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Attending to the immediate

Please excuse me as I'm going to mention cycling again! But first some background facts. I have always been someone who likes to have lists and tick things off as I achieve them. I like having plans and targets. But I hate being set goals that are beyond my ability or over which I have no control. As a headteacher, there were few things that frustrated me more than being asked to lead a school when the goalposts were constantly being moved by the government. I'd set out at the beginning of the year with a clear plan and, within six months, all my priorities had to change after the appointment of a new Education Secretary.

Well, what has this got to do with cycling? The thing I've learnt from my recent rides is that sometimes it is better to pay attention to the immediate, and try and get that right, than to spend time on grand plans that are unlikely to ever be achieved. In recent weeks I've been trying to get round a particular circuit in under 40 minutes. Although I haven't achieved it yet, I am getting closer - within a few seconds. The improvement has come because I've changed my focus. I used to concentrate on the end of the 'race' and I'd try to conserve energy for that last blast, but now I try and 'give my all' at every stage, all the way round. As a strategy, it may not work for long distance racers, but for my little route, it's the answer!

I learned a similar lesson a few years ago when I was training as a counsellor. It took me a whole year of evening classes to realise that the best counsellors don't spend their time thinking ahead, trying to come up with cleaver or 'wise' things to say. The best counsellors live in the moment, they shut down their internal dialogue and give themselves fully to the what is being said by the client in that moment.

For many people, the future is going to be very difficult. We are told that there is going to be a deep recession, that unemployment is going to rise and incomes are going to fall. It may be particularly difficult for the young. Mental health will be an issue for many. Governments are going to need long-term plans in order to get the country back on its feet.

However, if we turn our focus to the immediate, and try and get that right, we can make changes that can be good for now and for the future. Last week, Marcus Rashford, a well-known professional footballer, responded to an injustice that was right in front of him (and in front of us all). By adding his influential voice to a campaign, the government changed its mind. We may not have the influence of Marcus Rashford but, if we pay attention to what is happening immediately around us, perhaps we too can be part of creating a better society for now and for the future.

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