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We often assume that laughter occurs when we hear something funny, but research has shown that it is the people doing the speaking who laugh the most - 46% more than their audience.
For me the purpose of life is to know other people…is to discover what life is. Who inhabits the world? What is it to be human? What can I give to the world which it doesn’t have…a gift for tolerating my presence in this world..…and unless I know the people, I can’t know what it does not have - Theodore Zeldin
Imagine balancing self-interest and caring for others. If this is possible, then:
(1) What is the approximate balance between the two today - in individuals, organisations and societies? How much time do we really spend thinking about and then acting on other people's needs?
"Nobody foresaw the world shortage of respect"1, so compassion and empathy are perhaps our best responses to the growing realisation that even as we watch each other post and connect and feed and comment and tweet, what goes on in other people's heads is becoming ever more puzzling.
The term "compassion" has fallen out of touch with reality, argued journalist Krista Tippett, who deconstructs the meaning of compassion through stories, and proposes a new definition, linking it with kindness, "curiosity without assumptions", empathy, forgiveness, beauty, generosity and presence.
According to Issues Online, the number of people today aged 60 and over has doubled since 1980. The number of people aged 80 years will almost quadruple to 395 million between now and 2050. Within the next five years, the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of five. By 2050, these older adults will outnumber all children under the age of 14. The majority of older people live in low- or middle-income countries. By 2050, this number will have increased to 80%.
Imagine a job "big enough for the spirit".
Roman Krznaric gave a talk on his book, How to Find Fulfilling Work, as part of the launch of The School of Life’s practical philosophy book series. Krznaric offered five essential ideas for career change, drawing on career advice from Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle and a woman who gave herself the unusual 30th birthday present of trying out 30 different jobs in one year.
Imagining, while still healthy, donating organs to total strangers without expecting anything in return. The BBC nterviewed a man who did just this after his wife committed suicide.
She had been suffering from progressive multiple sclerosis, and when the pain and suffering became too much for her to bear, she took her own life, leading him to a suspended prison sentence - for failing to stop her - and ultimately to the decision to help others to live by doing as much as he possibly could - by giving away one of his kidneys and part of his liver, and then waiting to become a bone marrow donor.
Imagining not allowing our "projections" to hold us back, as argued in this thoughtful piece? The idea that we are often very wrong in the assumptions we make about what other people are thinking and feeling strikes a chord. Is there a word for "false empathy" - i.e. for trying to put ourself into the other's shoes, but coming to completely wrong conclusions? Maybe we'd benefit from "cognitive reframing".
So often we seem to impute to others far worse feelings and motives than we subsequently learn were really there, and often isn't the truth that the other person was focused on his/her own problems and, far than condemning us, was probably not thinking about us at all? Even if/when they were, what harm does it really do us?
Can we imagine how others are feeling at any given time?