Archive for November, 2009

Measuring progress beyond goals

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

When your life is about making the next promotion, selling the next big contract, buying a nicer home or whatever, then it is relatively easy to measure your progress.  Life is like a race and you can see those you are competing against falling behind you in your rear-view mirror.  Your progress up the corporate ladder is marked by bigger offices, grade rises, nicer cars, better parking spaces etc.

However, what happens if you see Life as a journey?  How do you measure progress then?  By the time on the road?  By the number places visited?  By  the nature and type of experiences you have encountered?  The thing is sometimes, as many of us know, apparent reversals in fortune can often be doors that you walk through into new and better places.  I know many people who are made redundant (apparently a bad thing) only to discover  something far better on the other side of this experience.

This lack of an easy way to measure progress is a real issue in times when you are feeling tired or dispirited.  All that hard work is easy to feel good about when can look over your shoulder and see all that you have achieved; much tougher when you aren’t able to label it.

I’d be really interested to know how you cope with this dilemma and whether there are good strategies to help with this or if it is just a feature of the journey…


“The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. . . . The ordinary objects of human endeavour — property, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.”   Albert Einstein


The green shoots of recovery

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

We were out walking today in the Surrey Hills; it was a beautiful, sunny late autumn / early winter’s day.  A chilly wind was blowing in, making it feel much colder than the 7°C the thermometer said.  The views were lovely, with everything showing up the most vivid colours in the very directional light we get at this time of year.  Then my wife noticed that this birch was already showing buds.  It seems amazing to me even before winter has even tightened its grip, the promise of spring is there to be seen.

I wonder how many of us, if we took the time to look, would find verdant signs of promise, of new growth amidst the death of the old stuff we need to let go of….


“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face.”   John Donne

“Falling leaves
hide the path
so quietly”   John Bailey


When being on track is being lost…

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

I was out walking again today, and as ever, it taught me a few things of broader application.  The number of times today that we were happily marching along a clear, straight path, and according to our plan, we were meant to proceeding along a straight path… so no problem, right?  Wrong!  Sometimes, and in fact several times today, the straight path on the map was not same as the one we were walking along.  Knowing when to turn to stay on track is a skill that is very useful.

Another time we were marching along, I was confident that I knew exactly were we were and I saw a road “What is that doing there?” I asked, “There is no road on the map…”   Of course, we weren’t where I thought I was, and I should have seen the road and asked “Where are we really?”   It is so easy to assume that you are where you wish you where, rather than taking account of the evidence before you. 

Despite this little catalogue of minor navigational glitches today, we continued to adjust what we did and had a wonderful walk in beautiful November sunlight; as the sun is so low in the sky now, it produces wonderful gentle and contrasting tones.  Sometimes we need to remember our higher purpose, and today it was simply to be somewhere lovely and get some exercise; my original route was merely one way to do this, and not necessarily the best one.

Having a plan, and working that plan and reaching your goal are not always the same things.  Remembering why you are doing what you are doing is the key to successful navigation and much else….

“Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low, I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know”    Henry Lawson


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A lesson in patience from my wife

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Long ago, when I was little, ladies played patience.  My mother used to play with a paired pack of miniature cards sold for just this purpose and I learnt from her.  The younger generation will recognise this as the ever-present Solitaire installed on every Windows computer.  We have all played it occasionally when sufficiently bored at work. 

However the way it crept under my skin was my wife’s habit of playing it on a small and rather aged Casio handheld computer.  It is left lying around in the place where folks need to linger and so gets played quite a lot.  Over the years it has taught me a thing or two that I thought worth sharing:-

  • That just because a game starts well doesn’t mean that you will ‘win’
  • Conversely, an unpromising start can work out very nicely
  • Sometimes you have to remove a card you have got out in order to unlock the board.  In other words, not all progress is linear and sometimes one needs to retreat to go forwards
  • If you can’t move anywhere you have lost
  • Delaying putting a card down can be a smart non-move

What have you learnt about life from games? 

“Patience is a virtue,

Possess it if you can,

Seldom found in woman,

Never found in man!”


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Goals v Acceptance

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

In an earlier blog one of my correspondents was talking about how changes in society are affecting the environment in which our children are growing up.  Whether you are running a business or just reading self-help books we are all exhorted to set and pursue goals.  Some people would have us believe that all we have to do is to visualise our future powerfully enough to just ‘reel’ it in’!  After many years of earnest endeavour and experiment, using allsorts of different techniques, I really don’t think it works this way… at least it doesn’t seem to be that way for me.

I do believe that well-formed goals help give us direction but one of the things we hear much less about these days, and is much more counter-cultural, is the value of acceptance.  No matter how powerfully we dream and focus, Life unfolds and hands us all manner of surprises.  Often some of our best experiences come about as a result of apparent ‘accidents’.   Seeking to control everything (which is, of course, and exercise in futility) is doomed to failure and makes it harder for us to keep our minds and hearts open to the forces of serendipity.  Many famous inventors owe their fame to the intervention of these random factors. 

I think there is still mileage in this prayer:-

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference….”

What do you think?

Video Blog: I am the eggman.. are you?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

I don’t know why but the song, “I am the walrus” by the Beatles suddenly came to mind today.  I never tried to understand John’s lyrics literally, I just went with the flow, but today, some 30+ years later it got me thinking.  What is an eggman?  Here are a few thoughts on it.  I’d love to hear your ideas too.

“Sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun.”  John Lennon

Video Blog: Lost in the dark

Friday, November 20th, 2009


This is a video that explores some of the ideas of yesterday’s blog.  I’d be very interested to know whether the video format adds anything for you and how you feel about it…

Lost in the dark?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

As a keen walker and fan of all those survival-type programmes, one of the things they talk a lot about is what to do when you are lost.  One of the hardest thing in the world to do is realising that continuing to go forwards may not be a good idea.  We all like to feel that we are ‘doing something’ and accepting that what we are doing isn’t working is a really tough first step.  Sometimes just sitting down where you are and waiting can be the very best thing you can do.  If you have to do something, then the next best strategy is to retrace your steps to the last place where you know you weren’t lost.  With a aid of GPS this is much easier of course!

The thing is that when you are walking or travelling this kind of thing is pretty factual, but in the so called ‘real life’ it is much tougher to realise that we have lost the plot and far tougher to stop.  It takes real courage and fortitude to wait till the fog clears and your next step is clear, or ask for help.

My question to you is:-

  • How do you know you are lost?
  • What do you do when that happens?

Lost is a pretty powerless place and very much at variance to tone of our ‘go-getter-plan-and-focus’ world, I suspect many people would it tough to admit it… even to themselves.  What about you?

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”   Henry David Thoreau


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Video Blog: No place to hide

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

A few thoughts on the purpose / value of video blogs and what they might offer over and above the written word.

The camera never lies…?

Is a Tar pit or just Winter?

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

When you are a feeling stuck, and the changes you are looking for just aren’t occurring there are two metaphors that spring to mind for me.  The first is the tar pit.  These were common in prehistoric times and creatures used to wander into these sticky black, death-traps and, once enmired, they were stuck for all time.  The other is that of winter, when the plants are not growing but that is appropriate and they are just awaiting the new season to begin growing again.

Sometimes the voice of intuition can tell us which it is for us.  Sometimes it takes an act of faith.

What do you do when you find yourself in this kind of place?

“What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can’t move, with no hope of rescue. Consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn’t been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won’t be troubling you much longer.”    Douglas Adams


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