Time to stop and reflect

Are we saying too much? Do we do too much talking and not enough listening? This may seem a bit at odds with me writing a blog every day but there are times when we need to use our time more for reflection, thinking and considering rather than just doing.

With the growth of social media we are now all talking a lot. We tell people what we are going to do, what we are doing and what happened when we did it. There are few parts of our lives that we don’t talk about in some way. It may be providing an update on work, family, friends, holidays, nights out or even what we are eating, whatever it is we are talking about it.

Today it felt like a Sunday that should involve some reflection. It probably comes from having an amazingly busy week with so much packed into it and a lot of emotional highs and lows. It started with me nursing the rabbit from the stables that I now seem to be fostering, and the arrival of my new adopted gerbil Albert. There was the stress of Coco the rabbit having surgery when he is elderly. I met up with a colleague I haven’t seen for eight years.

Later in the week I spent time with Simon Calderbank and Wendy Moran who both were incredibly positive and boosted my mood. The following day I spend almost eight hours on trains to and from London which tested my resilience. It was a non-stop week leaving me needing to do some work to catch up today.

Today, apart from the work I needed to do, I took the opportunity to be a bit more contemplative. I took time to breathe and reflect on the past seven days and to consider the week ahead. It has left me feeling quite refreshed and strong as we head towards a Monday morning. Perhaps we should all take some time to reflect on things, listen and stay silent.

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A message from the past

I received an email out of the blue this morning which blew my mind. Back in January this year I wrote a note to myself and I have to say I forgot all about it until it appeared in my inbox. If you are wondering what I am talking about you need to check out http://www.futureme.org to find out more.

The idea is that you can send your future self a message whether that is a positive message, a kick in the pants or make some predictions. It is simple you use the website to send yourself an email and then you forget until a specific time in the future. All very simple but really impactive.

I chose to send a few positive words to myself focused on reminding me to be grateful, see the good around me and keep on keeping on. When it arrived and I read it the impact was instant and it gave me a spring in my step for the rest of the day. Something really simple had the power to change my perspective on the day ahead.

It may sound like I am thinking too much about things and perhaps I am. But we do need to give ourselves some space to consider life, ourselves and the future. This was something I discussed today with my mum who was telling me about the modern cult of ‘busy’. She said everyone was too focused on filling their lives and being busy that they didn’t make time to just sit and contemplate. She is always telling me I am doing too much and my reply is always that I enjoy what I do so why not pack in as much as possible.

The key has to be recognising when I need to give myself some downtime when I can relax and unwind. Believe me it has taken a long time to get to the point of recognising that, and even now I sometimes don’t spot the signs.

I have written another message to my future self and I hope that it has the same impact in the future that it did today.

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Living in a bubble

We are all guilty of living our lives in a bubble. The work we do, the people we meet and how we spend our time is what we have created around us. It means being focused on what we are comfortable with and rarely do we move into a different sphere.

This is why we need to challenge ourselves and do some different things with different people. I have had that chance a few times in recent weeks and it has been massively beneficial. It has broadened my horizons and prompted reflection which is a positive thing.

I am not saying that it has changed some of my views, it hasn’t, but I know why I feel the way I do. By experiencing new things I have been faced with views, beliefs and thoughts that I may find frustrating or controversial. Without this challenge I am not sure that my views would be that strong.

There is a lot of talk about social mobility in the country but few of us experience it. If we are born into a specific sector or place in society then we usually find that is where we spend our time. Even when we do get a chance to step into the realms of the privileged in society it is usually fleeting and viewed as an outsider. At the other end, few of us really understand the hardships that many people face without work, with bills, with the daily struggle for survival.

It is only when we can really see the broadest slice of society that we can understand our place and why we have it. Of course, if we don’t believe it is where we should be then we can find ways to shift our position. The contrary view is always helpful to us so we can review our own beliefs and make sure we know why we have them.

Being in a bubble is not a good place. Yes, it has security. Yes, it is where we are happiest but it will become a bit sterile if it is never questioned or challenged in some way.

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The power of positivity

It is a simple premise but one that we so rarely take on board; the idea that if you put good things out in the world you will get good things back. A positive attitude can be empowering and put you in a commanding position. This is something that I have been trying to work on for the past two years and while I don’t always get it has improved.

Tonight I was privileged to listen to some uplifting stories of people who have embraced the positive approach to life and have benefitted. It was part of a discussion about resilience, which is of growing importance to businesses and organisations. The event organised by the CIPR North West and Local Public Service group could have been viewed as a ‘fluffy’ subject but it is anything but. Building resilient teams and individuals makes business sense as it improves work and reduces absence.

I was inspired by listening to Simon Calderbank talk about building resilience and the work he does. But two years ago I would not have attended the event, let alone give a short input into it. The time was not right for me until September 2014 when I was looking to change my approach to the trials and tribulations of life. As I listened to Simon I realised that despite challenges I am a much more positive person now and I am continuing to work on it.

What happened two years ago this week was I met Amy Lawrenson and started to get involved in her work. Amy is a life coach, among other things, and has been able to help me find my way, make positive changes and build some tactics to cope with the challenges of life. It has been a lot of hard work, a bit of fun, and serious amounts of learning and unlearning. Learning ways to build my positivity and unlearning the beliefs and values that have limited me in the past.

If you meet me and I am not smiling don’t worry. I am probably just thinking about something and it doesn’t mean I have lost my positivity. In fact my negative approach to problems can sometimes be a positive. This has been an exciting couple of years and there is further work needed but I am relishing the challenge ahead.



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A moment that lasts

I have worked with many people over the years. There are some that I am still in touch with and others that have become memories. When you work with a team on a daily basis it can feel as though you will remain friends forever. Once you move on, keeping in touch can be challenging and there is no fault but you drift apart.

It has always made me value the time when I am working with people, knowing that it is just a moment in time and will change. If you find work colleagues that you enjoy being with that is something to be grateful for, and if you can gel to improve the job that is when it becomes extra special.

Today I was helping out in a different organisation. I met up with someone I worked with over a number of years and through some challenging times. She left eight years ago but when we met up again it felt like we were back where we had been. I had always enjoyed working with her and valued her judgement on things. It was testament to our strong working relationship that we could be so comfortable so quickly.

I like to think that there are other people I have worked alongside where this would also be the case. We spend quite a chunk of each day at work so it needs to be something we enjoy (most of the time). We need to sit alongside people who are pulling in the same direction, and will get stuck in. Together we can be a strong team to make a difference and have some fun.

I have blogged before about the dysfunctional work family that I have and today reminded me that the links we have remain strong even after almost a decade apart.

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Behind the times

I was surprised to read about one of the smaller law enforcement departments in America heralding the fact that they had now created a Facebook page. The Seymour Police Department said they created the page to ‘enhance communication and transparency with the public and the media’. The Deputy Police Chief Paul Satkowsi called on people to follow them ‘to get the latest information on upcoming events, programmes, public service announcements and press releases’. (You can read more here http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20160912/seymour-police-start-facebook-page-to-enhance-communications-with-public-media)

We often look to what happens in America and see that in the UK we are behind the times. In many respects we are very hard on ourselves that we aren’t as up-to-date, innovative and pioneering as they are across the pond. In the world of social media and its use to develop conversations with the public UK policing has been at the forefront.

I find it surprising that a police department, even though it may be small, hasn’t already established a social media presence. After all it costs nothing to create a site and it is an easy way of sharing information and having conversations. There are also early signs that people may be happy to do some business through social media. If I was surprised that they have only created the site in 2016 I was even more taken aback by the plans to use it.

The Deputy Police Chief has clearly got broadcast in mind as a primary way to use the new social media page. It misses the point of the real benefits of social media and that is to develop conversations and have a healthy flow of information, discussion and chat between the police and the public.

We spend a lot of time looking around to what others are doing in communication and that is quite right. It is essential to learn and develop by networking and sharing information with other professionals. However, sometimes we need to stop and look at how far we have come and for policing in the UK there has been some amazing leaps forward to make full use of social media.


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Decisions, decisions

Election fever seems to have hit the communication profession with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) voting opening today and running through until the 23 September. Social media is full of people providing their vision for the future and hoping to secure votes. I am going to take my time to review what each of the candidates say in the posts that are up for election.

I do find it difficult to discuss voting or to proclaim who I will be voting for. It probably goes back to the fact I have worked in a politically-restricted post for almost 20 years, which curtails what I can do. There is also the feeling that UK elections are something you take part in but they are secret so no-one needs to know who you voted for.

There are many excellent candidates in the mix and while I am considering who I may vote for I can’t feel comfortable with announcing it on social media. I hope that all the people who know me don’t get upset by this approach. One thing I do feel very strongly about, and I will publicly declare, is the need for members of the CIPR to take part in the election and help to define the future of the organisation.

Communication is at a critical point and has never been more important in these unsettled and changing times. I have blogged already this year about the role communication can have in helping to deal with the post-referendum uncertainty. As communication leaders we all need to take the opportunity that has arisen to demonstrate how we can operate at a strategic level.

If you are not sure what to do about the election I would urge you to read through the statements being made by each of the candidates. Then consider whether they are important to you, and whether you feel they will benefit the PR industry which will help you pinpoint those most closely aligned to your views. We all need to be involved in shaping the future and the election is the ideal time to get involved.

I wish all those standing or election good luck and while I won’t be publicly declaring where my vote will go I urge everyone to take the opportunity and take part in the election.

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