Author Archives: Aodan Enright

The alternative Budget update

My inbox was full of budget updates this week. I noticed increases in some levies and activities, reductions in others and the introduction of certain initiatives. The world keeps turning.

Maybe an alternative budget might be useful for us?

Increases:

  • A 25% rise in commitments to spending time outdoors
  • A 50% improvement in planning our most important activities, especially in uncertain times
  • Doubling in social instigation – if you reached out to say hi once last week, do it twice this week
  • A tripling in investment in joy-generating activities – essential to offset the downsides of imminent lockdowns

Reductions:

  • A 50% reduction in agitated news following and doomscrolling
  • Cutting back the practice of over-filling our calendars with video calls (min. 20%)
  • 25% week-on-week cumulative reduction in practicing avoidance – time to reverse the trend and embrace what needs to be grasped
  • Move to eliminate the habit of assuming worst intent when communicating online – to be eradicated by EOY20

New Programmes:

  • Commitment to at least one project that will hold value a year from now and requires consistent and regular effort
  • Allowing ourselves to experience an entirely new hobby/practice/activity to ensure we are counteracting the forces of psychological contraction

I could go on. I trust you get the idea.

Even though we have common needs, we find ourselves in different situations. Do what you can to prepare for the eventualities that lie ahead.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

The light at the end of the tunnel

We speed up when we see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our ‘freedom’ is imminent and we advance with excitement.

Right now in the world, we’re facing into a prolonged period of uncertainty. We’re not sure what’s going to happen with Covid-19 and we don’t know how long-lasting the impact is going to be on our economy and our working lives.

As of now, the end of the tunnel is out of sight.

What can we do?

First off, we need to ensure we keep moving forward through a tunnel and not retreat into a cave. It’s tempting to give up when things are going pear-shaped and the mood music is relentlessly negative. But those who need us are out of luck if we choose to down tools. They need us now and they’ll need us when the world looks a lot better again.

If the end of the tunnel is too far in the distance, the least we can do is illuminate the stretch ahead of us. There are two useful ways of doing this: first, by maintaining a longer-term focus, committing to projects that stretch into a timeline of months and years. This allows us to look past the daily setbacks or latest gloom, knowing we’re on a more substantial mission.

And we can generate light by pre-committing to activities that we know will lighten our mood and allow us to be at our best. If we miss social interaction, we can send three invitations to reconnect with friends/colleagues every week. If we’re burning out from staring at screens, we can head outdoors or read a paper book. If we’re bogged down in career uncertainty, we can revisit our areas of greatest interest.

It’s time to light our own way, and keep moving forward.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Playing to the whistle

You’ll hear this reminder at field sports of all ages: play to the whistle!

Sometimes players stop, believing that a foul has been committed, expecting the referee to intervene. But the whistle never comes. The game is still going on. Now they’re playing catch up.

This metaphor is apt for those of us trying to work in this pandemic era. It’s easy to get distracted, to down tools and lose our focus when we hear of worsening case numbers or imminent changes in restrictions.

It seems like the whistle is about to be blown. But often, it isn’t. We need to play on, and do whatever we can until we know for certain that we cannot.

In uncertain times, make sure you play to the whistle.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Second time round

It’s easier second time round.

There may be some exceptions to the rule. Many report that their first marathon is their best. If you’ve hit a hole-in-one on your first day out, then you have a long wait for lightning to strike twice.

But in general, we do better when we have experience of a previous attempt.

This is useful to remember as the world moves towards reimposing greater restrictions on activity in an attempt to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Second time round, you’re in better shape to take this on. You’ve learned many lessons and you can prepare accordingly.

It’s also useful to remember that media coverage of the pandemic isn’t primarily concerned with your performance or your mental wellbeing. It’s designed to be compelling, dramatic and addictive. It’s helpful to be informed but you’re unlikely to be at your best if you’re continually hooked to an evolving horror movie.

Second time round. You’ve got this.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Combatting the Covid craziness

I’m sure you’ve noticed it too.

More than half a year of living our lives in a different way has changed how people are reacting and relating to each other. And it’s not all good.

Almost every coaching conversation I’ve had in the past couple of months has referred to increased levels of conflict, and even aggression, in everyday interactions. Shortened tempers, inability to gain perspective, assigning too much importance to insignificant stuff – these are all classic signs of a lack of emotional balance and regulation.

Here’s the thing: none of us are immune from this. Bad behaviour isn’t inevitable but when we reduce the level of positive stimuli in our environment, this can result in an atmosphere that tends towards the negative.

If it’s not immediately obvious yet in your personal circle, just have a look at how people are interacting online and on social media platforms (pro tip: not for too long!). We were on a longer-term arc of anger pre-Covid but this has now moved up a level or two.

So, how do we combat it?

Most of the solution is in awareness and acceptance. This is the environment we are in. We’re human, prone to these tendencies. We will cope better when we’re able to notice what’s happening and then choosing our response, rather than immediately engaging in an aggressive or defensive fashion.

And it’s useful to be proactive about this too. Some groups are starting video calls with a couple of minutes of mindful meditation, even if it’s just taking a few breaths. Some leaders are owning this and explaining that these tendencies are with us, helping us to de-escalate rather than digging in.

A deep breath is invariably better than a sharp bite.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Preparing for the season ahead

Facing into the autumn/winter of 2020, we’re well resourced for what lies ahead.

We’re certainly better off than we were heading into this year’s spring and summer. We have valuable experience of living, and working, through a pandemic. We’ve learned a lot of lessons, and have the benefit of the wisdom that accrues from making many mistakes.

However, that wisdom only becomes valuable when we apply it. Here are some reminders to get us moving in the right direction.

1. Different game, different rules
If we approach the months ahead in the same fashion we did last year, we’re setting ourselves up for suffering. The game has changed so we need to play by new rules. Old routines need to be shaken up. We need to be proactive in designing our days and weeks for the reality we’re in now. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it has to be worse. We have the agency to make it work.

2. Overcompensate with joy
The universe provides us with a lot of spontaneous joy during the summer months: longer days, better weather, more pleasant outdoor experiences. Knowing that it doesn’t fall into our lap as easily for the next while, it’s time for us to make an investment in joy. You may not have a more useful question in the coming months than asking, “What will I do today to generate joy?”

3. Align expectations to your own values
Comparison with others has limited benefit. At times like these, we need to reset our expectations to fit our own individual reality, not anyone else’s. By getting clearer on what we value and then honouring those values consistently, we can avoid the trap of feeling like we’re doing this wrong.

4. Apply those learned lessons
It’s possible you’ve forgotten a lot of what happened earlier in the pandemic. That’s ok, we’re not machines. But much of what you’ve learned about what works for you (and what doesn’t) is still valid – as long as you make the adjustments now to apply those lessons. Take time to take stock on your experience. Then act accordingly.

5. Be your own best friend
This isn’t the time for tough love. More than ever we need compassion, especially in our self-talk. Rather than being hard on ourselves, we can work to set ourselves up for success. We can adjust our lighting. We can celebrate the small victories. Do the same for others, if you can.

Remember, preparation trumps worrying. Every time.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

You are not your plans

“You are not your ____________” is a useful template.

Most commonly used in relation to thoughts or emotions, this reminder is worth repeating.

Over the years, I’ve observed many business owners, startup founders and ambitious professionals fall in love with their plans. Big ideas, grand ambitions and high hopes.

Sometimes those dreams were realised, but often they weren’t. Circumstances changed. Contact with reality meant adjustment was required. And for most, Plan A went in the bin and focus moved to Plan B.

But for some, the transition away from Plan A was too painful. Attachment to the original plan became a problem. Identity and sense of self had merged with these stories of a better future.

The result? Unnecessary suffering and a reduction in capability.

Plans are just plans. Helpful for aligning effort to a specific mission, but they aren’t defining, and they aren’t made of DNA or etched in the landscape.

In this year of unexpected upheaval, it’s worth remembering you are not your plans.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

 

Wearing our Sunday Best

In an age of ‘fast fashion’, the concept of wearing our Sunday Best feels almost prehistoric. Or at least, quaint.

There we were, at our cleanest, with our smartest clothes. Looking the part, as it were.

In recent years in my coaching work, I’ve used the term Sunday Best to label the phenomenon of holding back our best effort for the ‘right’ occasion. It’s surprisingly prevalent.

Over the course of our lives, we are continually accumulating wisdom, but rarely applying fully what we are learning. We seldom wear our Sunday Best.

Instead, we act out of habit, we conform to our environment and social pressures, we succumb to the story that this moment isn’t as important as a future one.

The alternative is to mindfully embrace each day for what it can bring. And to show up with everything we’ve got, whatever that looks like on a given day.

Why wait until the ‘right’ time?

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

The Great Avoidance

We’re getting a lot of messages these days that promote avoidance. We need to avoid contact, avoid risky behaviours, avoid touching our faces, and so on.

The overriding instruction is clear: you need to retreat.

The problem though is avoidance can become contagious, spreading from the useful towards the counter-productive.

The dilemma for us as professionals is that we can’t afford to be on the back foot. Our important work (that high-value work that requires courage, and for us to be all in) won’t get done if we let the habit of avoidance take hold.

As Mark Freeman has written, “Trying to avoid difficult things makes difficult things more difficult”. Might sound convoluted, even paradoxical, but it’s true.

So, it’s in our interest to develop our skill at discerning the usefully avoidable from the kind of avoidance that will slow us down in the short term, and over time greatly diminish our capability.

Developing that skill starts with raising our awareness of what we might be avoiding. It’s highly likely you’re now thinking about what you’ve been hiding from, just because of reading these words. Make that realisation a habit.

We need a safer version of you, not a lesser one.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Same storm, different boat

“We’re not all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm”.

Recessions, even the more severe ones, tend to impact the professional world in predictable ways. But this pandemic has cut into our established ways of working in different places: restricting human contact, accelerating technological trends and forcing many sectors into an uncertain paralysis.

If you’ve been glued to the news for the past six months, you may be surprised to hear that for some this has been a year of improved opportunity and greater business.

Some are reporting that they are doing better when working from home and are hoping that this continues for the foreseeable future.

Two points:
1. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that others are in your boat. Most are likely to be experiencing this pandemic differently from you.

2. Your capability to cope with your own situation will benefit from developing an empathetic understanding of how others are doing. Seek to learn what it’s like for them, rather than looking for validation of how good/bad your own circumstances are.

Compassion mightn’t pay the bills or open the pubs, but it does open us up to a path of less suffering.

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This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.