiness to the weekend, but you’re actually enjoying your day-to-day whilst moving in a direction that’s meaningful, because I figure we’re going to put energy into our day irrespective.

So it’s a little bit like aimlessly driving your car around town with no destination in mind, versus having a direction in mind but not stressing about getting there really quick. Just knowing that every day I’m moving a little closer. So I think it’s that fine balance of not attaching your happiness and your sense of worth to the goal, but seeing the goal as a catalyst for growth, because ultimately, I think growth is what brings fulfillment for us all. Deepening in a relationship, growing in terms of our capacity at work or our knowledge at work, we feel fulfilled when we grow. Everything in nature grows or it dies, ourselves included. One or the other is happening.

So if a goal serves the purpose of helping you grow and you’re focused on the growth rather than the end destination, I think it’s useful, but I would say it’s like if someone wins the lotto, that person will tend to lose the money fairly quickly because they didn’t work for it and it wasn’t about the destination. But if someone’s like, I don’t know, a mogul that makes millions and then they lose it, they tend to make it back fairly quick because they went through the process. So the process is more important than the end destination, but the end destination gives direction, I think.

Gillian (29:31):
Interesting. Though I know that you’ve traveled all over the world, know that you did really intensive yoga courses and different courses and you’ve written a book and you’re well-read on [inaudible 00:29:45] principles and you don’t think there’s anything you probably haven’t read at this point. You’ve been on a journey yourself. Would you say that that is kind of… And I don’t want to put anything into words into your mouth, but it does come back to balance, that everything is balanced in the sense of you can be too structured, you can’t be too floaty, you can’t work too much, you need to balance with social, it can’t be too introvert. So in everything that you’ve learned since and all the people that you sat with, is that it? Is really balance the key?

Pat (30:18):
Yeah, I think awareness is the key, awareness of where you are. Anthony de Mello said something like, “What you’re aware of, you’re in control of. What you’re not aware of is in control of you.” So if I’m not aware that I’m out of balance, if I’m not aware that I’m overworking, overworking will drive my life. I think that’s the key, just recognizing that every coin has two sides. So working hard has some positives and has some negatives. Taking a day off has some positives and has some negatives. So it’s just being able to see the two sides of the coin, I think that’s been the key piece for me.

And my 20s were so driven by a lack of self-worth and needing to get somewhere to impress people that I worked, and I worked, and I worked and worked. I was too structured and I missed out on a lot of what was happening around me and didn’t get to enjoy any of it. When I did the yoga and all that stuff, I almost went the opposite way and it was to go with the flow. So I think in the last couple of years, I’m finding that balance again of being disciplined but also have… As a Navy SEAL in the states called Jocko is a book called Discipline Equals Freedom and there was a paradox in that, but I think it’s true. Yeah.

Gillian (31:26):
And yeah, you brought up something there about self-worth. Do you think we’ve created a society of lack and not being enough? I know in the workplace, they label it imposter syndrome and women suffer a little bit more than men, but I think everybody does. From my coaching practice, we tend to hear the same things and people sitting in front of you that you would think are hugely confident but really, underneath it all, not at all, and very unsure. And so do you think that we’ve created this society, and what can we do to balance that out? Because what you talked talk about, that story there, it doesn’t sound like we’re going in the right direction.

Pat (32:11):
I think it probably comes back to the… Well, it’s a couple of things. I think the pace of life is one thing. When you’re moving quite frantically or you’re moving as many of us are moving in general, just trying to keep up, it’s very hard to get off the ride and have a look and see what do I want. I think if you’re not in tune with what’s true for you and what you actually want, there’s a default setting of looking around on what’s everyone else doing and so there’s the comparison, and when I’m comparing, I’m never going to be enough because you’re very strong in one area and the next person’s strong in another area, and I’m comparing the highlight reels of everyone else to my reality. So I think that’s part of it.

I think, again, being disconnected from the values. In a very practical sense of my own life, I notice that when I live in accordance to my values, when I have a sense of adventure in my life, when I’m studying, when I’m teaching, when I’m doing all these things to bring meaning to my life, I don’t have time or interest in looking around me and comparing myself. I’m not putting people on pedestals, I’m not looking down on people, but I can just as easily have a couple of nights’ poor sleep and then feel stressed and then get caught up and suddenly get disconnected from my values and start living in the opposite way, living in judgment, living in comparison. So I think it’s reorienting ourselves, bringing ourselves back to center repeatedly is really important.

Again, the childhood conditioning is most of us with the best parents in the world, we probably had parents that when we got a B in our exams, they asked why we didn’t get an A. If you think about an inner critic and an inner champion, the inner critic in our minds is a little bit like a nagging parent that will always find the flaw, always find the mistake, always tell you where you fell short.But we also have an inner champion and maybe that wasn’t your reality as a child, but if we can start to build and develop this other character in our head who’s this really encouraging and supportive parent.

Because I think when we fall into comparison or we get a little bit lost in life or we’re disconnected or any of those things that we talk about, it’s not the 34-year-old Pat, it’s not the 40-year-old John, it’s not the adult who’s showing up. It’s a wounded, younger part of ourselves that’s rearing their head. When I get anxious and insecure and I don’t feel like I fit in, it’s the six-year-old in me that’s feeling all those things. So my internal dialogue needs to be the supportive parent who’s saying, “You’re fine, you’re safe, you’re going to be okay here. Take your time.” Rather than the guy saying, “They’re going to find out what you’re like. You’re not going to fit in here. What made you think you could come here?” There’s two voices and it’s which voice are we feeding?

Gillian (34:39):
It’s unbelievable how many soundtracks are the same now and again, but speaking to people, that would be the Irish mommy childhood or the Catholic Church or whatever way we were raised, I tend to see I’m not good enough. I think that then plays out in work sometimes. I do a lot of work with different organizations, do a lot of research and you tend to see these confident, some would call maybe narcissistic, and then a team underneath that are really hard workers, probably believe not good enough, not good enough, need to do more and get the pat on the head and create this system that is really, really unhealthy and is really reinforcing behaviors on both sides. Again, awareness would probably be what we need to work on to just highlight this dysfunctional relationship that tends to occur in business and probably in personal lives as well.

Pat (35:38):
Well, you named it there, it’s the core wound, which the core wound, I think, is for most of us is not enough, which could be not good enough, good looking enough, not rich enough, not poor, whatever it might be. The two responses to a belief that I’m not enough are either, “You’re right, I’m not enough,” and I collapse, and I give my power away for the rest of my life and put people on pedestals. Or I desperately fight to show I am good enough. You’re going to see how good enough I am. And so my behavior’s not driven by my values, it’s driven by, “I’m going to impress you.” So those are the two. When we find ourselves in either of those, giving my power away to people, putting them on pedestals, or relentlessly trying to get somewhere, this is a sign that we’ve lost our center and finding our center again, I think, is key.

Gillian (36:21):

Pat (36:23):
One thing is how would I know it was good enough?

Gillian (36:26):
A good one I heard before is you do nothing else. When you think about how precious the baby is that comes into this world and think of just us as humans, how precious we are, we’ve got to sometimes be incited that. But if I do nothing else with the rest of my life, I’m good enough. And I am. The whole process of life itself is unbelievable and again, in hindsight, it’s the same. Looking at the moon, [inaudible 00:36:53] and I was like, “How did we just drive by this thing all the time, a full moon?” It was unbelievable. But when you do get caught up in the busy trap, you don’t consider these things. And [inaudible 00:37:07], hopefully, she doesn’t listen. She found out that a certain person doesn’t exist and she said to me, “The saddest part of it was that there’s no magic in the world anymore. Is that what you’re telling me?” And I said, “Look, you live in a big, blue ball and standing in the middle of the universe. Of course, it’s amazing. You just need to open your eyes to it.”

Pat, I could talk to you all day, but we are coming up on time. So I have a few quick questions to ask you. Our listeners would love to know, have you a favorite book beside your own, which I definitely like? Is there another book that you would recommend for listeners?

Pat (37:44):
Yeah, there’s a book called Awareness by Anthony de Mello. He’s an amazing man. He was a Jesuit priest. His stuff was amazing. I think the church didn’t know what to do with him when he passed away because he was always telling people that they had the answers, that they didn’t need to be looking anywhere else. So Awareness by Anthony de Mello.

Gillian (38:02):
Yeah. Yeah, it is, isn’t it? When you think about it, people are constantly looking externally and trying to fix things but really, we are petrified when you say to people, “Sit there and think about it.” I actually said [inaudible 00:38:18] try this and finish it on the bench, but nothing, no device for an hour in the park. Absolutely no way. It’s like, “Listen to the madness.” [inaudible 00:38:26] but they couldn’t commit. So what would you say is your prediction for the future of work? What do you think either we’re not seeing or we’re going to see more of, or we don’t even know what’s up ahead? Any prediction for the future or work, or what would you like to be for the future work?

Pat (38:46):
The four-day work week. Maybe that’s a little bit off, but just giving people a chance to… I know we’re a little bit tight on time, but I’ll just share briefly. I don’t know if this story is true or not, but I heard this story once about the Guinness family and how good they were to their staff back in the day and just amazing things. But someone told me that when you were 65, they’d bring you into the… No, sorry 60, they’d bring you into the office and they’d say, “Right, you’re going to be retiring in five years. What are you going to do when you’re retire?” And you may say, “I’m going to go fishing or I’m going to go do carpentry or whatever.”

They’d say, “Okay, we’re putting you on a four-day work week now for the next year and then three-day and then two-day and then one-day, and we’re going to ease you off and we want you to do that thing that you’re going to do on the other day, and we’ll pay you full time.” So whether it’s true or it’s probably not true, but that kind of idea of really encouraging people to pursue their passion in the other three days, I think that would be quite powerful.

Gillian (39:34):
Amazing. Yeah, I’m a big fan of four-day week.

Pat (39:36):
I’m wishful thinking, yeah.

Gillian (39:38):
Yeah, no, I think there’s a big movement toward this. So yeah, I’m all for the four-day week. What type of leaders do you think we need for the future? If I was to position it as we’ve got huge levels of mental health because 2.5 million women dropped out of the workplace across Europe during the pandemic and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the workplace, there has been the great resignation, the quiet quitting, which I don’t really agree with, but there’s lots of noise around the world of work. What type of leaders do you think we need for the future?

Pat (40:18):
An embodied leader. An embodied leader is someone who doesn’t just talk the talk, but they live it, and they can respond to their emotions rather than react from their emotions. So that involves doing a lot of inner reflective work. I think a simple example, if I’ve got daddy issues and I’ve got a problem with my father and I’ve never resolved that, that’s going to act out in all of my relationships at work because I’ll have problems with authority. So a leader is someone who can look at some of their struggles and their wounds, can look at their patterns and their cycles and can show up differently, not based on patterns in cycles and reactions, but can take a breath and stay in the discomfort of whatever’s going on in their body in that moment. That’s embodiment, and show up like an adult rather than falling back into the child.

Which, again, and I say that without judgment, that it makes complete sense that sometimes we feel like a five-year-old scared child and sometimes we feel like a 15-year-old who wants to prove themselves to the world, but it’s staying in your adult body and staying in the present and being compassionate and open. And then I think the other piece is to me, a leader is someone who recognizes their role as a teacher but also as a student. So they can hold the dignity and the humility between the two. If I’m too sure of myself, I look down on people. If I’m too closed in on myself, I look up to people, but if I’m solid in myself, I look side to side with people and that’s what a leader does for me.

Gillian (41:42):
Wow. Do you have any examples of really good role models that you think are embodied leaders? Dead or alive. Dead or alive.

Pat (41:53):
Dead or alive. Probably people that maybe a lot of people might not know, but there’s certain people in the jiujitsu sport will say that I’m quite inspired by. I just like people that pursue things they’re passionate about, that have achieved excellence but are humble and have a quiet confidence. And I think quiet confidence is something that appeals to me. There’s a guy I study called John [inaudible 00:42:11] and he talks a lot about embodied leadership and like that. I’m quite a fan of his, so John [inaudible 00:42:17]’s worth having a look at.

Gillian (42:18):
So listen, Pat, I can’t believe, as I said, it passed by so quickly and I felt I knew you already, but then I’m probably a bit of a stalker. Well, thank you-

Pat (42:26):
Thank you.

Gillian (42:28):
Thank you so much for coming on today. I think our listeners will definitely have gotten a lot to work right there. And the very best of luck with the book. As I said, it’s a great read. It’s called Fit Mind and I’m sure you can get it at any bookstore or online. And so well done and thanks again.

The people behind the voices

Gillian French

Employee Experience Officer

Employee Experience Officer

Gillian French is a veteran people leader and organizational behaviorist with over 10 years of experience as Chief People Strategist.

She is passionate about coaching, strategy, building resilient and sustainable organisational culture, and improving global employee experience. She has also contributed to Forbes and is a regular panelist on the future of work.

Gillian is also the founder and CEO of SISU consulting, a business that specializes in organisation development and design.

Pat Divilly

Podcaster, Author and Facilitator

Pat Divilly is a life coach, speaker and author based in Galway, Ireland. He has been involved in the wellness space for 15 years. He is an advocate for living a purpose-driven life and works with individuals, teams, and organizations to help them find greater meaning and fulfillment in their lives. 

Pat’s work has been featured on The Good Life Project, TEDx Talks, The Guardian, and Yahoo! News. He has also been interviewed as an expert by the likes of Marie Claire magazine and Irish Times. 

As well as hosting a podcast, he is the author of the number-one bestseller ‘Fit Mind’ and frequently delivers workshops, online programs, and retreats designed to support emotional healing, connection, and authentic living. 

He believes that every person has the potential to make a positive impact on the world and create meaningful change.