From Skeptic to Mentor

From Skeptic to Mentor

Sgt. Shane O’Neill, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department

I would like to start by saying that I’m grateful for the opportunity to convey my thoughts and experience with the Pathfinder Resilience Navigating Adversity training program. As a member of the first law enforcement in the county to complete the program, I don’t mind admitting that the results were surprising. Not only for myself, but as an individual member of a large agency.

I have always compartmentalized my career and my personal life. But in the last couple of years in particular, that approach was not working for me. I was super stressed and retirement could not come soon enough. In the back of my mind, I knew I need to make some serious decisions about the way I was coping with my work life balance. I now have some tools to do so.

As a member of a large law enforcement agency, I struggled with the notion that a program would help me navigate through my 27 plus years as a Deputy Sheriff. What could I possible learn from this program that I have not either used in the past or would need in the future? I was skeptical.

In 2021, the opportunity was made available to me by the leadership in my Sheriff’s Office. I looked at the material and knew that I would be able to fit it into my busy schedule and decided to give it my best. I am very happy that I did.

The videos and the material were broken up into bite size portions and I was able to not only digest the material, but really understand the impact that this could have on my life/ work balance.

The program mentors were great. I would like to thank Robert Mann, my Navigating Adversity Mentor for helping me. He was available to me when I had questions and I feel that he had genuine interest in my progression through the training.

I needed and appreciated the email updates for my mentor, letting me know about deadlines for the work. The encouragement from my mentor to complete the work was well received and timely.

In particular, I would like to share just some of the training that I found very beneficial and enjoyable. The Unsent Letter and the Building Spiritual Capital.

When I saw the assignment for the Unsent Letter I thought. “What good would this really do for me?”. The assignment was to pen a letter to someone that you have unresolved feelings with or that you regretted not having a better relationship with.

I saw this letter as an opportunity to pay respect to and acknowledge a fleeting “something” in my life. I wrote a letter to my friend Time or Tim.

In this letter I spell out how I regretted not appreciating that time I had and how, throughout my life, I was unable to see what was given to me and how precious it is to me, especially now.

This exercise gave me a better understanding of how I perceived time before and how I see it now. This realization that time was indeed fleeting, and that tomorrow is promised to no one, helped me to prioritize my life and wrap my mind around a better respect for everyone’s time and for time in general.

The second thing I would like to convey to you is the Building Spiritual Capital training. This is the first time in my career that I was able to express myself in a personal and private matter. I could not believe that I was being encouraged to do this sort of thing!

I liked that I was able to pick out certain passages from the bible, and putting them together on a sheet of paper and sharing them with my mentor was good for me.

I had never done this before and I was very appreciative that I could present parts of my whole person in this exercise; not just my at-work person.

As peace officers, we naturally shy away from training. Cops are bombarded with mandatory training that is required on what seems to be a constant bases. Many times, the training provided is repetitive and of little or no real value aside from a box-check.

I have spoken to members of my Sheriff’s Office who also completed Navigating Adversity and, although they were very apprehensive about the program at first, many deputies and civilian law enforcement employees were won over by the end of the training.

I was able to review the entire Sheriff’s Office results and compare them to mine which I enjoyed.

I would recommend you reinvest in yourself and your employees. Take a page out of my agency’s play book and take that leap of faith to participate in Navigating Adversity. It will pay dividends for years to come!

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