Exploring what matters – the Nottingham experience
02 Jun 2016 | Sarah Dale
When Diana Pasek-Atkinson and I volunteered to run the Exploring What Matters course from Action
for Happiness, we didn't know quite what to expect.
We were enthused by the idea of a practical way to put into
practice the Action for Happiness pledge: "I will try to create
more happiness and less unhappiness in the world".
And we are both personally motivated by our own experiences of
loved ones suffering from depression and unhappiness at times too.
A local school, John Clifford School, was keen to support by
offering us a venue (and a vital tea urn).
This feels to us like a very topical issue, against a backdrop
of uncertainty for many of us in daily life, and news stories that
often provoke fear and anger. What really matters? Is it naïve to
think we can we create a happier family, community, world?
"I learned a great deal and am inspired
to learn more and to put things into action"
Over twenty people signed up. We knew a handful of them but most
didn't know each other, or us. Some travelled significant distances
around the region to be there (through a tempest on one particular
Both Diana and I are used to facilitating groups in our daily
work but on that first evening, it felt a little daunting even so.
What were people expecting? Who are these people? Will they get
The materials helped. The course is well-designed, with plenty
of materials and references for following up and a familiar
structure to each evening.
But the participants themselves were, of course, the main
Over the weeks, people shared inspiring stories of the actions
they were taking - from random acts of kindness (somebody will
still be puzzling over who paid for their petrol one evening), to
new involvement with charities and community activities - including
work with refugees, the elderly and lonely, the parish council.
People encouraged each other over job decisions, over difficult
personal circumstances, over getting out for more exercise or to
establish habits around mindfulness meditation.
The group is meeting again in a few weeks' time, and in the
meantime at least three people are considering running the course
themselves elsewhere. It looks as if we'll work our way to a
regular group locally too.
"Thank you for such a life changing course"
These people probably wouldn't have met each other had it not
been for this course. But not only have the sessions themselves
been interesting and uplifting and enabled conversations that don't
often get much air-time, but friendships are also being forged.
One participant hasn't been out in the evenings as regularly as
this for years as a result of illness and this represents huge
change for her. Another didn't know anyone outside of their
Others are wrestling with life transitions - new jobs, or
retirement, or wanting to change big parts of their lives.
This gave us all a place of safety and support - more so than
most of us probably expected at the outset - to explore positive
ways of dealing with these.
"I'm being kinder to myself. It's a wonderful extra bonus"
I must admit, I'd wondered whether eight evenings of voluntarily
committing to running the course would come to feel like a chore in
an already busy life. It really didn't though. Whatever mood I'd
gone out in, I always came home with more of a positive buzz at the
end of the evening.
Thank you to all involved!
Sarah Dale @creatingfocus www.creatingfocus.org
Diana Pasek-Atkinson @AnaidMPA