Less Watching, More Doing

I think at times like these, we suffer a collective syndrome the opposite of Attention Deficit Disorder. We obsess over things over which we have no control and no influence and whose impact on us will be, at best, uncertain.

Watching the US election is fascinating in the same way as watching a seniors boxing match. Not much movement, lots of holding onto each other in the middle of the ring, and the knowledge that the decision will be made on points, in this case by lawyers. When the winner is declared, we will go back to the usual unpredictability, with no idea what the impact on us will be. Nontheless, it still occupies the headlines for weeks, and we watch on.

At home, we now understand how Coronavirus works, that it will not go away, and that at best we will be able to mitigate it somewhat. We also know that other issues, similar in their unpredictable disruption are emerging, from other viruses to more specifically man created issues. Despite that, we obsess on the details, harangue experts who know as well as we do they just don’t know the details of the impact, because it’s complex. With so many different factors in play, experts have no more idea than we do, or the classic “monkeys throwing darts” as to what the impact will be a year ahead. And yet, despite knowing this we stand there in the economic rain waiting for someone to bring us an umbrella.

It is, right now, the most beautiful Autumn morning. The first groundfrost of the year, and the trees in the valley an absurd and riotous collection of colour. It will probably change during the day, and certainly by next week, and we’ll have different weather, and that’s fine.

We could do worse than to bring Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits to mind. It may have been around for a while, and famous, but there’s a reason for that.

His fifth habit – “seek first to understand and then be understood”. The key here is understand. Getting swept away in an unpleasant tidal wave of social media is not understanding. Understanding requires quiet, calm and perspective:

  • What is really going on here?
  • How well am I equipped to deal with it?
  • Who might help me / who might I help?
  • How can I shape what is happening to the advantage of those I care for?
  • Make a decision
  • Do it.

We might also do well to remember his “circle of influence”. In short, we pay attention to far more than we can use. Every moment spent on social media trivia is a moment to act we will not get back. Time does not do refunds.

In the midst of all the things that are just consuming our attention to no useful purpose are hordes of ideas, opportunities and joyful moments waving at us. Things that will take us the other side of the storm.

Things that we can do during the storm.

  • Take an online course
  • Listen to a decent podcast.
  • Read a good book outside your area of interest. Poetry and philosophy work well.
  • Get together with people you trust to talk about what’s going on. No goals, no objectives, no wingeing; just observation. For the joy of it.

We all have enormous wells of capability and potential we are not using. It’s time to draw on them. There is huge need for it. Nobody else will do it for us.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret mead

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