The tyranny of the future

The ever-present tyranny of the future has been intensified by the uncertainty created by the pandemic. Maybe the best thing any of us can do right now is to just take things one day at a time and to not try to think too far ahead.

I’ve had a song lyric in my head all week.

I’m drowning in my history
Prisoner of past defeats
Tell me what the future holds
I’m terrified of things to come
Paralysed, I cannot run
Tеll me what the future holds

It’s been an earworm that’s tormented me, not least because of what we’ve all endured over the last few months. The endless uncertainty about what the future holds and the indecision that the pandemic has created as a result of this.

Sometimes I can be somewhat indecisive and a bit of a pessimist. With some time on my hands I’ll procrastinate until the cows come home and then convince myself, in hindsight, that I made the wrong decision and the world is going to end as a result. Sometimes I can be a true prisoner of past defeats, whether or not these are actual or perceived ones.

Conversely, I know that I perform better under pressure and I’ve been told that I’m good in a crisis. I think that’s because, in those circumstances, I don’t have time to overthink what I’m doing and just have to go with my experience and decisions without questioning them.

Planning is a plan to fail

I seem to have spent quite a lot of time in planning discussions recently. This hasn’t helped either. I’ve sat there silently questioning, in the face of all this volatility and uncertainty, the point of trying to plan anything for the rest of this year and into 2021 whilst this wretched pandemic continues.

I’ve felt a crushing inevitability that the plans will just end up in the bin, and I will yet again have been part of some massive collective failure. They say that a failure to plan is a plan to fail, but in the current extraordinary circumstances I’m not sure that holds water anymore. Planning right now just feels to be massively disempowering and demotivating. An exercise in just setting yourself and others up to fail.

Then there has been the news and the endless rolling narrative of lockdown, grief, loss, suffering, confinement, poor leadership and bad behaviour culminating in ‘THAT’ disastrous debate on the other side of the pond earlier this week. Somehow watching that debate made me feel like this is now truly the end of days. Is there someone, anyone, who can actually lead us out of this mess? The added uncertainly created by the absence of leadership is becoming almost unbearable.   

Comparison is the thief of joy

In September I took a holiday, and I resolved to properly think through something I’ve been procrastinating about for months and to take a final decision. Inevitably I didn’t, and having time on my hands was just another opportunity to question everything and decide nothing. My indecision was overwhelming and instead, I spent too much time on social media comparing myself to everyone else. Not the best strategy, given my state of mind.

In the end, in desperation to try and find some ‘space’, I switched off all my social feeds. I just didn’t want to see how apparently grounded, decisive and impactful everyone else in my online community was and I needed some real time out.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and he wasn’t wrong. I know that social media is a distorted mirror of reality, but it’s a powerful and double edge sword in the lives of many of us working in the communications industry and sometimes it’s easy to forget that. My advice is, that if all the hubris, humble bragging, faux collectivism and FOMO is getting to you on social, just switch it off for a bit. You’ll be doing yourself a favour.

The psychology of commitment

Anyone who has ever been on a diet will know that making some kind of public commitment to shed the pounds has a powerful, albeit temporary, psychological effect. None of us likes to be seen to fail in the eyes of others, or to let others down when we have publicly said we will do something. So, I’m going to commit to something here and finally end the indecision and procrastination of the last few months, and no it’s not about losing a stone or two.

The thing I’ve been endlessly debating with myself is whether or not I should stand for the position of Committee Chair for CIPR Inside. I’ve been through all the arguments for and against it – several times. Convinced myself that I’m not up to the job, or that I don’t have time to do it, and then beaten myself up for being so pathetic and unambitious. It’s been a real crisis of confidence.     

Now, it’s the AGM and the vote on 13 October and time is sort of running out now.

So here it is, whatever the outcome might be, I’ve decided I’m going to stand for Chair.

There, I’ve publicly declared it and even if you, dear reader, are the only person who sees this blog I am now committed and obligated to do so. There is no going back now.

After all the personal torture of the last few weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not my indecision, and the consequences of what I eventually do decide, that is making my life difficult right now. The ever-present tyranny of the future has been intensified by the uncertainty created by the pandemic. It’s not me, it’s just the circumstances of our current situation. Maybe the best thing any of us can do right now is to just take things one day at a time and to not try to think too far ahead.

Now I’ve written this I’m questioning whether or not to publish it.

Sod it – publish!

Martin

Image by Fifaliana Joy from Pixabay 

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