Jan Gooding: Mindset matters
Our state of mind can often feel like a battleground, writes Jan Gooding - but we have more power and control than we realise
Over the past few weeks I have found myself wishing people a ‘Happy New Decade’. It’s not something I have ever done before. And I have come to the conclusion that it comes from strong personal beliefs best captured in my Twitter handle ‘Embrace change, because its coming anyway!’
Positive thinking is infectious
I am a natural optimist and believe we each have the potential to be happy. But in some ways we have to make a positive choice to help it be true. I have observed that my own attitude of mind affects not only my energy and outlook, but it also affects everyone around me.
I am sure we can all relate to that. Someone clever once described the world to me as being divided into people who were either ‘black holes’ or ‘radiators’. I can’t think of many people who would choose to hang out with someone who sucks everything out of a room as opposed to someone radiating warmth.
Our state of mind can be a battleground
I don’t say this lightly. I am someone who has suffered from bouts of profound depression throughout my working life. So, I have first-hand experience of the impact of mood and mindset when it is in an inescapable negative space. I know how it feels to be overwhelmed, inert and lacking in confidence instead of the assertive, proactive and effective person we want to be.
To have a mental health issue is not in our control. However, even in those circumstances I have found that there is a choice about how to respond. Using our willpower and determination to fight against the darkness are important and legitimate coping strategies.
And interestingly many people who suffer from depression are masters at it. So much so that often their family and colleagues are completely unaware of the internal battle they are engaged in. We can be effective and still have a positive impact in spite of our inner turmoil.
We need more than a year
We began this year with a number of difficult new realities to face up to. To embrace what comes at us, rather than turn away, is an important mantra. But to think of the road ahead as a decade long, rather than a year, may help us all adjust to the scale of what is in front of us. It has to be admitted, even by me, that however ‘can do’ our state of mind, it’s going to take time to get our world back on track.
European friends, no longer family
The UK is going to leave the EU, and however you felt about that particular debate, all sides have acknowledged that in the short to medium term it is going to be a bumpy ride. There will be a period of readjustment both economically and politically. And the painful fragmentation of UK society, which almost feels like a schism in identity it runs so deeply, can start some kind of healing process. To approach it understanding it is a ten-year journey is helpful.
Our natural world is changing
We started the decade with Australia ablaze with a hellish inferno I have heard described as three times the size of Wales. It has been one of the most arresting pieces of evidence that our climate is changing profoundly, and it is hard to refute. Getting agreement that there is a problem (indeed it is increasingly referred to as an emergency) is an important first step. But the solutions required seem far beyond the reach of any of us individually.
Although we can all do our bit and the choices we make personally all add up. There is much to think about in the domain of marketing.
We need to work out how ‘consumerism’ is to evolve to ensure we radically reduce waste, how organisations must adjust to achieve a more sustainable and responsible state, and how brands can tune into people’s desire to use their buying decisions to help curb climate change. All big challenges. But ones we are uniquely placed to consider.
The media has a big part to play
On the 5th January the Sunday Times Style magazine caught my eye. It was entitled ‘The Happiness issue’ with a wonderful front cover depicting Nigella Lawson embracing her 60th birthday. It was certainly enough to lift the spirits of anyone, like me, who has hit that particularly big milestone.
As was her article, which described her future as ‘a great unfurling mystery, where anything could happen’ and which she approached feeling happy with her life. It certainly made me feel positive to read about a woman I admire, who has more than her fair share of setbacks in life, walking into the future with such an open frame of mind.
We can each decide to be positive
I was grateful to Lorraine Candy, the editor in chief of Style magazine for deciding to have a ‘feelgood’ issue. To deliberately set out to bring a little bit of joy to us all for a change. She commissioned her writers to give us reasons to be cheerful, and it sure brought a big ray of sunshine into a normally dark and gloomy January.
It got me thinking. Why don’t we do more of it? Push ourselves to have a positive mindset. Decide that we are going to make our world a happier place. Remind ourselves that we have all have a sense of humour and that its okay to have fun. It would certainly help the people around us feel a bit more ‘can do’.
We can each decide to be kinder
I don’t know about you, but I have increasingly noticed many people talking about the importance of kindness. Apparently, when we are kind to someone, it doesn’t just help that person, it is scientifically proven to improve our own physical and mental health as well.
So, at a time when rates of depression and anxiety seem to be skyrocketing, kindness could be a very simple but powerful antidote. I loved last year’s campaign #LetsTalkMore which aimed to combat loneliness by getting people initiating simple conversations. Even starting small with a simple ‘Good Morning’ was shown to make a difference to people.
What you decide matters
The good news is that I think each of us has more impact than we ever realise. The even better news is that our mindset is also under our control. And best of all, there is never a reason to choose to be unkind. At least I can’t think of one.
So, I think we can choose to have a ‘Happy New Decade’, and in doing so, help make sure it happens. Gearing up for that will certainly make the next year a lot more fun.
Jan Gooding is one of the UK's best-known brand marketers, having worked with the likes of BT, British Gas, Diageo, Unilever and Aviva. She is also the chair of PAMCo , Given (London), LGBT equality charity Stonewall, and the president of the Market Research Society. She writes for Mediatel News each month.