I always find writing the first blog of the New Year a strange mixture of looking back over my shoulder while at the same time trying to peer into the future. This seems to be part of the human condition at this time of year – TV and radio programmers along with Social Media companies bombard us with highlights of the year past and like to whet our appetites with previews of goodies coming our way. This crystalized for me as I went back through last year’s diary and calendar to ensure I had transferred all the important information and found myself pondering on exactly how, if at all, 2018 was going to be any different to 2017.
In early December the Senior Leadership Team met, as we do every year, in order to review MacIntyre’s overarching strategy. We reflected on the many amazing accomplishments and considered also a number of areas for improvement. It is essential that our strategy remains current, fit for purpose, guiding us while at the same time stretching and challenging us to always strive to achieve more. This isn’t easy given how fast changing, challenging and at times even hostile the external environment can seem. I think that each of us can be forgiven for feeling powerless at times when we think about those challenges, particularly on the subject of funding. However, if that feeling of powerlessness creeps in then I think it is because we are focusing on the wrong thing – at such times it is much better to look inwards than outwards.
“Our greatest ability as humans is not to change the world, but to change ourselves”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Our strategy discussions reinforced the importance for each and every one of us to be able to find and connect as individuals with the joy and positive rewards coming from what we do. That individual sense of reward links directly back into the focus and purpose of MacIntyre as a charity – our conclusion was simple – that remaining true to our purpose and aspirations both as individuals and as a charity was the key to ensuring 2018 will be a good year in spite of the inevitable difficulties.
In particular we talked about “being ambitious” both for ourselves and also for the people we support, including encouraging them to be ambitious for themselves. I looked up the definition of “ambitious” to find that it was “having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed”. Succeed at what though? That’s the question which pushes us back onto our core values and person centred approach because the answer means very different things to each of us at different points in our lives.
How can we push ourselves and those around us to be more ambitious without making judgements and assumptions about what that should mean? I believe the starting point is being open to ideas, to the possibility that things can be different – when looking up a few quotes on this subject I came across the following one from Dylan Moran which resonated with me;
“People will kill you. Over time. They will shave out every last morsel of fun in you with little, harmless sounding phrases that people use every day, like ‘be realistic’”
We all know what he means – those responses which dampen our enthusiasm and give out the signal that it’s not worth pursuing that idea – “that’ll never work” or “we tried that once before” being favourites. Of course we need things to be realistic, to be achievable in order for us to feel motivated but what measures do we use when looking to determine what is realistic, what is achievable, what is possible? What we all have to be wary of is the temptation to simply carry on doing what we have always done because that is what we have always done.
If we simply carry on doing what we have always done then of course 2018 will not be any different to 2017 – but imagine if we each decide to shake things up a bit in our own small way. What that means is for you to decide – buy some jazzy new socks, cook the vegetables differently, fly in a hot air balloon, run a marathon, do whatever – the “what” isn’t the point it’s what it represents, the openness to things being different. A mind open to changing things, to trying new things both for ourselves and for the people we support is our greatest asset and always remember;
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have”
– Maya Angelou
Director (Adult Services)