Bananas. An email about bananas! It was a slightly surreal moment in a packed week of workshops, urgent Board reports, multi-million pound business case, burst water pipes and deficit action planning, an email about surplus bananas. In the many changes taking place in the organisation I'd agreed to take on management of an excellent leader who runs a really effective service. With it, of course, come a whole range of new, and previously unexpected emails, to merge into an already busy life. And it left me thinking...
What is the right response to an email about bananas? Well it turns out that waiting just long enough to be in the right frame of mind is good. If its not urgent, and it wasn't, then don't choose to look at it until the urgent stuff is out of the way. Don't add it to the pile of excuses to procrastinate, focus on what needs to be done, and get those pressing matters out of the way. Turns out if you wait until the time you set aside for clearing up some of the routine stuff, you have time to read beyond the headlines and into the celebration of a small success. When teams have a culture of noticing and celebrating even the relatively small successes in the day, then you know they are getting something right.
I was chatting recently with a colleague who has a podcast that I have a link to on my website. He talks to a fascinating range of people about all manner of things to do with mental health, and one that he had covered recently was about the Law of Attraction, and asked me what my thoughts were. I have to confess, I didn't really have any. The law of attraction (LOA) is the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. I'm not sure that I believe that the universe creates things for me, just because my thoughts are focused on them. But I do believe that when your thoughts are focused on something you notice more opportunities.
Somewhat coincidentally (or was it simply the universe providing?) we watched an old episode of a Derren Brown series that was based in Todmorden. They have a statue of a dog in a park there and Derren set out to create a rumour that the dog was lucky. Those who believed in luck noticed more positive things happen that they associated with the dog. Those who did not consider themselves lucky saw no change. And also failed to notice opportunities for good luck.
Much exists in the universe that we fail to notice, even when it passes near to us. Our conscious mind simple can't process everything so our unconscious mind filters out those things that appear less important. So how does it know what is important? Well that boils down to what you tell yourself each day. If you tell yourself you are lucky it will look out for opportunities to be 'lucky'. If you are interested in buying a new car, you will start noticing more of the models you are interested in on the road. If you tell yourself something can be done, you will notice options and new ideas that open up. If you tell yourself it can't be done, then you will simply notice all the evidence that that is true. Whichever you tell yourself, you'll be right.
A can do attitude doesn't make us invincible, or even innately talented. It just means we keep going until we find a way. A consequence might be you find more things coming your way, and so knowing when to say no to things, and how to say no to things is very helpful. 'Can do' with 'can't say no', leads to overwhelm, so know what, and how, to say no when it is the right thing to do.
So what about the bananas - was that I time I should have said no? Definitely not. An organisation had a large amount of surplus bananas at risk of going to waste. Now bananas have a big enough carbon footprint without letting them rot, and so the email was about how a message had gone out to local schools, in relatively deprived communities, to collect as many free bananas as they could usefully pass on to the children and their families. The bananas had all been collected and put to good use. And the email was a reminder that however busy we all are, celebrating small successes is a really good thing.