Being alive to the present

It is easy to overdo optimism – before the crash of 2008 the world was given to flights of fancy that often amounted to irrational exuberance – but it is just as easy to overdo the pessimism. Expectations can be dashed yet your worst fears may not materialise.

Of course, there’s plenty to get us worried in the present climate if we let it. War and terrorism, migration and unrest, stock market jitters and political uncertainty – all cast their shadow. But you can choose how you react. You can retreat in dismay or you can open out your view, assess what’s going on and what it means for you.

How we learn
We all have our own ways of approaching things and in particular different styles of learning.

If you are an Activist, you like to pitch in, get on with things and learn by trial and error. If you are a Reflector, you’d rather stand back and take time to mull things over. If you are a Theorist you prefer to work systematically and establish the principles, while if you are a Pragmatist you like to work with common sense and see what you can apply in practice.

It is useful to be aware of your own preferred style and how it may differ from the way others see things. But it is not helpful to limit yourself to just one approach. To free up thinking and creativity you need different styles for different situations.

Hedgehog and fox
It’s said that the hedgehog knows one big thing but the fox knows many little things … The hedgehog has one dominant idea about how the world works and what is needed to stay safe. By contrast, the fox is a ‘ducker and diver’ – outward looking, alert and observant – able to be flexible and adapt as he goes along.

It may be tempting to turn away, pull up the drawbridge and roll into a ball seeking comfort in old certainties. To maintain your judgement and avoid getting derailed you need to manage your reactions so that you can balance the emotional with the analytical – the gut intuition with the rational appraisal.

To remain adaptable and resilient you need to be present and alive to the here-and-now.