I went to a great (free) talk at Nottingham Contemporary the other night.
Ambitiously entitled ‘This Event Will Change Your Life’ the headline act was Oliver Burkeman who has written a similarly named column about the self-help mega-industry for the Guardian and has now published a book of called ‘Help : How to become slightly happier and get a bit more done’.
Mr Burkeman was good value and got the most laughs but by no means did he outshine his fellow speakers whose contributions ranged across providing a bit of potted history of self-help publishing, an introduction to Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (do you enjoy the ecstasy of living in the moment?), a reflection on psychoanalysis (did you know that Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali met up?) and an insight into the world of sex counselling (how long on average do you think a man waits before seeing his GP about erectile dysfunction? And how long on average does it take the GP to provide a solution?).
The point of all of these of course is to help us change, to shift from one set of circumstances or behaviours to another. Often of course it’s a problem, such as a depression, that needs resolving or relieving.
At other times it’s something that we find attractive – giving up the job that slowly kills us, starting a new life on the other side of the world, escaping a dysfunctional relationship – but which we are reluctant to grasp, perhaps because of perceived risks and obstacles or lack of confidence.
And sometimes it’s something simpler (if not so simple to achieve) like getting organised, getting thin, giving up smoking, taking up exercise or, of course, becoming rich.
Whichever it is it’s best to get on with it. Or as they say in Myanmar, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today”.
The other night Oliver Burkeman finished by quoting Shoma Morita who is Japanese and says, “Give up on yourself. Begin taking action now, while neurotic or imperfect or a procrastinator or unhealthy or lazy or any other label by which you inaccurately describe yourself. Go ahead and be the best imperfect person you can be, and get started on those things you want to accomplish before you die.”
The audio of Oliver Burkeman speaking is available here. Click Downloads and it will play. The other speakers were Dr Victoria Tischler from The University of Nottingham, Dr Beena Rajkumar, specialist registrar in psychotherapy, Tim Sweeney, adult psychologist, Susan Quilliam, relationship psychologist and author and Dr Gary Winship, a psychoanalytic psychotherapist from The University of Nottingham. With any luck their talks will appear soon too.