A Post-Olympic Legacy: Happiness

 Take Away Line

The joy of triumph on the face of Jade Jones in the taekwondo final

After a successful Olympics, what’s your personal legacy from the games?  Since they were a happy games, what about happiness?  Now, there’s a stretch goal!  When we look at it, as the articles in this series attempt to do, we can see that reflection, self-understanding and time for both really make a difference to our sustained sense of satisfaction, not least at work. As you’ll see, it is possible to remove some of the barriers to satisfaction at work and these pieces attempt to provide some stepping-stones to help you on the way.  While always trying to be practical, there is a fascinating spiritual dimension to this question which the point on which these pieces will conclude.  Read on and enjoy!

On Bread and Circuses

Contemplating returning to work after a lovely holiday in France, I felt reasonably buoyant: nice time, nice place, nice books, nice weather…all good things that recharge me.  A satisfying feeling – happiness perhaps?  Feeling good anyway.

For a country with an odd sense of itself, the UK has had a great summer too.  Sometimes arrogant and increasingly xenophobic, often however, self-deprecating and at times almost collectively depressed, the surprise of a great (not just good, but great) Olympic and Paralympic Games gave a much needed fillip to national well-being.

Of course this success doesn’t remove the cold economic and social realities – on just about all the indicators one can image, the UK is in poor shape, even compared with our near neighbours who themselves currently have challenges to face.

There’s a real danger, as autumn kicks in and the post-Olympic glow fades that we slip easily back into a casual collective sullenness.  Circuses are, as Roman emperors knew well, all very good for lifting the mood, but if bread is fundamentally in short supply, there will be trouble ahead.

So, in a series of new blog pieces, it’s timely to look at what our own legacy might be from the games and to see how the happiness that it clearly engendered can perhaps be sustained, especially in a work context.  I’ve been reading some great books on the subject over the summer and I’ll be drawing from them directly and indirectly: The Dalai Lama’s Happiness at Work, Christopher Jamieson’s Finding Happiness and Archimandrite Sophrony’s His Life is Mine, along with a few rather more academic tomes and articles which will find the occasional mention in the pieces in this series.

Turning the Olympics Inside out

Against the odds, perhaps, the Olympics and Paralympics were resounding successes.  Everyone seems to say so.  But the augurs were not positive.  Whether it’s the limitations of London’s infrastructure, the feeling that the UK can’t match the budgets of the big guys any more (viz.. China) or a general sense of living in a country in decline in an age or austerity and you’d be forgiven for not expecting great things.  Neither the media’s roll of drums, nor even the torch relay seemed really to allay a general sense of scepticism.  The torch had been lit, but somehow there was no spark.  The inability of the contracted security company to recruit the staff needed seemed to seal the games’ fate: this doesn’t feel right.

Yet, somehow great things came to pass.  We all know when: the opening ceremony.  Doubtless quirky, Danny Boyle somehow cast a magic wand over the entire proceedings, managing to lasso together everyone, from little England traditionalists, warm pints of flat beer in hand, to proponents of a more equal UK, content with its diversity.  For me, the resounding moment that really clinched the deal was the point when the Olympic flag was carried by the likes of Shami Chakrabati, Ban-ki Moon and Doreen Lawrence. ‘That’s the kind of Britain I want to be part of,’ I found myself crying!  Not something you find coming from my lips often.

And it went on from there.  I suppose folk tend to be drawn to the sports that interest them.  I loved the martial arts and the middle distance running best.  And my favourite moment of the whole games – and it’s a packed short list – has to be Jade Jones’ face when she found she won Gold, at 19, in Taekwondo.  Pure joy!

The BBC’s showing of the Olympics and Channels 4’s of the Paralympics was just great in so many ways – they seemed just to hit the right notes.  But there were, for me, some interesting flaws, mention of which takes us into some of the pieces in the topic of happiness.

Take for example, even-handedness: one metric makes the point.  Measure the amount of time in the opening ceremony’s athletes’ parade given to different nations.  One of the world’s great athletic nations, Russia, was given short shrift and we barely saw their team enter.  [They ended up fourth on the meal table, just behind Team GB, on the basis of the number of Gold Medals.  But if you measure the total number of medals or the points from those medals, and they pipped the UK.]  Meanwhile, when the team of the USA entered, the cameras lingered on them for what seemed like a biased age.  What was that about?  I mean, the BBC?

And the other, rather more delicate thing was faith.

Giving it up for God – Mo Farah prostrates

Check it out.  And just focus on the stars: Ussain Bolt making the sign of the cross before his races or pointing to heaven after he scorched past the finishing line.  Or, Mo Farah making a prostration to God after both his wins.  Or, the one that lingers with me the most, the Ethiopian, Meseret Defar, producing an icon of Mary, the Mother of Christ out of nowhere after she won the women’s 5000 m gold, ecstatically showing it to the cameras.  One can hardly doubt that in all these cases – and in countless others – the participants in questions attributed their success – indeed they gave their success and craved their success – from their inner spiritual lives.  The BBC commentary when these things  happened?  Silence.  Dear readers: if you heard differently, let me know, but each time I saw this, I heard not a mention of it at all.

If for so many of the athletes ‘Spiritual energy’ is an important topic and one that they draw upon, then we should give it voice.  It to the inner that we look to understand better our outer success.  And also our troubles.  But while the spiritual dimension is where we will end up in these pieces, it is not where we’ll start.

Sustaining our own personal Olympic and Paralympic legacy, holding on and nurturing the glow from the games is the central theme of this series of articles.  The angle is always in relation to change consulting and the aspects or themes we pick up are to help us build our personal legacy from the Games, focussing on happiness at work and include:

  • Working in and sustaining the ‘zone’
  • Work as a ‘calling’
  • Challenge and satisfaction at work
  • Managing wellbeing
  • The spirituality of success

Debating Points

  1. What’s your legacy from the games?
  2. What was your view of the coverage?

About transformingtales

What you do is what you do, isn't it? Nothing special there. What I do is work mainly with civil society organisations, but also some public and corporate sector outfits, to help them change. For the better. For good. If you provide a list of the things you do, the services you offer, like strategic planning, leadership development, corporate governance, culture change and performance management, they are just words. And tricky sounding words too that put you off and imply more questions than they answer. So, this blog is about the stories, the joys and the woes of making tranformative change happen (on a good day) and when and why it doesn't (on a bad day). And it's dedicated to my daughter who asked the question a few years ago: 'What do you do again, Dad?'
Gallery | This entry was posted in Change management, Civil Society, Consulting, Employee engagement, Happiness at Work, Leadership, Policy, Well-being. Bookmark the permalink.

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