I’ve been known to get distracted, often because I’m drawn to what’s new and interesting, and I feel restlessly creative. Recently, in the middle of a team meeting a colleague had to pull me up as I tried to explore some new data and “find an answer” then and there, when I definitely should have been focussed on and contributing to the energy of the group. It wasn’t pretty, but I was grateful that the team was able to draw my focus back into what was important.
That episode reminded me once again of a concept I’m very fond of: the flywheel. The heavy, slowly-turning wheel that, if we just keep pushing in the same direction for long enough, gains momentum which ends up difficult to stop! I realised that a team itself is a store of momentum, like a human flywheel. For those of us, like me, who can lose focus at times, tuning into that collective store is essential: it allows me to persevere in a way that I couldn’t alone. In these strange times, when so many wheels seem to have stopped or slowed, it seems more important than ever to keep pushing in the directions that matter most to us, alongside others who feel the same.
Mark de Cates
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
Perseverance is about sustaining effort and focus, even when things are difficult. Like every aspect of our character, it can be a natural strength, or a gap that may hold us back. As a strength, we can be a source of direction and energy, helping others sustain and build momentum. As a gap, if we’re wise, we can work closely with, and appreciate this strength in others.
Consider yourself: is perseverance a strength or a gap in different areas of your life? Then consider those around you (near and far): are you a consumer of momentum and focus, or a producer? Or perhaps you are both? Who do you draw on to maintain your focus, to keep you on track? How might they feel about that?
Identify one person with whom you have a clear connection in terms of perseverance and focus. Take some time today to acknowledge and reinforce that connection.
I live on a small-holding in West Wales and lock-down has been carefully observed amongst our locals. With restrictions on our lives finally easing, I find that on the occasions I go out these days I am mostly left feeling angry, enraged even!
My anger is not at the Covid-19 virus, the restrictions on my life, the continuous queues or even our Government any longer – I am angry at the general public, my fellow human beings.
We are asked to wear face masks and maintain social distancing – which is not terribly difficult at all in the grand scheme of things. So why do people complain and want to exercise their ‘right’ not to wear a mask? Why do people feel it is OK to treat other people’s homes as their playground and leave their rubbish behind? Why do people feel OK invading my personal space?
Isn’t it positively selfish of them? Surely it is our obligation as a decent human being to think of others and to be kind, considerate and respectful to each other?
But then reflecting further (walking my dogs over the green rolling hills always helps!) I’m struck by the realisation that my feeling angry doesn’t help either. It too easily leads to me treating my fellow human beings as ‘other’ and bad, failing to see our common humanity, just as they are failing to see mine.
Head of Business Operations CharacterScope
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
People high in Self-regulation are good at not allowing themselves to be driven or controlled by their impulses or habits. They also tend to be good at challenging their own assumptions or prejudices about people. It is not the same as denying emotions or impulses – being shut off from emotions – but about not letting them drive behaviour.
A Buddhist precept has it that we should thank our enemies because they are the only ones who can truly teach us what compassion is. It’s a challenging idea. Reflect on what is most likely to trigger you into anger or into losing sight of another person’s humanity.
Create an ‘if-then’ routine for yourself. Which might go something like ‘If I find myself sparked into righteous indignation, then I’ll … (mow the lawn, knit, walk the dog, bake a cake with love in my heart).
Regular readers will know that our original snippet curator, Angus, is off risk-taking and I’m taking over the snippet series. I’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch and let me know how you’re finding these snippets – your feedback helps keep them going in the right direction. If you’d like to know more about me there’s a link to my podcast interview with Mark Loftus at the bottom of this snippet.
I’ve been paying attention to my curiosity over the last few weeks, wondering when I have curiosity and when I don’t and I’ve realised that there are lots of things I’m not curious about. Initially I thought this was a failing as my role is all about creativity, but I’ve come to accept it’s ok.
I’ve realised that I can deepen my curiosity rather than broaden it. Rather than trying to be curious about everything, I’ve become more aware of what really sparks my curiosity. It’s when I encounter something new in the world that challenges my previous understanding and makes me ask why. I’m really interested in visual trends, so when something grabs my attention I ask myself am I really interested in what I’m seeing or am I more curious about what messages the visuals give and the impact they might have on others?
Maybe I’ve become more curious about my own curiosity!
Creative Lead CharacterScope
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
Curiosity is key to creativity and it’s about wondering ‘why?’ as well as ‘what?’ and ‘how?’ Everybody has curiosity about some things and lacks curiosity about other things. What’s really key is to be curious about yourself – why some things grab you and why some don’t.
What grabs you? And why? Think about what lies in the outside world and what lies inside you.
To quote Jung:
“Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens”
Next time something sparks your curiosity, see if you can answer the ‘why?’ question: is it about new knowledge, about being up to date, because it’s complex, or simple, or beautiful? And what insights does this simple observation give you about yourself and your values?
Six snippets ago I talked about lock-down without my phone. It meant I noticed things I would otherwise have missed – the sounds, smells, sites of my hometown.
The ‘Fix’ suggested that week was to delete an app that you use on a daily basis and notice what you feel, think and do differently. After initially noticing what was around me, my other-awareness turned internal and I started to notice my Self. I wanted more of this feeling, a sort of freedom from my phone and I now want to expand on this and be in touch with my choices.
So, I’ve decided to ride with it. I am leaving CharacterScope, London and lockdown to brave it in the wind, rain (and hopefully sun) of Scotland. More specifically Benbecula, the windiest and most remote location in the British Isles (kind-of). If there is a message from this realisation that I want to pass on, it’s not for everyone to leave their job and pack a bag, but to understand the potential of a small action like giving up your phone. It starts you on a journey that could end with you deleting Facebook or in my case almost everything. I feel compelled to follow my gut and take a risk on my life.
Marketing Lead CharacterScope
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
Risk-taking is about being prepared to risk the known for the unknown. People high in Risk-taking do not put themselves on the line for an adrenaline rush or to appear a hero in others’ eyes but in order to achieve some higher goal.
Often when we think about making changes in our lives, we do a faulty risk-benefit analysis and talk ourselves out of it. Is there something you want to change in your life? It could be a small change or something much bigger.
Ask yourself, what could the benefits of making this change be for me? Then ask yourself, what are the risks? Then ask yourself, what are the benefits of not making the change? And finally, what are the risks of not making the change? Look at your 4 answers together and weighing up all the risks and benefits decide what you will do.
I have been trying to support some of Useful and Kind Unlimited’s cohort of young people (18-25) through these times of enormous uncertainty, challenge and frustration, and so in the last few weeks I have asked myself the same question I always ask my clients, namely to reflect on their 18 year-old selves and remember what they were like then.
When I remember back to being 18, just before going to university, where I met Mark Loftus, I had no real sense of the world, thought I was going to conduct the Last Night of the Proms before I was 30, and make music, all music, available to everyone. In other words, believing I could change the world. I had no idea where it would actually lead and as I look back I am really proud of the way I have adapted to challenges and opportunities, not all of them welcome at the time.
Yet I now reflect on the white privilege I enjoyed and how my generation have failed to change the world enough, so I wonder who I am to advise and support young people who will be faced with far greater challenges than I was.
In a sense lockdown is a pause, a reset, a preparation for what is to come next, for responsibility, action, compassion, tenderness and grace. We are all effectively 18 again, not knowing what is coming and doing all we can to be #Usefulandkind to ourselves, others and the world. So, I cannot plan, I can only go forward in good faith that I can help others to be the best they can be, drawing again on the same resilience and creativity that I had when I was 18.
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
Appetite is about having a strong inner conviction of the value of progressing some cause or goal and a desire to play a key part in bringing the goal to life.
Take a pause today, imagine your 18-year-old self sitting in front of you: picture how they are dressed and their energy. Then become them and look at your current self. What are they proud of you for? Finally, come back to your current self, thank them and offer them some advice – something from your hard-won experience.
Now listen to the advice you just gave your younger self – it will likely be good advice for you to take to heart right now!
I cycled 203km a few days ago as a way of marking the Summer solstice, the furthest I’ve ever cycled. Days had been merging into one and I wanted something to look back on in future years, a kind of ‘before the ride’ and ‘after the ride’, a way of getting some personal perspective on our current world.
My ride took me through the Cotswolds – Malmesbury, Tetbury and up towards Cheltenham – through ancient landscape, sometimes on arrow-straight Roman roads, often on rolling, meandering lanes. We passed Neolithic standing stones, the site of a 3rd Century Roman villa, a 12th Century Abbey, villages that trace their identity over a thousand and more years.
There’s so much that’s wrong with our current world and ways of living on the Earth, so many pressing problems to fix. Yet as these crowd around us, it can be hard to feel there could be a far future, of people quietly enjoying the legacy of our generation’s time on this planet. It can be hard to feel it is even worth creating a vision of a better future.
Founder & CEO CharacterScope
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
Traditionally, prudence is seen as the mother of the virtues, the means by which we judge between virtuous and vicious acts. More recently it’s become synonymous with cautiousness and risk-aversion, out of kilter with our collective self-image as fast-moving and bold. In truth prudence is really about acting now in ways that our future selves and generations will thank us for.
What will your self in 2 years’ time thank you for what you are doing now? And how about in 20 years’ time? And what legacy from this time would you like our inheritors to value in 200 years’ time?
When you find yourself caught in the urgency to keep up with the latest tweets, the latest stories, the latest technology, try to picture what people in the unthinkably far future might make of our current preoccupations… take a moment to breathe… and then act.