(This post is based on an article by Tara-Nicholle Nelson.)
Pronoia – a state of mind that is the opposite of paranoia.
In 1993, the writer and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow defined pronoia as "the suspicion that the Universe is a conspiracy on your behalf." While a person suffering from paranoia feels as if people or entities are conspiring against them, a person experiencing pronoia feels that the world around them conspires to do them good.
I came across this term in an article by Tara-Nicholle Nelson, I think about it as a positive approach to what we call wishful thinking.
My New Year’s resolution is to practice pronoia more – for myself, and with my team. Do your best, work hard, while believing that even failures happen for the best; that obstacles and mistakes are there to be learnt from. I can see how it may sound like positive psychology mumbo-jumbo: in times of conflicts, or when things go wrong, we get caught up in the moment, and it’s hard to see the bright side. If you think about it retrospectively, though, you may come to acknowledge that in some cases those things turned out to be for the best.
Off the top of my head, I can think about a few very challenging recruitment projects I worked on – at the time the project was ongoing it was a nightmare: I felt like everything was going wrong, and nothing moved smoothly. Looking back on the time working on those projects, though, I realize they gave me experience and skills I didn’t have before. I learned a lot. It was perhaps a rocky road from the stakeholders’ perspective, but I managed to establish rapports with some great people, I was exposed to senior managers who got to know me and my team. We didn’t have much of a budget, but I had the chance to do very creative things on social media which I enjoyed.
Above all, these experiences gave me the confidence to deal with other projects and tasks. Now, whenever a complex project comes along, I know I can handle it: I know what to do, how to approach things, what to pay attention to, what to improve, and what to analyse and report on. In retrospect, those challenging projects boosted my professionality.
Could I have had this insight in the middle of one of these projects, when everything was happening? I’m not sure. As I wrote above, many times you are caught in the moment, in the stress and the difficulties. You are drowning in the ongoing workload and cannot stop to bring your head above water, to take the time to breathe and recognise your achievements.
That’s why my New Year’s resolution is to practice pronoia more. to try and stop and spare a few minutes to think, even in mid-project chaos; to consider the benefits of a difficult situation; to try and zoom out and see what there is to learn – and to try and help my team do that too.
Ask yourself those five questions (in the midst of recruitment projects):
1. Can this project expose me to new domains/roles I didn’t have experience with ?
2. Do I have the chance to work with new stakeholders/managers, or to be exposed to senior management?
3. Can I practice new skills – such as new ways to report, or work with new tools?
4. Can I practice new sourcing methods/channels?
5. Can I be creative and innovative? Do I have the opportunity to do something new in my process/social media/candidate experience?