Following up from my last article, The Most Dangerous Word, I took time to reflect on what it means for Providers to move away from should and savour the is.

I’ve sunk a lot of thought into this for two reasons:

  1. because I have spent more than three years living in the NDIS day-to-day, grappling with dodgy Plans and grinding through the Provider Portal to try and get a cent out of it… and for a significant chunk of those years, I have not been able to let go of the should.
  2. because it is HARD. The NDIS has got us all so excited in so many ways and to have those hopes and ambitions scuttled is really deflating. The ups-and-downs are exhausting.

But what choice, other than accept the should and savour the is, does the sector have?

A while ago I read about a concept developed by Iyanla Vanzant, a lawyer, author, coach, and speaker. She has an idea called No Whine Wednesday: she describes it as one day each week of no whining, no complaining, no criticising, no condemning, no “why didn’t they?” and no “shouldn’t it be like this?” On this day, you instead focus on the fact everything in our lives teaches us a lesson. Just one day per week of living completely in the is, and accepting the should.

The Provider Portal is getting me down, it should work better. Not on a Wednesday!

I’ve rang the 1800 number three times today and I still haven’t got a clear answer. I should be able to get better information about this hugely important Scheme. Not on a Wednesday!

This is the third Plan this week that has a gap between the end of Yr1 and the start of Yr2; now I’m the one that has to sort this out for the Participant. Why should we have to take our time fixing this? Not on a Wednesday!

I’m going to be brutally honest: late last year, the Provider I ran in ACT was staring down the barrel. We were haemorrhaging money, our substantial overdraft was maxed out, we had an army of deeply drained and stressed employees, hundreds of thousands of dollars frozen in the Provider Portal, and we were delivering services that we didn’t enjoy and weren’t very good at – all of this in an attempt to hold onto the NDIS dream. One year later and with some significant business and service changes, the future is looking much brighter.

But as a leader, during that time last year, I was completely tied up in the should, and it was blinding me to the is.

As a sector, we have always prided ourselves on being present and supporting people with disabilities when lots of other parts of Australian society have not. It’s our foundation, our currency. We’ve always stepped in to do what is needed, even when it should have happened already. The NDIA is another Federal Government arm – admittedly one that has lofty aims and is implementing a visionary, world-first scheme – and reverts to type regularly (for the record, I think everyone at the NDIA has an incredibly tough job and is doing the best they can in extremely difficult circumstances). The whole sector was excelling at the is pre-NDIS, and it’s vitally important that we keep that heart and spirit of doing what we can to positively support change in people’s lives. Getting deeper and deeper into the should doesn’t allow us to do that.

For a long time, I failed No Whine Wednesday every single week. But ultimately it was only No Whine Wednesday that gave me one day per week where I could let go of my frustration, disappointment, anger, heartbreak, resentment and irritation, and which gave me enough vision to see past the should and see the service and business changes that needed to be made to become sustainable in NDIS.  

I challenge every provider in Australia today to start a No Whine Wednesday and see what should lets you release, and what is lets you savour.

Rob Woolley

Rob is Director of The Forward Road, a consulting firm that specialises in working with NDIS Providers to design, develop and deliver outstanding services. We believe the best time to transform your organisation, and bring people back to the centre, is when the world around you is changing. We believe a conscious, values-based approach is the key to success for all businesses in all sectors.

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