Happy New Year! Welcome to 2021. I am sure I have at least a few more days where wishing folks a Happy New Year is permitted before people punch me in the face. A ‘virtual punch in the face’, of course…

With 2020 firmly in the rear view mirror, 2021 is beckoning us, albeit in the guise of a slightly macabre looking man, who smiles as he draws us into his clutches. Like something from Poltergeist II; sinister and slightly amusing at the same time. Whilst we may have put our 2020 calendars out for the recycling, the emotion, the drama and the suffering that accumulated during the year is not swept aside quite so easily. I doubt any of you navigated 2020 without some degree of pain. That may range from the loss of what was predictable and your routine, through to the loss of loved ones, an income, a job and perhaps your family systems as you knew them, pre-Covid (hard to believe but 2019 PC did exist)

I’m easing into the new year smoothly and I wanted to write my first blog of 2021 not to be a big exploration of 2020, but to ask you to take a vital piece of learning from the past year and to begin applying it to your year ahead…

For way too long now there has been a glorification of busyness. Organisations have encouraged people to attend the church of Busy and worship its God. Those who follow this religion are rewarded with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Actually, that’s a total lie. They are not really rewarded at all. They may delight over a minuscule increase in their bonus or perhaps the number of times they are spoken to inappropriately or they get their arse kicked by their boss, decreases. Other than that, praying at the church of Busy seems to offer little reward. You don’t have to look far (maybe just in the mirror is enough) to see bodies strewn across the desks where people lie burnt out, stressed and broken. In many ways, this obsession with busyness has become normalised. If you are a successful leader and genuinely driven, burn out is the price you pay. ‘No pain, no gain’. That’s also bullshit but I’ll save that for another blog.

The reality is that our obsession with busyness will destroy us. It will destroy teams. It will destroy organisations. It will destroy our health. It will destroy our families. In fact, it already is. If we don’t allow ourselves and our teams the space to reflect, to slow down and to surrender, we risk a total disconnection from our own authentic Self. We will simply allow Strong Will to run the show – this is the aspect of ourselves that can ‘tough it out’, do more, go faster by depressing the accelerator rather than thinking that sometimes we need to use the break. Whilst we keep praying to the busy God, we continue to prioritise our outer world when, in truth, it is our inner world that is crying out for our attention.

I am already hearing stories today from my clients of leaders who are back in work, taking the burden of 2021 onto their shoulders and working as if their lives depended on it. I’m unsure how brutal the experience needs to be for people in order that they learn the lesson. I’m a bit baffled. Wasn’t last year shit enough for you?! ‘Go on, hurt me harder! Hit me. Beat me to within an inch of my life and then I’ll understand’. If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us the value in knowing when to be gentle and when to push harder. If we exclude one of those qualities, it costs us. 2021 is not going to be a sprint and we must not treat it like one. It is a series of multiple marathons, run back to back. Those who navigate it successfully will do so with purposeful thought and action. They will be the ones who are awake enough to know when to push and when to pull back. 2020 has brought tremendous suffering and hardship for many. The rupture is deep and a 2 week Christmas break is frankly not going to heal the wounds.

If you are a leader, how are you choosing to unravel 2021? What story are you telling yourself and your team? What conversation are you already having with them? What are they telling you? What are you asking for? Just because the world feels addicted to speed, doesn’t mean you must run at the same pace. YOU set the pace for yourself and your team. Be a beacon for those you lead and show them how to be gentle, compassionate and kind whilst having the insight to choose to run faster and harder when it’s required. This can only go viral in a team when it is modelled. You can wait for others, or you can be the fire starter. You choose.

Last year we celebrated the Hero’s of our country; the NHS, all our front line workers, Sir Tom Moore, the people who kept our supermarkets stocked up, those who fed the homeless and the ones who checked in on their neighbours to see what they needed. My belief is that we all put on our lycra (don’t go there) and revealed our superhero qualities in some form. I stepped up. You stepped up too. And Superhero’s need rest. Fact. We must resist the urge to hold communion with the Church of Busyness and ease into 2021 by gently practising some new habits.

I will stand shoulder to shoulder with you. That’s unconditional. I’ll always be here, cheering you on, holding you close when it feels like the world around you is crumbling and encouraging you to make the best choices you can. We need each other if we are to come through this chapter and arrive at a place that is better for all of us who occupy this planet. The currency we are dealing in is that of compassion. Show it to yourself first. It is how we will start to heal this world.

With love, Richard x