Just because I know smoking is bad for me it does not make it any easier for me to stop smoking. Awareness does not always lead to the right action, but it is a good beginning. Bridging the knowing-doing gap and how difficult it is to translate knowledge into action is something any smoker will understand.
I am proud and happy to be at the 4-year milestone since I kicked the butt. March 1, will make 1461 days since I stubbed out this rather nasty habit. But it is still a temptation even today. I choose not to act on that urge and use the awareness I have about the ill effects of smoking, to stay on the path of fresh air – for one more day. I keep telling myself “one more day of fresh air and freedom”.
The power of communication to impact behaviour is something I’m constantly reminded of. Every time I watch a movie or a television show that has a scene where someone is enjoying a cigarette after a meal, on top of a mountain, or a beach I feel the momentary pull from a world I left behind trying to drag me back in with its wispy tentacles. This constant tussle with the grey world of the smoker that beckons underlines the importance of keeping it black and white. There is no space for grey areas when it comes to the ethics and rules that govern responsible communication.
Our words become our thoughts. And our thoughts become our actions. The power of communication and the importance of ethics in our profession is underlined for me in a very real way. The responsibility every Public Relations professional carry their shoulders is to make the right choice. To act with integrity when it comes to communicating on behalf of a company or brand or celebrity is a huge responsibility. We must know the impact we are having on people and the planet. Profit must be earned but earned with care. The triple bottom line is in fashion and purpose-led communication and ESG and social impact are trends that are thankfully catching the attention of a world that has endured some hard knocks courtesy of this pandemic. It is easy to miss the tree for the woods in this time of trying to find our way out of the woods. Keep it simple. Doing well and being well are interconnected.
I keep coming back to my favourite definition for PR. “Public relations is about doing good and then getting credit for it”. As long as we keep that north star in focus and be the force of good, we are on the right track. We must encourage the companies and brands and CEOs and Celebrities we have to privilege to represent, to be their best selves. When they fall short, we must urge them to make amends, to say sorry, to fix the mistake, or at least do everything in their power to try and ensure it never gets repeated. This is at the heart of the ‘crisis management’ work that we do.
The importance of acceptance of where we are and who we are is the beginning of any meaningful and sustained action. Action that moves us forward comes from self-awareness and acceptance. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition for growth. Taking the right action basis that awareness and sustaining it is a harder step. Just because I know smoking is bad for me does not make it any easier for me to stop smoking. But stop I must, because it’s the right thing to do.
March 2nd, 2020, I wrote this little note to myself “Yesterday was two years. I was driving to Sultanpur and saw someone on the road light up, this triggered a fleeting urge to smoke. Then I remembered I had made it to my 2nd anniversary and sent the thought away. Two days before in Pune. At the Ritz Carlton after a nice drive from Mumbai, I walked into the coffee shop and saw a lovely smoking area. Shady green trees and an rippling blue water body called out to me. I walked over to that wonderful spot, took in a deep breath of fresh air and firmly stamped out the urge. But recognised it was still there. Like a swamp beast. Ready to strike when I least expect it. One day at a time it is. Gratitude to me for getting myself here.”
Keep it simple. Keep it smoke-free. No shades of grey when it comes to the really important stuff. Knowing what’s right. Doing what’s right.
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