One of my favourite philosophers is Dolly Parton – I love her quote: “the way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.”
Dolly was recently in the unglamorous English town of Rotherham where she opened her first Imagination Library in Europe (the scheme, which operates in 566 counties and across 36 US states, aims to encourage young children and will provide every pre-school age child in Rotherham a free book every month.)
I heard Dolly on the radio discussing one of her favourite books as a child, The Little Train that Could. This is a great story of self-belief, with the mental mantra of “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” demonstrating the power of determination.
At this time of year, most of the students I have been teaching this term are either preparing for, or working on, a public relations assignment. A number have recently been in the “valley of despair” as they worry they will not be successful – but I remind them that ahead of them is the “slope of hope” (I know it is cheesy).
Not only should we visualise ourselves moving forwards and upwards to tackle the challenges we face, but we need to recognise we can often do better than we think we can.
A trick I’ve used to show students how we limit ourselves (borrowed from PR creativity guru Andy Green) involves standing with your arms held horizontally and, keeping your feet still, spinning round from your waist clockwise as far as you can go – you should point with your left hand and note how far you have reached. Then return to centre and this time spin further. Everyone always reaches further the 2nd time.
This difference between perceived and real best performance is considered in an interesting article: I’m Not Really Running, I’m Not Really Running from the New York Times, where a technique called “dissociation” is discussed. It involves separating your mind from your body in order to avoid applying limitations on yourself.
Of course, you need to put in the hard work and not just imagine that you can achieve great things without any effort, but in stretching for the moon, we may just grasp a star.
One way in PR that we can be a “green banana” and continue to grow, is to learn to critique our own work. Even when we think something is good enough to go (whether a planned event, press release, or an assignment), building in the time for a final reflection – like the swing of our arms – is likely to enable us to add in some final improvements.
Ask yourself, what little thing would make this better? It need not involve considerable time, effort or budget, but there is bound to be something you can do to get closer to the best you can be.
For students, that extra stretch might just raise you up to the next grade. At this time of year, think of it as a little glitter or sparkle that can raise your best to better – great to amazing – enjoyable to memorable.
Then when the results are assessed, like the little train, you can shout out “I knew I could, I knew I could”.