The Big Idea and what you need to do (Part II)

In the first part of this blog I wrote about The Big Idea and how focusing too narrowly doesn’t create sustainable change. Instead a more successful strategy is to test out many ideas. There are a myriad of ways to work through changing your relationships, changing your career, or changing your life. It’s just a question of trying them out.

My Spoon by Spoon project has been a bit of a marathon. I’ve interviewed over a hundred people from Australia to Saudi Arabia, San Fransisco to India and Venuzuela to Norway. They’ve ranged in age from 28 to 68 — all going through a host of changes. Here are a few of the things they are working on at the moment:

1) Mind-set:

– Fola lives in Nigeria and has had some really challenging times. Both her parents died within six months of each other. She’s mid career change but wants to accept where she is: “I imagine I’m sitting on a bench at a railway station. I’m watching the scenery, enjoying a nice sunny day, while waiting for my train to arrive. I don’t know where my train is or when it will arrive, but I’m enjoying the view.”

– Andrew is Scottish and is working on how he sees the world. His mantra is: “Don’t compare yourself to other people. Stop living your life trying to keep up. You know we’re all different. Just be yourself, make yourself happy and realise that all these material things won’t actually do it.”

– Ana Marta is 32 and Portuguese and is normally positive and upbeat. She’s found herself reflecting, “Young people are full of excitement and joy and have this confidence in the future. Everything is just going to be great. And I guess as we grow a bit older, maybe we lose that. I want to work on having it again.

2) Work:

– Jacqui lives in Switzerland. She has just started a new resilience business. She says the work is, “born of burnout. Mine. My mission is to empower busy humans with tangible tools to manage stress, enhance wellbeing and build reserves to not only survive, but thrive through difficult times.” It’s early days but already she’s getting a lot of interest.

– Lucy was a lawyer but quit in her late twenties to set up a de-cluttering business. It’s now very successful. She has moved away from the goal-driven, hard and fast environment she used to work in. “When you set yourself a goal, don’t think that when you achieve that goal it’s going to make you happy. You have to learn to live in the present and enjoy the process. Enjoy what you’ve got. Enjoy learning, because the end goal isn’t the point.

– Malcolm used to be a partner in a professional services firm. He wants to keep using his brain and to keep learning. So at 65 he has just set up a T-shirt mail order business, where he develops all the clothing designs himself and has built a website to manage it.

3) Lifestyle and help:

– Anupa is 52 and was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease but found the medication had bad side effects. She has been on a number of ayurvedicretreats and says, “It makes my body light and balanced and I feel a lot of energy. I used to feel a lot of fatigue, pain and stiffness in the morning. I don’t have that anymore.”

– Nick is in his fifties and realised he needed help. “It was all coming to a head at my last company. All the things you’d associate with stress — anxiety and lack of self confidence.” So he booked himself 12-weeks of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which he found incredibly useful.

– Andy has been working on his diet: “I am flexitarian but I have periods where I go vegetarian, and recently I had a vegan week. I have no intention of being vegan but I have had some really delicious meals. I’ve been genuinely surprised at how good they were.”

So my Big Idea is that we need to stop looking for The Big Idea. We need to stop searching for a panacea. We need to be more omnivirous in our problem solving. There is no single way to get out of a hole — a global pandemic, an unhappy relationship or a career rut. There are no blueprints. There are just ideas and different ways. Some will work and some won’t. The only way we will find out is by trying them.


This is part of a series called Spoon by Spoon — a project I’ve run interviewing 100 people going through career, relationship and wider life changes. If you’re looking for support with your own career or life change find out more here.

Photo copyright of Charlotte Sheridan

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