ThinQ-121 Logo facebook icontwitterlinkedin-buttonBlog RSS Feed

Tel: 07772 631 764

The Power of Just

Hot Air Balloon
Hot Air Balloon

Image: goldsaint / www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

I’M JUST DOING IT…!

If you have kids, you’ll almost certainly have heard them using the word ‘just’ in the above context – meaning, of course, ‘I’m about to do what you asked me to do <insert your own time period> minutes / hours ago.’

The word ‘just’ is so often used as an excuse – an almost throw-away word that we hope lets us off the hook – that gets us out of a scrape.

But, at the other extreme, it can be incredibly powerful.

 

THE POWER OF JUST

A well-known sportswear manufacturer use the words ‘Just Do It’ along with an affirmational logo that reinforces the motto.

We all know what we need or want to do. But we all also know how not to do it – how to put off doing the do-able.

Why?

What is the enemy of ‘DOING’?

Is it fear? Procrastination? Disbelief? Lack of confidence?

My mind often overflows with ideas of what I want to do and even how to do it – what it looks like. But there is an enemy and its name is ‘fear’. Fear can be paralysing. It invents scenarios that don’t exist in the present and which may never exist in the future. It clouds our vision and limits our perspective. It dents our confidence and squeezes our self-belief.

What if I could just brush aside fear and just do something? What if I just took the first step? What if I just did what I thought I couldn’t do…? What if I just…?

I really believe in ‘the Power of Just’.

Just do it.

And, yes, you will make mistakes – and learn valuable lessons from them. But you will also be wiser – and happier. Because you tried. Because you stepped out. Because you stepped forward.

The following anonymous truism carries a great deal of weight:

Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.

 

NOTHING TO LOSE

What could possibly go wrong? Everything!

What is there to lose? Often – nothing!

If your life is only measured by material value, then you could potentially lose everything – but if what you value cannot be seen and is difficult to measure, then it will be very difficult to lose and is worth risking everything for.

So – what are you waiting for? Decide what you want or need to do and take the first step.

Just do it.

Now.

 

 

 

And then, when you’ve started out and scared yourself silly doing it, do it again and JUST KEEP GOING.

 

A friend of mine, Nicola Marshall, espouses the idea of ‘one word’ goals: building your intentions around a single word that encompasses your objectives.

Read her post here: http://www.bravehearteducation.co.uk/looking-forward-to-2015/

Why New Year is More Than Just a Date

Fireworks
Fireworks

Image: Stuart Miles / www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

Social networking sites seem to have neared breaking point today as individuals and organisations flooded their pages with posts and updates bidding farewell to 2014 and welcoming in the new year. I myself spent considerable time reviewing and sharing posts that I came across whilst browsing.

But why the almost universal obsession with the new year? You only to have to witness the ever-increasing size and quantity of new year firework displays to realise that New Year is deeply significant to most of the population of our planet.

And yet, as some wit observed, most of our universe, including the non-human wildlife on Planet Earth, continues its existence blissfully unaware of this key milestone in our annual calendar cycle.

‘Happy New Year.’

Why? Was the old year particularly sad? Is the past full of regrets, failure and unfulfilled dreams? Does ‘new’ necessarily mean better – like the ‘new and improved’ that regularly appears splashed across the packaging on products we’ve been buying for aeons?

The fact is that human beings are naturally dissatisfied: we can always see how things can be better – including our own lives. Dissatisfaction is a good thing – if it spurs us on to improvement. But not if it results in cynicism or spiralling disappointment. We will never attain perfection but perfect is always a good thing to aim for. It inspires us, it motivates us, it draws us onwards and upwards.

And so to the new year – and why it’s good for the soul.

It does us good to take stock, to review, to reflect, to re-assess, to re-align, to re-focus. The new year gives us a valuable opportunity to look at where we are, where we need to be – and what next steps we should take to move in the right direction. This naturally involves looking backwards as well as forwards. With an objective viewpoint, most of us should be able to work out some clear actions we need to take this year – either to stop, change or maintain some aspect of our lives. People have been calling these ‘New Year Resolutions’ for centuries, if not millennia: the ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.

Practically, there are some simple steps to making, and keeping, new year resolutions:

Firstly, write down specifically what you want to do and why. For example, I want to lose two stones because it will improve my health and well-being.

Secondly, tell someone who cares about you what you’re gong to do and why: this will help to keep you accountable – they will hopefully keep checking up on you!

Thirdly, just start doing it – one small action to start with – every day. It apparently takes just 21 days to form a habit so, by the end of January, when everyone else has given up on their new year resolutions, you’re well into the swing of keeping yours.

As well as the three simple steps to achieving your goal, there are also three simple words:

YES – YOU – CAN.

So, New Year really can be more than just a date – it can be a step, a giant leap, or even a turning point.

I wish you a truly happy and successful new year, starting now and continuing for ever…

 

 

 

 

When did you last astonish yourself?

Thomas Edison quote
Thomas Edison quote

Quote attributed to Thomas Edison

Sometimes, you just need to inspire yourself

You know what it’s like: you’re racking your brains but nothing comes. You’ve got writer’s block, the solution to a problem seems to defy you, ideas escape you, your creative juices have dried up – you have a mental block.

Where do you go for inspiration?

At a recent conference, I felt much the same: I had ideas but the obstacles to progress seemed to massively outweigh the creativity that I felt was within me. By chance, I happened to strike up a conversation with someone on the same table as me. It started off by talking about what we do. I talked about RAISER, an idea I’m trying to get off the ground that is designed to help people develop greater resilience. Fundamentally, it’s about making healthy choices:

 

R – healthy Relationships

A – healthy Aspirations

I – a healthy sense of Individuality

S – a healthy perspective on Success and how to achieve it

E – meeting and making healthy Expectations

R – accepting and giving a healthy level of recognition

 

The person I was talking to leapt at this idea and started talking about how I was going to make it work (I didn’t have a clear picture as yet). Suffice to say, her enthusiasm, her knowledge and her perspectives on my ideas excited me. We exchanged e-mail addresses then she left for an appointment and I left inspired.

Later on in the day, talking to someone completely different on a completely different subject, I was sharing my ideas about buying a small B&B / self-catering outfit in mid-Wales. He, being a business guru, asked me some very direct and challenging questions: Who was my specific target market? Why should they choose my place over another’s? What messages do they need to hear?

I didn’t have the answers there and then but I did go away and think about it. Less than half an hour later, I had what I felt were some compelling answers to go forward with: so compelling that my brain was buzzing: I was inspiring myself.

The point to all of this is not what I was being inspired by – it’s how I became inspired.

What inspires anyone is what they are passionate about. If you’re not passionate about a subject, even the world’s greatest expert on the subject is unlikely to inspire you. But, if you’re naturally interested in something, just a spark of interest from anyone else will inspire you: you don’t have to be told what to say or how to say it: your whole being is alive to the subject.

Yes, we need people around us to ignite our passion but the inspiration is there: you can inspire yourself.

As a teacher, I relish the challenge of igniting passion and inspiration in children but I am concerned about the increasing lack of opportunity to awaken passion in children. They all have it in them but we are in danger of quoshing their passion with the unrelenting drive for ‘standards’, as if what drives and inspires them is unimportant. How about using children’s natural passion and interest to inspire their learning? We are pretty good at this in Early Years but, with the pressure to get children through Phonics tests in Year 1, Level 2 thresholds in Year 2 and KS2 SATs in Year 6, are we killing the ability of children to inspire themselves?

Go on, what would you do differently if you didn’t  concern yourself with test results, standards, league tables and thresholds?

Inspire yourself…

Thrive

Garden painting
Garden painting

Garden – artist unknown

My dad inspires me.

He has the knack of making a garden come alive and look like a place you want to be in. Even as an octogenarian, he spends hours outdoors tending to nature. And that’s not just in his own garden – he’s often to be found in other people’s gardens as well.

My favourite place in his Cornish garden is the raised patio: it is crazy-paved with a decent-sized pond populated with fish, lilies, frogs (in season) and duckweed. Irregular steps lead down to the lawn and alpines fill the crevices amongst the rockery that borders the patio. Elsewhere in the garden, fruit bushes and ornamental shrubs and  trees adorn the borders.

My dad’s garden thrives.

The same cannot be said about every garden – or, for that matter, every human being.

 

BARELY SURVIVING

Having worked in the education sector for a couple of decades, I have come across countless children who are living a life in which they are barely surviving, let alone thriving. Unfortunately, statistics seem to indicate that large numbers of teachers are also just surviving.

A recent and perhaps deliberately provocative article in The Guardian highlighted a report by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and highlighted the plight of the ‘ghost child’ – ‘the institutionalised infant.., wandering from playground to desk to after-school club without real purpose, nodding off through boredom and fatigue.’ It adds, ‘the ghost child is increasingly likely to be taught by the ghost adult – a teacher grey with fatigue and stress, stuck at school for 10 hours or more a day, wandering from duty to duty in playground, classroom or after-school club.’

Why have we come to this?

 

AIR, WATER and SUNSHINE

Returning to the plants in my dad’s garden, they thrive on sunshine, air and water, which Cornwall has in reasonably generous amounts, especially the latter. All of these are externally provided – drawn from natural resources. What does this look like in the life of a human being? Consider this:

a) Roots draw water up from the ground in which a plant is anchored in and deliver it to the rest of the plant. As human beings, we need  a source of continual refreshment that ‘hydrates our soul’ – and I’m not talking about the alcoholic liquid variety here! For most of us, companionship within our family and close family circles sustains us and provides the emotional resources we need to thrive in or relationships. However, for many adults and, unfortunately, children, acute loneliness due to lack of close family or friendship bonds causes a crippling lack of ‘hydration’, resulting in wilting human beings.

b) Plants respire through tiny holes in their leaves so that they can draw in air. Without air, a plant will simply languish and die. Human beings are designed to thrive but, for many, the opposite experience is true: they languish because they do not have meaning and purpose. This is the ‘air’ that keeps us from languishing. It starts almost from birth as we explore the world and discover our ability to influence outcomes but, if our sphere of influence dies and our sense of worth and dignity goes with it, so does our capacity to thrive.

c) Plants need light – sunshine in particular – and, as you are aware, they turn their leaves to face the the sunshine in order to absorb light energy. Apart from the obvious energy we derive from ingestion of food, we as humans need energising. We need stimulus. We need to be creative. We need to be problem-solvers. Much of this naturally develops through our play experiences as children but we all know that play has changed considerably in recent decades. Educators bewail the fact that children now spend much of their free time indoors – not outdoors with other children exploring, taking risks and developing essential social skills. However, as educators, we can help to correct this through the experiences we give children in school settings – and many nurseries in particular are very good at just that: creating vibrant play spaces for children to develop essential life long skills that energise their creativity.

 

PLAY, PLAY, PLAY

There is plenty of truth in the old maxim attributed to one of my favourite thinkers, Albert Einstein:

Play is the highest form of learning.

He is also recorded as saying,

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

How are we facilitating children’s play effectively in order to develop their imagination –  in order to bring them sunshine?

 

MEANING AND PURPOSE

Margaret Moore from The International Coach Federation writes in her blog post,

A sense of a higher purpose is a potent source of life fuel, especially when times are tough.

She also writes,

One of the most popular songs today (with more than 300 million YouTube visits), Katy Perry’s “Roar” speaks to the power of the human life force to make the world a better place. Katy sings from her jungle perch, “I am a champion and you’re going to hear me roar.”

But she also adds,

The vast majority of us are just surviving or even languishing—far from thriving, certainly not roaring.

 

So, to summarise,

A. Ensure you have a trusted circle of friends and family around you and, if you work with children, ensure they have the same.

B. Explore and discover meaning and purpose in your life and help others do the same.

C. Be creative in your problem-solving – and, above all, play. Then teach others to do the same.

 

THRIVE IN STYLE

I’ll finish with a quote from another of my favourite thinkers, Maya Angelou:

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

I’ll drink to that…

The Toughest Thing You Ever Did Could be the Best Thing You Ever Did

Y road sign

Y road sign

This post can only work if I illustrate it with a story. My story.

Some twenty years ago, whilst working at BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham, I decided that the career plan I had drawn up for employment within the BBC wasn’t going to materialise (that was not without considerable trying). Basically, I wanted to make TV programmes but I had snuck in the back door as an engineer and was finding the transition virtually impossible – it was a dog-eat-dog, it’s-not-what-you-know-but-who-you-know, being-in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time kind of world and I wasn’t eating dogs, I knew no one and I never seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

A teacher friend suggested teaching (what else…?) and, as it had been a career option on graduation from Aston University, I decided to explore it further by doing some voluntary work in local schools. To cut a long story short, I applied for a place at Westhill College in Birmingham, not expecting any chance whatsoever, only to find that I was accepted onto their PGCE course in September of that year.

And that’s when the panic set in.

I was nearly thirty years old. Married. Mortgage. No kids. And about to make a life-altering career change.

To say that I entered a black hole is possibly an understatement. I entered everything there was that was terrifying. The black hole. The wilderness. The tunnel through which I could see no light. The unknown.

Suffice to say, I had any number of thoughts flying through my head at God-forsaken hours of the morning which made me question my sanity.

Fortunately, I had some very good friends around me who, if I didn’t believe in me, they certainly did. The teacher friend who originally made the suggestion had total faith in me and the Aston University chaplain, who I still keep in touch with twenty years later, was a man of incredible wisdom and reassurance.

And so, in September 1994, I entered further education for the second time and, in that year, learnt why the PGCE has such a high dropout rate. It was intense and, in modern jargon, insane. It was unrelenting and unforgiving. It was painful and the pain was protracted. And panic once again kept me (and plenty of others on the course) awake when we should have been asleep.

Somehow, once again, with the fabulous friendships we made on the course, those of us who stayed the course made it (with a lot of mutually positive stroking going on).

Since events like this usually come in threes, the third experience was actually getting a job as a teacher. The interviews I attended weren’t too bad but, when a school actually offered me a job, the panic flared up again. How could I stand in front of my own class of 30 children and pretend that I knew what I was doing? Needless to say, the intervening period kept me busy preparing for every and any eventuality. And, again, working with like-minded people kept my mind intact.

Twenty years later, I have lost count of how many applications I have sent off and how many interviews I have attended in my ascent to middle leadership and then deputy headship and, eventually, headship of my own school. When I look back, I have absolutely no regrets about that first decision to change direction: it was one of the best – albeit toughest – decisions I ever made.

And I haven’t given up making tough decisions. Nearly two years ago, I left the education establishment to set up my own business, ThinQ Education (the host of this blog), and that decision has taken me into schools all over the country delivering assemblies, class workshops and staff training to help inspire children to be the best they can be – to become more confident, to develop resilience, to make tough decisions.

I hope it helps them to learn what I learnt: that the toughest thing you ever do could be the best thing you ever do, but that you should rarely, if ever, keep it to yourself.