Am I powerless to impact Brexit?

​Brexit is not a done deal. You have power, as an individual, to influence what happens next. Just today, an email landed top of my inbox with the subject line: Still time. And that’s true. If you’re looking to break out of a powerless funk, here’s a simple schema I use to help people decide how they’ll respond to tough, tenacious challenges. And Brexit definitely fits that description. (It's like a mid-life crisis on a national scale, with scope to change the fundamentals of our lives for half a century.)

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This schema is useful in all those thorny situations that take time to tackle. So often, the first step is to rekindle your sense of agency. Agency is the ability to direct your energy and attention towards outcomes you desire.

My schema is called Do-Delegate-Duck-Deny. And it will work if you’re feeling stymied or scared about Brexit.

How to use D-D-D-D 

You’ll need: 

  1. 5 blank A4 pages; 
  2. a robust marker; 
  3. a fine-tipped pen or pencil; 
  4. and, if you like your lines straight, a ruler.

    Allow yourself 30-45 minutes uninterrupted time. If music helps you feel and think, switch on whatever tunes will get your juices flowing.
Simple materials to use for your DDDD Brainstorm
Simple materials to use for your DDDD Brainstorm

Step 1 of 6

Draw a large rectangle on one A4 sheet. Draw a horizontal line to bisect your rectangle. Now you have two rectangles.

In the top rectangle, draw a vertical line, to make two squares.

In the bottom rectangle, draw a horizontal line, to make two “layers”.

This is your clarity canvas: a tidy, ordered area where you’ll place the ideas you’ve select, once you’ve had time to splatter a wide-ranging set of ideas on a page. For now, set the canvas aside.

A tidy place to put our restless thoughts
Making the first sheet for DDDD

Step 2 of 6

Next, line up four pages of A4 paper. I do this along my long kitchen counter because I like thinking on my feet. If you prefer sitting, choose a table where you can spread your papers out.

Choose a robust pen. I prefer black sharpies, because they write well no matter what kind of paper. (If you choose a sharpie too, make sure you’ve got a clipboard or magazine to catch the ink that will bleed through. Nothing leaches morale like an unwanted inkstain.)

Write one D-word on the top of each. Big block capitals are best. That’s:





a DIY way to get yourself moving into action
The thinking space, organised as Do - Duck - Deny

Step 3 of 6

Fill the “Do” page with a list of all the things — however small or outlandishly large — you wish someone would do to change today’s situation. Be as bold as you wish.

These are your thoughts, to notice and articulate. Avoid editing. Everything’s allowed. In fact, let yourself be silly. It’s a good sign you’re thinking well if you can make yourself laugh. Joy frees us from strait-jacket thinking.

Next, have a go at the “Duck” list. Here you can name all the Brexit-related things that you, people you know, or our elected leaders are ducking out of doing. As always, serve up the truth as you see it straight. This is your thinking space and no one will intrude to censor you.

If you notice your thoughts keep hanging up on denials — facts that people, including you, are ignoring — label a spare sheet “Deny” and pop them there.

“Deny” items can spring from anywhere:

  • information you read about but don’t hear journalists pursuing
  • family situations or friendships where an icy strain has sprung up
  • problems on the horizon in your work or health that no one is helping you address

Your item might refer to the public realm, like the position your local MP has taken. Perhaps, though, what gnaws is something inside: some matter of conscience relating to something you did or haven’t done. All that buried information is welcome on your Deny sheet.

Step 4 of 6

Take a breather, shaking out your arms, having a stretch, boiling the kettle or nipping out for some fresh air. Then, with fresh eyes, return and have a look at what you’ve written.

It’s time to make some selections. To begin, underline “do” items that strike you as feasible, for you or someone else.

Notice any topics where you know you need more information, and then add info-seeking on this topic as another “do” item.

Next, circle all the “Do” items you personally can do, now or in the future.

Start a “Delegate” list with items worth doing that are beyond your ken.

If you feel your energy rising, then you’re ready to look at the “Duck” list. Just see if there’s one single item on the “Duck” list that you can promote to the Do/Delegate lists. Just one.

You don’t have to know how to do something, at this stage.

Simply give yourself permission to wish something is done by someone or by you.

Please treat yourself even more gently when it comes to the Deny list. Just ask yourself to circle one item that really matters to you.

Just choose one denial that’s getting at you, right now. Circle it, so you don’t bottle out or bottle it up.

Your four sheets might be quite messy by now.

Do list of actions that might impact Brexit
My own Do sheet, unfurled after crumpling

If, like me, you’re given to moment of frustration where there’s nothing better than crumpling up the page, you may have smoothed it as best you can but its edges are still curling and the writing has gone all wobbly. That’s absolutely fine.

How so? Because you already have another space waiting that possess all the spareness and purity your best thinking needs. It’s that clean rectangle you already made to capture the ideas you’ve clarified. It’s your Clarity Canvas.

Step 5 of 6

Pick up your fine-tipped pen or pencil, and in the upper left square, write the items circled on your Do list.

In the adjacent square, in the same upper region of your subdivided rectangle, write the items in your Delegate list. If you have many, select the ones that seem more urgent or more important.

Give each square a header that has integrity to you. My headers are:

I am doing:

I actively support:

Your active support is the little (or large) contribution you make for each delegated item. For example: donating to a crowdfunder, sharing info updates with friends, signing a petition, seeking out and passing on links to important articles.

Once you know the action you associate with support, you’ll know if you need to add some items to your “do” list.

For the first thin rectangle below the two squares, add the label: I notice. Underneath, write one item from your “Duck” list.

You’ve placed this one item directly beneath your activity line, above which you have the actions your doing and the activities your supporting. That’s a place of powerful new beginnings, at least sometimes.

You can check back later to see if you’ve developed a new impulse, or some fresh ideas, about how you might actively do something about the topic you’re ducking.

Now, you’ve got just one empty rectangle, at the bottom of your clarity canvas. Can you guess what you’ll put there?

That’s right: select one item from the “Deny” sheet. The label is simple, yet transformative. The label for this one item, at the base of your clarity canvas is, I name:

Entrust to the canvas you’ve made the of name one thing that in your world is being denied.

Step 6, the final step for now

All four shapes inside the first rectangle you drew now contain words: your words. At the top of the clarity canvas, choose a label. I label mine: Stoking hope. I like how the long “o”s roll around in my throat and mouth. They widen me, opening the channel from my gut and my heart to my brain and my mouth. Times like these, I reckon I’ll do well to have a wide channel; it helps me to speak up. Maybe you’ll feel the same when you stop and think about it?

For now, your work is done. You know what you’re doing now.

In the days ahead

As you do actions you listed, add tick marks on your sheet, or add pennies or pebbles into a glass jar. Notice and note your progress.


I’ll write again with suggestions of what you do next with D-D-D-D. Meantime, please remember: If Do-Delegate-Duck-Deny works for you, feel free to share it with a friend or family member. Do it  alone or together. Adapt the activity as you see fit.

I’m here to help you regain your mojo. For 20 years, I’ve worked in the startup world making success and surviving failure. Being a woman entrepreneur has brought me street smarts, a wide lens and a big heart. As a coach and catalyst, I help people do hard things under pressure with greater ease and more joy.  

Restless people change their lives, and the wider world, working with me. You’re welcome to get in touch.


Kate Hammer

Coach, mentor, teacher, throughline

As a coach and catalyst, I help people define and pursue a meaningful life. Barriers dissolve through conversations that reframe what's possible and what resources already exist in the system. I help people become better able to do hard things under pressure: with ease, imagination and joy. 20+ years in startups, zig-zagging through the commercial world with detours into NGO work and dipping into Higher Ed: making success, surviving failure and always bouncing back. I'll bring to our conversation street smarts, a wide lens and a big heart. How might I help you?


Go to the profile of Gemma Knowles
about 3 years ago

Gonna find some paper .... Thank you!