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What are we paying attention to?

A focus on soley the short or long term can be used as distraction or obfuscation. We need both to get things done and deliver change.


Are we thinking with a short or long-term perspective?

Are we feeling relaxed or pressured?

Does it feel as though we have all the time in the world; or do we feel time is short, and it’s fast running out?

Are we able to create space and hold big picture stuff, or do we have a tendency to zoom in on the smaller details?

Our own energies and state of mind plays a big part in this.

For me, when I’m relaxed and calm, I find it easier to see the big picture and have the capacity to hold a bigger perspective. When I’m stressed, I tend to focus in on the minutiae. How about you?

What or who has authority in your life?

So, if our own mind is so important in determining what we pay attention to, we have to consider what we feed it. All too often, this isn’t helped by a government and media who are adept at distracting us through:

  • Misinformation, being economical with the truth, to outright lies
  • 'Dead cat' distractions
  • Timing of announcements
  • Shifting focus, when it’s convenient to them rather than us
  • The ‘Johnson strategy’, putting out so many stories – often outrageous – as cover for the real agenda

Of course, as a society we need both short and long-term thinking to progress and get things done! A focus on one or the other can be used as distraction or obfuscation, which gets in the way of delivering change.

If change is what we want, this is an important topic to reflect on.

Big picture versus the detail

We all want to do the right thing, but we can easily become overwhelmed by the details. An easy example from our home lives is recycling. We all try our best, and yet all too often give up due to the complexity of symbols, instructions and materials mixed together.

Or it seems that advice is constantly changing, often as a result of the latest research. Diesel cars? Wood burning stoves? Grass-fed beef? Sustainably sourced tuna, for goodness sake?! The list goes on.

So, what do we need to pay attention to?

I believe, as progressive leaders, we MUST be able to take a step back and see the bigger picture. It’s hard when we’re often stuck in the day-to-day, but the world is a complex system and we need to join up the dots, and see how components fit together – particularly when dealing with climate and biodiversity crises.

But we also need to be guided through the details so we can be sure we’re making the right decisions within the bigger context.

Are the SDGs a distraction?

While pondering all of this, I came across this article on the Sustainable Development Goals. It poses the question “are the SDG’s which have been designed to help and support us, actually a distraction?

I use the SDGs with my clients, to help them connect with the high-level positive impact they want to make through their business, through to the detail of how to make it happen. I help give their organisation measurable focus and clarity on the actions they need to take, and how they feed into the bigger picture at a national and global level.

As a marketer at heart, I love how this progress is then so much easier to articulate to the world, making the brand stronger and more compelling to their audiences, both internally and externally.

But there's clearly a problem when Shell, for example, claims to contribute to 13 of the 17 SDGs including goal 13, taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts; and Coca-Cola apparently contributes to Goal 3, ensuring healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. Mmm…really?

We can all see through this massive misuse of the SDG’s, and I’m not sure who they think they’re fooling?

What's missing?

Having seen the SDGs used very effectively, I’ve been asking myself what’s missing that allows others to ‘greenwash’, or maybe we should call it ‘sustainability wash’?

On reflection, I think we’re missing a clearer narrative on how the different goals fit together as part of a larger system, and a clear understanding that what’s required is systemic change, not piecemeal action.

We need a dialogue which centres on the big changes that need to be made, and how we join the dots between individual action and systemic reform.

We need to be able to tell that story, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by detail or washed-over by meaningless rhetoric.

I guess it’s like everything that us, as imperfect human beings, create.

The SDG’s can be a tool to use with integrity, to guide, support, measure and communicate progress.

Or they can also be used by the likes of Shell and Coca-Cola to their own ends.

How can I help?

Many of the leaders I work with tell me they couldn’t wade through the SDG’s on their own. With 17 goals, 169 sub targets and 232 indicators covering the breadth of all things development, it is a LOT. Which is why working with me can help.

  • I walk by your side and we face the challenges together, as we navigate the role of your organisation as we transition to a zero carbon world, and the positive impact you can make;
  • I help with the deep thinking, using the SDG’s and other relevant tools, so you know you’re doing the right things;
  • I help you to win hearts and minds – both internally with your Board, senior team and staff, and externally with your clients – bringing them along seamlessly with the changes. They choose you for who you are and what you stand for;
  • I show you how to amplify your impact and communicate it to the world without greenwashing and with integrity.

If you’re thinking about your social and environmental responsibility, and need support to plan it, do it, and talk about it – both internally and externally; if you don’t want to put it off any longer; if you want to bring meaning to what you and your team do, please reach out. I’m happy to jump on a Zoom and hear about the change you want to lead, and chat about how I can help.

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