As we prepare ourselves for a staged return to normality, I think there are a number of things we need to consider to ensure our return is successful and joyful. Firstly, the reality is that I don’t think we will ever return to what we considered to be normal, whatever normal was. This pandemic has changed our lives forever; economically, socially, in travel, and even educationally. There will be changes to the way we go about our daily lives and we have to prepare ourselves for whatever comes our way. Secondly, I hope that our time in isolation has given all of us the opportunity to reflect on our lives and given us a determination that when we return to a more normal routine that we try to make our new normal better.
I would like to say that the way we, as a community, have reacted to the changes forced upon us has been nothing short of amazing. Teachers, support staff and parents have all done their bit to ensure we have got through the lock down effectively, however, the group I am most proud of is the boys. Their attitude, their disposition and their willingness to try new things has been wonderful to observe. They have given themselves a great opportunity to move forward positively in their education and their lives. The new skills they have learnt, the resilience they’ve developed and certainly from the boys I have spoken to, the attitude they have shown, will make them better people for having experienced this time in history. My fond hope is that they will build on this positivity to set new goals, new challenges and be better for having experienced what has been a very difficult time for all.
As I was writing this, I was taken back to an article I read a while ago which talked about some of the obstacles we have to overcome if we are to move forward and improve our lot in life. The author reminded me that it appears that every time we try to improve our lives, we encounter more unwanted challenges in the process. The day we decide to take up running is the day it starts to rain. The day we decide to start working ‘on’ our assignment is the day when external demands are placed on us. The day we decide to try to be more patient with people is the day when three cars cut us off on the way to work. It is as if the Universe is saying to us, ‘So you’ve decided to take me on, let’s just see how strong you really are?’ This is why the majority of people who set a goal never actually reach it. In fact, they give up after a very short time.
I honestly believe the majority of people who fall short of reaching a specific goal such as starting their own business, losing weight, quitting smoking or achieving better grades do so because they only prepare themselves for the rewards and benefits, and fail to acknowledge the sacrifice and hard work it requires. That poses the question, ‘Are we as teachers, parents, mentors, coaches and role models setting the next generation up for failure, due to not preparing them for the pitfalls on the road to success?’ We have all read countless books and quotes in the coaching and motivation space and heard many speakers, and the consistent message is to follow your dreams, think positive, make a difference and be passionate. They are all good pieces of advice and definitely have their place, but the use of them independently without the capacity to deal with setbacks and obstacles can be potentially detrimental. I have met many people whose passion was to pursue their dream, only for that dream to turn into a nightmare due to setback after setback. It’s almost like they were singing a line from the famous Coldplay song ‘The Scientist’; “Nobody said it was easy, but no one ever said it would be so hard.”
I completely concur that we should be coaching and encouraging people to improve their current grades, performance and position, regardless of their age, ability level or status. But if we are to keep our integrity, we also need to be preparing our kids for the hard work and resilience that is required.
Anytime we look to improve our current position, we have to make sure that the people we have around us are individuals who will support and encourage us, but we must also be prepared that there will be others who will hinder us. Who we mix with, or sit with in class can have a huge impact on our ability to achieve our goals.
We also have to acknowledge that there are likely to be setbacks on the way. Be it a sporting goal, a test result or a part time job application, we are bound to stumble somewhere along the way. Having the ability to use our ‘failures’ or setbacks as a source of motivation to improve for the next opportunity is what I believe has the most say in whether you reach your goal or not. Again, be prepared for setbacks, it’s a big cog on the way to improvement.
We have to be prepared to work hard, to do the hard yards, as some would say, and remind ourselves of the old saying that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.
We also need to acknowledge that our motivation is not always going to be there, and we have to find ways to work through these times and get over our apathy, the opposite of motivation. That feeling of I can’t be stuffed. Everybody at one time or another suffers from apathy, even the most hardened successful people. The misconception out there is that some people are just naturally motivated, but when those who are perceived as naturals are feeling tired or lethargic, they just choose to do it anyway. That’s the difference. When apathy comes knocking (and it will), dig in, get tough and remember why you started in the first place. We are not computers and we can’t expect the upgrade button to fix our problems and shortcomings, Our positive choices and actions do that, especially in those times when we can’t be bothered.
Finally, we have to understand that a desire to improve ourselves is going to bring on more pressure. Now, pressure is a part of life and can be a positive part of life. Show me someone who has never been under pressure, and I’ll show you someone who is probably not telling the truth or who has never challenged themselves. It is a part of life and comes in many forms. It can come from expectations, time, external influences, internal grief or that feeling of being overwhelmed. Firstly, I believe it’s important to recognise early on that pressure will be a part of our lives, and then how to best deal and work through it. Everyone’s coping mechanisms are different, but finding something that will help is crucial – going for a walk, going for a run or to the gym, getting out and catching up with friends or listening to our favourite song. Something that gets the body moving is always a good start. Secondly, and most importantly if we can become more proactive in our planning and decision-making we will eliminate a lot of pressure from day to day. Maybe leaving that assignment or report to the night before isn’t such a great idea? Be organised and prepare well.
So, as we all move towards getting our lives back to some form of normality, I challenge everyone in the community to try to make our new normal a better normal.