Think global, act local

On the one hand, it is very easy to get bogged down in details and lose sight of the bigger picture – to not see the wood for the trees. On the other hand, though, it’s also very easy to have an understanding of the bigger picture and struggle to put that understanding into practice in concrete practical ways – it can be difficult to translate that big picture into smaller, manageable steps.

So the political slogan of ‘think global, act ...

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Get the balance right

The mantra of being ‘balanced in all things’ is a well-established idea, but there is a paradox here. If we are aiming to be balanced in all things, doesn’t that mean we are being extreme (and therefore unbalanced) about being balanced? Shouldn’t we be trying to find a balance between being balanced and unbalanced?

But, however we tackle that philosophical riddle, the value of seeking balance remains strong. This can apply in a number of ways. For example, there is considerable ...

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Develop your body language skills

Communication is so fundamental to most of the things we do in our work as well as in our private lives. One of the most potent forms of communication is body language, the subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – ways in which our body gives off signals or ‘messages’. Sometimes body language reinforces what we are saying – for example, when we say yes and nod at the same time. At other times, body language undermines what we ...

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Be careful about who you can trust

It is often said that trust needs to be earned, and that implies that we start off not trusting people until they reach the point when they have done enough to convince us that they are trustworthy. But is it really that simple?

How realistic is it to withhold trust until we feel that the risk of having that trust abused is at a low enough level? Of course, it isn’t realistic at all. To a certain extent social interactions would ...

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Don’t make decisions when feelings are running high

As human beings, we are, of course, emotional creatures just as much as we are rational, if not more so. This means that any attempt to understand human actions without taking account of the emotional dimension is likely to be, at best, incomplete and potentially totally misleading. Part of the reason emotions are so significant is that our emotional response to a situation can actually change the way our body reacts. For example, if we are anxious, angry or frightened, ...

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Extend, recover, renew

A widely accepted way to build muscle strength is to exercise just beyond what you are comfortable with (extend), give yourself time to get back to normal after the exertion (recover) and then start the process again when you are ready, so that it is a constant process of renewal. If you don’t extend, you won’t build muscle strength; if you don’t allow time for recovery you risk muscle strain and potentially serious injury. If you extend and recover just ...

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Be realistic

Positive psychology and its promotion of optimism have become firmly established in the popular imagination now. The idea that people who are optimistic will fare better than people who are pessimistic has received a great deal of coverage and has become widely accepted – despite the fact that it grossly oversimplifies the complex dynamics of human experience.

The self-help and self-improvement literature are full of examples of simplistic approaches to personal problems and challenges, and the uncritical acceptance of optimism as ...

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To thine own self be true

The idea that we should be true to ourselves has a long and honourable history, and also has much to commend it. However, much depends on how it is interpreted. A very common interpretation is that it involves being clear what your ‘true’ self is and then acting in accordance with that. This entails digging deep into yourself to find out what your ‘true’ or real self is.

This is highly problematic, as it is based on an oversimplified understanding of ...

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Don’t oversimplify the complex or overcomplicate the simple

We live in a world of soundbites and dumbed-down media messages. Having so many people competing for our attention and trying to capture that attention in a short time is bound to lead to an oversimplification of complex issues much of the time. Add to this the fact that there are so many people trying to earn a living by coming up with simple solutions to complex problems and a strong picture of oversimplification starts to emerge.

Sometimes it is a ...

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Robert Adams – a sad loss

Robert Adams was one of the most successful and highly respected authors of his generation. His death on New Year’s Eve at the age of 70 therefore means that the world of human services is now much the poorer.

He was a prolific author and editor, with his work being extremely well received in social work and social care and the human services more broadly. He shared with me and many others a commitment to trying to make sure that social ...

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