Last week, early on a September morning, the sun is low in a pale blue almost cloudless sky. There is a heavy dew on the grass. The birds are singing in the trees that surround our paddock. There is no human sound to be heard in the stillness. Where the sun reaches the valley floor spiders’ webs sparkle on our fence. It’s cool but not cold. The breath from our four Alpacas hangs in the air as they walk towards us, knowing we have their food. We’ve already let the hens out and they are scratching about in the earth. This moment feels pretty close to perfect, and exemplifies why we moved to the Devon countryside, just a year ago despite more traveling for me when I visit client sites.
The moment doesn’t last long, the Alpacas finish their buckets and return to eating the grass, and I go into my study. Working from home, I have a couple of papers to write and lots of emails to answer as well as a number of calls to make. But the feeling of calm and tranquility engendered by the morning routines outside persists for most of the day and colours my approach to the various questions and issues that come my way – in a positive way. Matters seem to be more in perspective, problems less daunting. In some ways things don’t matter quite so much – the world will continue spinning, the sun will rise – and the inexorable transition from summer to autumn will continue.
The memory of that morning will stay with me for some time. I hope I will be able to recall how I felt next time it is pouring with rain!
Of course business matters matter. But it’s worth remembering that many of the challenges and difficulties we encounter are only given significance by us – by our perspective, driven by our feelings and attitudes at the time. We rarely ask if something really, truly matters.
I have long felt that there is a right time to solve a problem. Too soon and you’re not sure it is the problem you are trying to solve that will be addressed. Too late and options will have closed. To spot the right time needs a degree of distance, of perspective and of insight. That doesn’t mean you ignore the problem until that point, rather you gather information, understand others’ feelings and think through options, then take decisive action – if it is needed.
That work is best performed when you are grounded and can take a balanced view. Our house in Devon is 500 years old. It stands a very good chance of being there for another 500 years. Set against that timescale many of the challenges of the day are pretty ephemeral, and often greatly exaggerated. As Winston Churchill said “I have had a lot of trouble in my life. Most of it never happened”.