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Motivational speaker and author Sid Madge reckons it’s too soon to write off 2020 completely and he’s advice for working dads looking to make the most of the next three months
Sid Madge is founder of Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise) which draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of branding, psychology, neuroscience, education and sociology, to help people achieve extraordinary lives. As a new month begins he’s advice on making the most of what’s left of 2020.
Let’s face it, 2020 has been challenging. Since March working dads up and down the country have been experiencing much more of family life than normal. Perhaps you’ve been fighting for space on the kitchen table with your partner or kids as everyone was ‘working from home’ during lockdown. Juggling home schooling with work zoom calls was never going to be straightforward.
Covid-19 has upended our lives but it has also forced many working dads, at least temporarily, off the relentless treadmill of life. Bringing a unique opportunity for stillness and time to reflect on what’s really important. It would be unrealistic to imagine we have all enjoyed every minute of our increased family time but for most of us the extra time with loved ones has been an enjoyable revelation. Few of us have missed the dreaded commute and we’ve enjoyed the flexibility to wrap work around life instead of the other way around.
According to a YouGov poll only 8% of Britons want to go back to life as it was before the pandemic. According to the Economist this forced home working experiment may well change work life forever. That can only be good news for working parents everywhere. Studies have found that we’re just as productive at home and are often happier – probably down to the lack of commute. It’s possible that a hybrid becomes common place where we have some days in the office and some at home.
Let’s create something better for everyone instead of some watered down ‘new normal’ that focuses on all the things we can’t do. The first step for squeezing the best out of the rest of 2020 is for Dad’s to embrace uncertainty and adapt. Let looks at some ideas to help achieve this.
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck wanted to understand how people cope with failures and setbacks. Initially her research looked at how kids reacted to puzzles they couldn’t solve. She expected to find different levels of resilience but what she actually found was that children, especially young children didn’t consider not being able to solve the puzzle as a failure in the first place. It was simply a game – a fun challenge. As a father you may have noticed this!
The outcome of Dweck’s research is now world famous and she proposes that our success and happiness in life comes down to one thing – mindset. According to Dweck there are only two – fixed and growth.
Those with a fixed mindset, have a fixed idea of what they are capable of. As working dads we often fall into this fixed mindset. We give ourselves a label – ‘engineer’ or ‘accountant’ – and grind out our days doing only that thing. What about switching to the growth mindset which recognises that we are capable of far more than we imagine?
We are all born with the growth mindset, you are probably reminded of that when your daughter announces she’s going to be an astronaut. But it’s trained out of us by the school system, unsupportive parents and social expectations. We are taught that failure is unacceptable – even though all great success comes through failure not by avoiding it. If ever we needed to re-assess that growth mindset it’s now.
Take a minute to consider your current mindset? Has Covid-19 made it more fixed as you sink into a gloom? What would you experiment with if you embraced a growth mindset? What have you always thought of doing but never got around to it? Are there different things you can do as a dad? Stay flexible, open and curious.
What have you done today? Is that getting you closer to your work and life goals or further away? If you want a different tomorrow so you find a successful way through the pandemic, you need to take steps to change what you do today.
Stop for a moment and reflect on how you spend your time. When did you get up this morning? How much TV do you watch? What about social media? How much time do you spend learning something new? Do you spend time with your kids? Are those exchanges enjoyable or stressful? How much time do you spend on your health? How much sleep do you get most nights?
Take a minute to draw a circle. Now divide it up into slices that represent how you spend your time during a typical day. Now draw another circle and divide it up to represent how you would like to spend your day. If you spend a lot of time at work but don’t enjoy your work, what could you do today to find a better job that you might enjoy more? Or what could you change at work today to improve your day? Would your employer be open to you working from home a couple of days a week indefinitely? Identify the things you like or can live with and the things that you don’t like and can’t live with. How can you change the aspects of your day that bring you down?
Often, we don’t need to make wholesale sweeping changes; subtle little shifts accumulate to bring about change.
In 1967 psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed a list of 47 stressful events that could impact health and happiness. The assumption is logical. We get more stressed when bad stuff happens to us, start accumulating stressful experiences such as a job loss, illness or divorce and you are more susceptible to physical illness, disease and depression. Global pandemics and economic uncertainty don’t help either.
However, the fly in their theoretical ointment was the fact that not everyone who experienced really tough life events were negatively impacted by them. On the contrary, some of those people actively flourished. This field of study is called post traumatic growth or adversarial growth. Studies have shown that great suffering or trauma can actually lead to huge positive change.
How can you use Covid-19 in the last months of 2020 to find new meaning and positive growth?
Take a minute to think about exactly what you are worried about most as a dad and identify one thing you can do about it right now. Set that in motion. What positives could you pull from the turmoil? Get creative – think of at least three positives that Covid-19 could give you and your family and work. It might not be fun but if you can find the silver linings you can often move on quicker.
Tiny interventions can be powerful. These suggestions are pulled from my Meee in a Minute books. Each offers 60 one-minute micro-ideas and insights that can help us to shift our perception in life, family and at work. As dads, let’s take a minute to make a change and get the very best out of the last few months of 2020 for ourselves and our families.