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You Were Never Meant to Pass This Test on Your Own

Test Answer Sheet

 

Test Answer Sheet

Image: nongpimmy / www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

We’ve all been there and done them – and, if you’re a teacher, you’ve even probably supervised them:

Tests.

Formal written tests are carried out under exam conditions, which includes silence and just getting in with it – on your own. I’ve never done a test where I could use someone else’s expertise – it’s always been a test of my own.

Do you ever feel that life is a test – and that, from time to time – sometimes even often – you’re failing?

 

Life does often feel like a test but, unlike a formal assessment, we were never meant to pass this test on our own.

As a parent, I have to advise, correct, guide and affirm my two kids. When intervention is called for, I intervene. Sometimes, I don’t even have to make the decision to intervene – I get asked for help. I don’t expect my children to manage everything on their own – and I am glad that I can be instrumental in their growth and development. They will – and do – fail at things but I expect them to have another go, to try again, to learn from their mistakes. Growing up was never meant to be a test: kids may often look to adults for affirmation and approval but they also rely on the bigger people for advice.

 

As an adult, I don’t claim to have perfected what we call ‘life’. I am still full of questions about how best to live my life. I experience doubt, uncertainty, fear and worry. I know that I can do better – I know that I want to do better and I know that I will do better. But I also know that I cannot do better without help. I rely on people around me – sometimes directly (by asking their advice), sometimes indirectly (by just watching and observing).

 

As a teacher,  I often remind children that it’s ok to make mistakes because they can learn their greatest lessons from the mistakes they make. However, even making mistakes is best done in the company of others that we feel we can trust. You no doubt feel more able to take risks and make mistakes when you are with people who accept you as you are and allow you to make – and learn from – mistakes.

My best friends are the people who allow me to be who I am, who let me get away with it and who like me in spite of it. That is liberating! And when I’m with people like that, I no longer feel that life is a test. Instead, it’s an adventure, it’s an opportunity to experiment, to take risks, to try out new things and not worry if they don’t work out.

When you live your life with people you love and who love you, it doesn’t matter if you fail because, as Clarence the angel said in that timeless film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘,

No man is a failure who has friends.

 

You were never meant to pass this test on you own – you were meant to, in the words of H. Jackson Brown, the author of ‘Life’s Little Instruction Book’,

…throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover…

 

The way you do anything is the way you do everything

Image: nuttakit / www.FreeDigital Photos.net

Image: nuttakit / www.FreeDigital Photos.net

I was supposed to write this post weeks ago. When I mentioned this to an acquaintance (read: ‘friend’) with a pithy sense of humour, he quipped, ‘Is that because that’s the way you do everything?’ A wry grin and his tongue firmly in cheek.

I often include aspects of leadership in my posts and I can’t get away from it here, either. Because it’s true: the way you do anything as a leader is the way you do everything. And the reason for this, I believe, is deep down within us. It’s about what we believe about ourselves, about our relationships with others and what we believe about their perception of us.

All of us have a values system that we live by. We have deeply-held beliefs about life, about rights and responsibilities, community, fairness and justice, education (my own pet subject) and religion. We also have beliefs about our value – our value as human beings, our value to others and the value of what we have to offer. The fact is that each of us has immense and immeasurable value and what we have to offer to the world is priceless (even though publicists try to put a price on an individual’s worth).

A friend and I were discussing what drives people and why some appear more successful than others at promoting whatever ideology or principle they happen to believe in (and, let’s face it, there are a lot of us at it). We talked about the fact that many of us have a passionate belief in something but that we are often overwhelmed by the fear that others might not ‘buy in’ to that belief. We therefore do not push ourselves forward, even though what we have to offer is clearly of value. Our fear of rejection or failure is greater than our faith in ourselves. What turns the tables is the point at which we see that our message is greater than our fear of how it will be received.

In her book, A Return to Love, Marianne Wilkinson writes these oft-quoted words:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world (emboldening mine). There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

© Marianne Williamson, 1992

Returning to the opening theme, we all must recognise that our identity is what drives our behaviour before we can start changing the way we think – and it is about changing thinking. In an education context, we need to embed this discipline in the minds of our children: their behaviour, whether good, bad or indifferent, is undoubtedly a manifestation of what they think about themselves, which, in turn, is a product of their early experiences of nurturing – or lack of.

I often start my workshops with children by engaging them in a simple game: we stand in a circle and, altogether, recite each other’s name in turn round the circle, finishing with the words, ‘Everyone matters in our class.’ I remind the children that, even if we don’t feel that we matter, we must still believe it: it’s a simple case of ‘mind over matter’.

What we keep repeating often becomes a habit.

The way we do anything is the way we do everything, but it must reflect what we believe – not what we fear.