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.
“Nana korobi ya oki 七転び八起き”
Fall seven times, rise eight” – Japanese Proverb
I was exhausted this weekend. People commenting that I looked pale and I really did feel tired. I’ve been wondering ‘why?’
Lockdown has been a long slog – a mentally and physically demanding ride, which has taken its toll, even on those of us, like me, who have had it pretty easy.
10 years ago, I worked briefly with a lovely man who was returning to Japan after three years working in the UK. He told me they have a saying about the number 3: 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months and even 3 years – all of these are turning points where we have to decide whether to stay or move on, and at each turning point we will wobble and have our doubts. My children know that when they wobble about work or relationships, they have to check – is it 3 weeks, 3 months or even 3 years!
And we are 3 months into this strange world, where we have to decide if we keep going or break out of lockdown, with a totally uncertain future ahead of us. It’s like running a marathon where we don’t know the finish line. So, I am not surprised that I am wobbling: at least my Japanese friend could return to a world he knew!
Founder & Director CharacterScope
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
Resilience is key to running this marathon. Not soldiering on, or pushing through pain, but rather paying attention to ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings and our relationships, and taking actions that will help and protect us now and for the future. Making the focus sustainable.
Are you looking after yourself in a way that makes you proud? Looking after your emotions, your health, your sleep, and your relationships?
Do you know which activities help you recalibrate and regain perspective? Are there ones that you have let slip in this lockdown world, which you would benefit from turning the dial up on again?
As an habitual optimist, I am drawn to all the new and exciting possibilities in any situation, so when lockdown began my thoughts were “there is so much potential to harness here.”
But my temporary openness and its accompanying high has so often come crashing down fast. A public figure falling from grace or a big company making a short-sighted decision, or even a friend adopting the narrative of ‘the enemy’ on whichever of the many public dramas was around, has surprisingly often catapulted me from a mindset of openness to one of harsh judgement in the flick of a browser screen!
Despite thinking of myself as an open-minded, compassionate individual, I have learned that especially when emotions run high, I too jump to premature conclusions and can be fixed in my judgements.
Consultant, Fan & Collaborator CharacterScope
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
People who are open-minded are receptive to new and different ideas and the views of others. They care about reducing the bias or distortion in their own views and beliefs and are good at listening to others with an unprejudiced mind and respecting their views and beliefs.
How can you suspend your own judgement for a little while longer? How could you invoke more of your curiosity whenever you feel you are “so right” about something?
Experiment with assuming that ‘the other side’ has something important for you to hear – whether you agree with it or not. Your job is simply to seek that out from the rest of the ‘noise’ in their argument that could be distracting you.
When I think back to March, when our worlds changed completely, I remember feeling a huge sense of worry, dread and fear – there were so many sleepless nights! I felt anxious about all the people who would become ill or lose loved ones, those on the front line, our economy… but also in a selfish way – how would I get through it on a personal level, trying to juggle work, home schooling our 7 year old while entertaining a 2 year old. It was hard to feel optimistic with so much uncertainty ahead.
Although it’s only been 2 months, it feels like a lifetime ago, and here we are now with a sense of our freedom returning and life resuming to a new kind of normality. And I’ll admit: I will miss lockdown. When will I ever get the opportunity to spend such a huge amount of time with my husband and our 2 daughters without having to share them with anyone else: no visitors, school run to rush for, or plans to make. I still don’t know what’s ahead, but we made it this far… and as much as I love being with my daughters, I am looking forward to having some time to myself soon!
Customer & User Engagement CharacterScope
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
As George Harrison wrote in his song ‘All things must pass’ – “Sunrise doesn’t last all morning, a cloud burst doesn’t last all day… It’s not always going to be this grey.” Our mood and feelings are not permanent things – even if they feel it at the time. Thinking of the positives in a situation, even when it feels very bleak, can turn a negative into a positive.
How has your mood changed during lockdown? What are the positives that have emerged for you?
If the you now could talk to the anxious or bleak you from the start of lockdown, what would you say? How can you use this wisdom the next time you are feeling anxious?
What I learned from 5 days off in lockdown with a broken phone!
Could I really keep sane without all the distractions I’m used to: 9am check-ins, 2x weekly Zoom pub quizzes and an endless stream of WhatsApp video suggestions, all out of access for the foreseeable future and all normal day-out activities closed down during lockdown.
Walking around the empty streets of central London without music, podcasts and the ability to instantly connect or share my experience with other people felt alien, but after a while I guess I found it refreshing.
I began to notice what was around me: on one particular day when I was walking on Primrose Hill, I am convinced an escaped rare parrot landed next to me. I didn’t and couldn’t take a photo and the parrot flew away. Was this a missed opportunity? Or maybe the image sent to my 25-person chat, would have confirmed “It’s just a Parakeet. Did anyone see the Bundasliga yesterday?”
Marketing Lead CharacterScope
Snippet, Reflect, Fix
Lock-down without my phone meant I noticed things I would otherwise have missed – the sounds, smells, sites of my hometown. There is so much to like in these simple daily pleasures.
What details of your life have you noticed recently that you may have taken for granted before? Is it the sound of birds, or the crack in the plaster that needs fixing, or something else?
Choose an app that you use on a daily basis. Don’t open it for 24hrs and notice what you feel, think and do differently.