The power of gratitude

Tuesday, 01 September 2020

Fiona Smith photo
Fiona Smith
Journalist, Writer and Communicator

    Drawing on her experience during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, Rebekah Giles, director of the Clean Energy Partnership, says directors should look for reasons to be grateful.

    Rebekah Giles MAICD was holidaying on Thailand’s Phi Phi Island in December 2004 when a wall of water swept inland, killing an estimated 4000 people on the island in a disaster that would claim the lives of more than 230,000 in the region.

    Giles was thrown onto the rooftop of a hotel by the force of the water. Repatriated to Australia, she endured 140 surgeries and a bout of necrotising fasciitis. During the course of her rehabilitation she had to learn how to walk and use her right arm again. Her last operation was eight years after the event.

    Giles observed some survivors struggling with the enormity of what had happened. “I saw them go down the rabbit hole and never come out,” she says. “I knew that things would improve for me and made a decision I wasn’t going to go down there because there would be a lot of introspection and unhelpful thought processes.”

    A former partner at Kennedys and director of the Clean Energy Partnership, Centennial Parklands Foundation and GWS Giants, Giles says the ordeal gave her a perspective that is now a strength. She launched her own law practice, Company Giles, in February, as the world slid into a lockdown and recession. Her advice to directors is to keep in mind that economic recovery is ahead. “This is not permanent,” she says.

    Giles adds that setbacks can be put into perspective when you recognise your good fortune in other areas. “The key is to look for reasons to be grateful. Take care of your mental health and find a support team — you need people to have your back at work and at home.”

    She advises directors who are struggling to seek expert help to anticipate potential emotional reactions during the crisis. “This means you won’t be surprised and overwhelmed,” she says.

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