Thanks for the comments and for reading my blog last week. One of my friends said,
“This is really interesting, but I’m worried about what time you’re going to get up now Becky!” And as someone who knows me well, she’s probably right to point out that I’m full of good intentions and that I drive myself hard. But actually, what I’ve found this week is that it’s not about getting up earlier – but just sitting down immediately to write and not getting distracted by the other stuff that happens in the morning. When I get distracted, I don’t do the writing – so, for me, it’s about having an iron will to protect my best thinking time – more than it is about the early start.
This week I’ve been really reflecting hard on the concept of ‘what matters most’. I talked last week about protecting the time for it – but how to identify it in the first place? This is in part to do with ‘big goals’ – the big ticket items that I need to achieve each week. For example, this week on Monday I wrote down that by Friday I needed to have written my blog and done the design for a leadership team day that I’m running. So each day – I chose to set time aside for writing my journal, so that I’d have ideas for the blog and timetabled a specific chunk of a couple of days for the design.
How does this then fit into ‘purpose’ – and what has that got to do with the ‘art of enough’? Well for me – part of the wobbly elastic boundary is making sure that my working life is full enough of the things that I care most about. It gives me a sense of meaning which in itself contains my drive – I am doing enough.
Whenever I read about purpose – and there is masses of research and great thinking about this – I find myself torn between recognising how fundamentally important it is, and thinking of it as a kind of ‘nice to have’ luxury. I guess, this is taken from my recognition of the fact that not all of us are lucky enough to spend our working life on the things that matter most to us. Having said that – purpose is about more than work – it’s about what we are here for – what we care most about – and in many ways, who we are. And that cuts across every single thing we do – in or out of work.
I’m always drawn to the story of Alfred Nobel when I think about this stuff. When we think of Nobel, we think of the Nobel Prize right? So here’s an interesting thing. In 1888, eight years before his death , Alfred’s brother Ludvig died, and in error, a Paris newspaper published an obituary of Alfred. The headline? ‘The merchant of death is dead.’ Because up until that point, Alfred had not even thought of establishing a philanthropic prize for the betterment of humankind. He was an arms dealer with 90 armaments factories – and his notoriety came from the fact that he invented dynamite. I like to imagine Alfred that morning, sitting in his smart Paris home, sipping his coffee and reading the paper – think about the moment when he came across his own obituary celebrating his demise as an agent of destruction. In the film version he’d drop his coffee cup right?! And that in fact, turned out to be a moment of truth for Alfred. He was so appalled that this was how his legacy was described that he dedicated the rest of his life to setting up a scheme for giving his considerable wealth away, and promoting positive advancement – and of course, peace.
Now, I’m not an arms dealer. And I think it’s highly unlikely that I ever get to read an erroneous obituary of me. But I do think there is value in taking the long view – and taking a moment to wonder – what do I want people to remember me for? What do I want to have contributed?
Big questions. And the way I scale them back to answer them, is to think about what my values are – and how I can then spend my time best that aligns with them. Values – personal drivers – the things that if you were to cut me open like a stick of rock you’d find written down. In my work with culture in organisations I often start with organisational values – what matters most. What’s the glue that holds everyone together – that all employees can sign up to, that helps drive collective behaviour?
And it can help to do this as individuals too – perhaps more than ever in today’s complex world where we are pulled into multiple contexts – with that elastic boundary. It can be so helpful to articulate them because it gives me authenticity and keeps me connected to myself and to others. Not only that, but I have a compass which keeps me on track when trying to prioritise the stuff that matters most from the other multiple demands I have on my time each day.
When I’m working with my clients I challenge them to get it down to three or four. So mine are: creativity, connectivity, fairness, and abundance. These things drive my thinking and in fact underpin the work I do and how I approach it. They shape my behaviour and what I choose to focus my energy on. So linking it back to my purpose – if I am able to spend my days working on things that are aligned with my values then I feel like I’m doing ok. It’s enough.
What are yours? And does knowing what they are help to give you focus on the big stuff?
Last week one of you asked how I imagined this collective thinking about the ‘art of enough’ would be organised – suggesting a forum. At the moment, I’m keeping track of all comments and you can post on my website or other platforms I put the blog on, and let’s see where the energy develops.