Monday, 5 October 2015

achieving greatly: my lack of great achievements

This week for the gratitude challenge I'm supposed to be talking about my greatest achievement.

There's nothing like someone asking about your greatest achievement to make you feel like an underachiever.

My first thought was my family, but, although there's plenty of hard work that goes into parenting, to call a happy, healthy family an achievement is neglecting the heady dose of sheer dumb luck that's in there. Besides which, if my children are great, then surely that's their achievement, not mine.

My children - I think they're great, even if they do take turns to whine at me.
Marriage can't really be counted as an achievement either. That's work and love and luck, and not taking things for granted. So, not that.

What about paid work?

I used to have an important job with the Government doing research stuff. I tried really hard to have great achievements, within the confines of my work, but I was a civil servant. I put together briefings on various topics. My two favourites were on shared electric vehicles (good idea, but not cost effective at the time), and on the Right to Buy (terrible idea, although it could be useful if there were lots of programmes in place for building new social housing and getting rid of bad housing stock). Both those, and several other things did very little in terms of impact. Although hopefully they'll be glanced at from time to time by people who follow me and update the information. I also did, or managed, lots of research evaluating government policy programmes. Most of that made very little impact too, although I was told I'd done helpful stuff for some people, so that's good.

It's quite right of course that civil servants shouldn't change government policy. Evidence based policy is a good concept to have, but policy should be about values too. Great policy, like the formation of the NHS, cannot be evidence based, but that doesn't mean we can't learn as we go and make things better.

I would like to think that the work I did in Suffolk running a babies and birthing charity made a big impact. We certainly helped more women have home births, and provided some equipment that came in useful, but it's hardly a great achievement. Also it seems to have died down now that I've moved away. No doubt something else has taken its place.

Everything changes and looking to achieve greatness seems to me to be a good way to fail. I am happy to keep on keeping on, and just try to do a little bit every day which is heading in the right direction... wherever that is.

Maybe I've just not achieved my greatness yet. Have you?