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Guided By The Light

Updated: Dec 15, 2020



In days gone by, sailors would follow the North Star to find their way home. Without the aid of modern gadgetry, they had to rely on a fixed point in the sky to provide them with a sense of direction and to keep them on course when inclement weather conspired to send them the wrong way. Governments face the same challenge in keeping to their manifesto promises and policy objectives, when faced with a barrage of – in the words of Harold MacMillan - “Events dear boy, events”. Like the occasional pandemic.


2020 has certainly knocked many of us off course. The Pandemic has led to many jobs being lost and businesses collapsing. Many people have had to rethink their careers and take a different direction. It has been a hugely difficult time.


But as the end of the year approaches and I reflect on my own situation, I wonder whether Covid-19 has been the stormy weather or political event that has impacted me the most, or whether I had already been blown off course many years earlier.


I have had an interesting, reasonably successful, and sometimes enjoyable 30-year career and there have been achievements of which I am proud. But if I think back all those years ago to August 1990, when I turned up at London Underground’s headquarters above St James’s Park Station in an ill-fitting suit, feeling that I was going to change the world, I didn’t plan to take the paths that I eventually followed. Somewhere along the way, my good intentions were discarded, some of my values were side-lined, my priorities overtaken.

I am sure there is nothing unusual in my experience and, in any case, does it really matter? We start out in our careers with hopes, aspirations, values and beliefs. And then life happens, our priorities change. Which is fine. It’s important to be flexible, to be able to adapt to deal with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.


But it’s not a bad idea to do a stocktake every now and again and to reflect on your values and your priorities. Confirming you are on the right course is worthwhile and assuring. Sometimes, you might want to make a few tweaks to keep you moving in the right direction. In my case, I realised well before Covid arrived that I wasn’t quite in the place I wanted to be. I felt that I wanted to do more to help people directly, on a personal level. I also realised that I had sacrificed some of my family relationships in my pursuit of career progression. And it felt important to take more control over what I did, rather than being part of a corporate machine.


These were some of my values and priorities that I had somehow forgotten about during the past 30 years. They were important to me as a fresh-faced graduate starting out on my career journey. But events happened, choices were made, and I landed in some unexpected places. There were many positives in my career, but also some compromises. I realised that it is never too late to make a change, and so here I am. I feel more at peace with my values and priorities now, and I am generally much happier.


The pandemic has forced some people to make similar changes – some positive, others less so. And it has created the space for others to reflect on their priorities, their values, and what keeps them on the right track.



Perhaps it is time to ask yourself, what is your North Star?


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