On New Year’s Day, I was listening to Lyse Doucet on BBC Radio 4 ask some of the BBC’s top journalists to gaze into their crystal balls and predict what 2022 might have in store.
It was a fascinating insight from some great journalists. What surprised me most though was the reasonable certainty felt about some predictions. These included how Boris and Nicola will play out their views on Scottish Independence in the next twelve months. That is to say that little is predicted to happen in the next year on that subject. Another prediction is that President Macron will use the time of the rotating French presidency of the EU which began on 1 January for his own political ambitions. That particular prediction started to come true within hours after he replaced the French flag over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an EU flag. Emmanuel Macron has already had a contentious start to his new year!
This makes me wonder, as we look to our own new year ahead, will we be commentators and reactive to what is happening around us? Will we make little difference to the coming year? Or will we be pro-active and create our own future? Despite all we might think and wish, most things will happen (or not happen) in spite of us. We can change and influence relatively little in the big picture.
But that should not defeat us for a moment. We can each have a huge influence over our own lives and the people with whom we interact, live and work. In our own spheres we should be pro-active. We can often shape and influence much than we realise if only we put our minds to it and have confidence. In our complex world, with so much changing around us, as we enter another year of Covid uncertainty, we can sometimes feel like a rabbit in headlights, but we need not be that rabbit!
Jim Collins says that what we are, is what we habitually do. We should therefore adopt productive habits. These will have the ability to improve our life and make us more effective.
Collins says that the seven habits of highly effective people are:
1. They take initiative – “Be proactive.”
2. They focus on goals – “Begin with the end in mind.”
3. They set priorities – “Put first things first.”
4. They only win when others win – “Think win-win”.
5. They communicate – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.
6. They cooperate – “Synergize”.
7. Sharpen the Saw – “Renew ourselves”.
Let’s unpack these a bit:
1: Be Proactive. We are responsible for our own choices and can make those choices based on our principles and values. We can use our self-awareness, conscience, imagination and independence will to create the world we want. We can choose not to be victims, nor to be reactive nor to blame others. Even if we have been hurt and feel pain, we can use that to help others and not just to feel sorry for ourselves!
2. Start with the “end in mind”. Highly effective people develop their own future by creating a mental vision and purpose. This can be for our life, our week or our day or for any project – be it large or small. Effective people don’t just live day to day without a clear purpose in mind. What is our vision for ourselves?
3. Set priorities. Highly effective people live and make decisions with a clear sense of what is really important. They organise their most important priorities (be they in their personal or professional life). They are driven mainly by a sense of purpose, not simply by the agendas and forces surrounding them.
4. Think “Win-Win”. Highly effective people think in terms of mutual benefit. They encourage support and mutual respect. They think in terms of “we,” not “me” – and develop “win-win” agreements. They think neither selfishly (win-lose) nor like a martyr or a doormat (lose-win). Serving others in a two-way relationship is often a great recipe for success and deep fulfilment.
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. We need first to listen in order to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, and only then do we try to communicate effectively our own thoughts and feelings. Through understanding, highly effective people build deep relationships of trust and love. They give helpful feedback. They don’t withhold constructive feedback, nor do they seek to put their own view across first.
6: Synergize. Highly effective people focus on their strengths and celebrate and thrive on the strengths of others so that by respecting and valuing the differences of others, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. They develop with others a third-way in finding solutions to problems that are better than what any one person would on their own. They don’t go for compromise (1 + 1 = 1½) or merely cooperation (1 + 1 = 2) but creative cooperation (1 + 1 = 3 or more).
7: Sharpen the Saw. Highly effective people increase their effectiveness by renewing themselves regularly in the four areas of life: body (physical), mind (mental), heart (social/emotional), and spirit (service, meaning and contribution).
As we begin 2022 perhaps such a framework will help me, help you, get the new year off to a flying start.
We can each have a huge influence over our own future. Will we be pro-active and take charge of it or will we be passive and miss out on our potential?
It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we can’t make a great contribution in life. We can. Occasionally an individual will be able to make a significant contribution on the world stage such as the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu who did so much to bring racial equality to South Africa and who went on to become the distinguished leader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Others become accidental heroes like Captain Sir Tom Moore who on 6 April 2020, at the age of 99, began to walk one hundred lengths of his garden in aid of NHS Charities Together, with the goal of raising £1,000 by his 100th birthday. He ended up raising almost £40 million for charity.
Captain Sir Tom inspired others such as Tobias Weller, aged 11, who has cerebral palsy and autism, and who was nicknamed “Captain” after his hero Captain Sir Tom. Tobias started raising money during the coronavirus lockdowns. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2022 New Year’s Honours and said he was “chuffed to bits” to have been recognised by the Queen after raising £157,000 for the special educational needs Paces School, where he is a pupil, and The Children’s Hospital Charity, in his hometown of Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Another youngster, Max Woosey, aged 12, has also just been awarded the British Empire Medal. Max has spent more nearly 640 nights camping outside and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the North Devon Hospice.
We can be inspired by characters such as Desmond Tutu, Sir Tom, young Tobias and young Max. Interestingly, unlike some in the public life, these characters did not seek the focus to be on themselves but on those whom they supported and served. We can be informed by Jim Collins’ seven habits of highly effective people.
Then each of us can have every confidence that, if we choose, 2022 will be a truly stunning year – for us and for those amongst whom we are privileged to live, work and sometimes lead.
If you would like a conversation about your effectiveness in life, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me on 07841 215182.
May each of us have a Happy and Effective New Year!