Present tense

Ahhh, January. I forgot about you. Mornings that could easily be mistaken for the dead of night, guilt-trip gym membership adverts glaring at you from every newspaper page and ever-decreasing notches available on your belt.

The VAT rise is going to cost us ‘£390 a year’ each, (I almost choked on my tea when the National Rail clerk kindly showed me the new price of my monthly season ticket), there’s a flu epidemic, and we have sadly lost one of Britain’s true acting greats, Pete Postlethwaite.

Happy New Year…?

Yes, because the New Year also brings with it a wealth of reasons to be joyful. An extra day off for the royal wedding! A whole new year’s holiday allowance stretched out like virgin snow! A chance to forget all the mistakes you made in 2010!

On this positive note, I am currently reading The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, and finally understand what all the fuss is about. It’s full of amazing wisdom about life, destiny – all that jazz. And one of the main messages is about how living in the present is one of the secrets of true happiness:

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings… Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.”

Well said Paolo. Being ‘present’ has been quite a talked-about subject of late. Author of ‘Dare to Engage’ Anese Cavanaugh brilliantly encapsulates the concept in this article. She makes the point that, if you can never fully enjoy or concentrate on an activity because you are always planning or – more often than not – worrying about the next thing, you are not ‘present’ and therefore missing out on, well, living. It does take energy to be constantly present but then that’s what sleep is for – to recharge for the next day of being fully present in your life. And if you’re not present in your life, what is the point?

In the business world the idea of being present particularly centres on inefficiency in the modern workplace, where interruptions are constant and your concentration is stretched to cover hundreds of things at once. Seth Godin articulates this in his blog with his suggestion of having a ‘meeting fairy’. Whilst this may not be a feasible option for many (although our office manager Sophie definitely sprinkles meeting fairy dust!), I think just trying to be more present could go a long way to wasting less time and getting more done.

So here’s to clearing out the ‘mind chatter’ and being more present and mindful in 2011. That’s my New Year’s Resolution (that and avoiding biscuits).  I’ll leave you with Albert Einstein’s wise words:

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

 That’ll be all.

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Another year, another resolution and lots of change (like it or not)

Reading the papers this morning one theme that seemed to spring off the pages was that of change. Maybe this is not particularly surprising as it’s the start of the year and many people will be busy trying to change habits with their new year’s resolutions.

Nevertheless, change does seem to be featuring stronger on the agenda than in previous years. To start the leading article for The Guardian this morning was about the proposed change in rules regarding product placement, and the backlash it’s creating. But the reality is that commercial television is under huge pressure. They need to adapt, change and evolve…. or risk extinction to online services.

Another example of the force of change can be seen with a study by the Princes Trust that suggests that unemployed young people struggling to find work could potentially be “scarred for life” by their first experiences of the job market.

There were countless other examples. Including a look at how musicians are being forced to change how they work in order to survive. The piece says fans are expecting more, which means musicians have to do everything from giving away locks of their hair to playing a round of golf with fans for money. Nothing and no-one seems immune with even the football refusing to conform to the normal world order.

Seth Godin recently blogged about the relevance of change in this decade – declaring it a choice between embracing change or suffering the consequence of frustration. Strong words indeed!

I don’t want to belittle the issues of product placement or graduate unemployment, which clearly both need careful consideration. But I think there is a lot of value in looking at these issues through the embracing change perspective. For example there have been some great examples of people using creativity to stand out in the job market such as the creator of ihiredjeffclark.com who built a website rather than sent out CVs.

With a new government looking likely to come into power in the first half of this year, wanting things to stay the same is pretty futile. We may not always like it but it seems that for now at least, the idea of embracing change is the best New Year’s resolution you can have.