The “magic ratio” is 5 to 1. This means that for every negative interaction during conflict, a stable and happy relationship has five (or more) positive interactions.

According to Dr. John Gottman from The Gottman Institute, it would take five positive interactions to neutralise the negative emotions associated with a single negative interaction. And during these times, when we are surrounded by negative stories coming from the media, it will take an awful lot of positivity to counteract that daily barrage of bad news we have become used to during the past twelve months or so.

This blog post is not in any way attempting to belittle or downplay the current severity of a global pandemic. These are unprecedented times, and many people have lost many loved ones – and there will undoubtedly by more setbacks along the road.

The announcement of a third UK lockdown this month has brought a murky cocktail of emotions into my home during what would already be a long, uneventful month after the joys of the Christmas holidays. Home-schooling children has been a trying time for us – as my wife and I battle with the discipline and rigour of our children’s education, whilst trying to compartmentalise being “Mum” and “Dad” as best we can for certain hours of the week. I still don’t know the answer to this complex problem – we are still experimenting with what works on a daily basis.

To this end, this week I made a promise to myself (and my family) to focus on being positive during this lockdown – and to write more about it. So, if the news of another week in lockdown is my one negative, I am going to share with you, the reader, five positives that will (by the time I have written this blog post) have erased out that negative thought from the week.

Chatting with Mike Cohn

As part of a series of new episodes of The Agile Pubcast, myself and Geoff Watts made a list of agile people whom we would like to chat with on our podcast. Mike Cohn was top of both our lists. Mike was (and still is) a massive influence on my agile journey, and his books and videos are still a great resource for me to learn. Even though I was a little starstruck during our 80 minutes chatting over zoom, it was great to share a drink with Mike again after what seemed like an age since I last spoke to him in person. One of the benefits of great video conferencing and broadband has given us during this pandemic, and great to see and hear Mike again… in perfect HD!

Walking with Owen

My son Owen (9) has found lockdown tough in his own way. He openly admits that he doesn’t miss the learning part of school (!!!) but he does miss his friends. As such, he has struggled to find the motivation for home schooling without being able to interact with his teacher and his peers. We decided a good idea would be for the two of us to have a 20-minute walk before school, to mimic the time and distance he would normally endure on a regular school day. Both Owen and I have grown to enjoy this daily trundle – we use it as a time to chat casually. My nine-year old’s interests mainly lie in Marvel movies, cars, chocolate bars and British Lions rugby, but at 8:30am in the morning – I am absolutely fine with that! I certainly feel that during this strange year, Owen and I have grown closer as father and son, and these frequent walks are a huge part of that – something I’m sure my pre-COVID diary would have struggled to allocate time for.

Speaking at a Meetup

Being asked to speak at a meetup event is a double-edged sword. Usually trading after hours working away for family time for the good of re-engaging with the community. This week I was reminded about the good that the agile community gives back. I spoke at the Agile Games Workshop, hosted by Devika Gibbs and I spoke for just under an hour about creativity – but the real joy for me came from seeing complete strangers playing, laughing and creating together. I was able to connect with agile practitioners in New Zealand, Sweden and the USA at the same meetup – that would never have happened before COVID. It was great to see that my book and my cards have travelled into people’s homes all over the world – and they were enjoying using them!! I stayed online for 25 minutes afterward just chatting and meeting new people – a great experience and it warmed my agile heart.

Running with a Friend

In the UK, January is a bleak month. On Wednesday I was feeling heavy, indolent and all together miserable. It was raining heavily outside. I had arranged a (socially distanced) run for lunchtime with my friend Rob. I took one look at the weather outside and then texted Rob with my excuse NOT to run today. But Rob was having none of it – and I could hear the YES, AND in his replies. “We can run on the roads instead of the lanes”, and “The rain is easing now” were the persistent responses I was met with. Rob wanted to run, and he wasn’t going to let me wriggle out of it. Eventually I relented, donned my running gear and headed out. We ran 6.5km through the rain. But I felt SO much better afterwards. Refreshed, re-energised and questioning why I had even questioned the prospect of running earlier that day. Thank you, Rob, for not accepting my excuse that morning.

Drawing on an iPad

A big part of my training style is drawing on a flipchart – something that has been lost since I now use only ZOOM and Miro as the tools to teach remote classes with. This week I made a conscious effort to add some of my own drawings to the presentation I used in the meetup (mentioned above). I picked up the iPad and quickly wiled away 30 minutes sketching using my Apple Pencil – with pleasantly surprising results. I had forgotten how much I enjoy illustrating my thoughts – and I have tried to add some of that back into this blog post too!!

That’s it. Five simple pleasures. And I can tell you it helps. Try writing them down too.

Paul Goddard - Agile Coach

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