Soberly Optimistic? What the hell for?
At my friend’s 50th Birthday party the other day, her 63-year-old sister apologised for how she had treated her as a little kid. That may not sound like much, but it meant a great deal to them. The younger sister hadn’t realised the upset she’d been holding onto and burst into tears. The older sister had the experience of a great weight she hadn’t realised she was carrying being lifted off her shoulders.
They were close before. They’re a lot closer now.
This story is a little reminder to us all to make an effort to resolve the past and enjoy those we love before the funeral, but it’s also a little example of something I think is happening more broadly across our whole society.
So, why are so many of us feeling Soberly Optimistic?
Somehow through 2020, the world became both smaller and richer
Last year was a bit like a stress test; put some pressure on and you’ll see where the cracks are. Not a comfortable experience, but potentially a healthy one. This year is starting very differently. This year is starting with a flavour of sober optimism.
When you think about it, that’s weird because the future looks more uncertain now than it did a year ago. It’s no longer possible that black swan events and unexpected consequences will swing out of the wings it’s become probable and almost certain they will happen again… and sooner rather than later.
This should be making us more stressed and worried not less… but consistently I hear people say they’re looking to get some balance in 2021; they’re focussed on what’s important to them; they’re making empowering life choices they’ve been putting off. People seem quietly excited.
Why is this?
I think it is because we’ve all taken a new level of personal responsibility for our lives.
Like my friend’s sister in the story, ‘owning’ things and accepting your impact on others invariably brings a newfound sense of freedom and a space in which to create something new and different. That’s exciting.
Through last year, many of us identified a gap between the things we say we value and how we actually live our lives. We’ve accepted where we can and can’t influence outcomes; we’ve recognised our energy is limited and we have to husband it carefully.
Most importantly perhaps, it’s helped people put in boundaries to protect those things that are most valuable to us: our own well-being and that of our family (and friends).
Many of us have ‘owned’ our limits and are looking at building a richer experience within them rather than expand them willy-nilly. The is a zeitgeist shift that ‘Bigger isn’t better’ that we’ve talked about for decades but I think we’ve actually started to own this year.