It was dear old Hamlet who uttered the words “Nothing is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so”. Your mind has the power to change how you perceive something, but does it have the power to change reality?
I’ve been decidedly cheesed off for a while now with some sports psychologists who claim that sport is 95% mental and that if you visualise and want something bad enough then you’ll get there.
My problem is this. Say I want to be a sprinter. Want it with all my soul and being. Even if I trained everyday for 2 hours a day, had no issues with injuries, and was a psychologically pumped as an Olympic athlete, I would never achieve it. Anyone who has ever seen me run knows that for me it’s all about the slow twitch fibres and that I don’t have a fast bone in my body. I can’t sprint. Never could, never will be able to. I don’t even think steroids would get me to the heats of the local little athletics comp.
I’ve been a bit undecided about career directions lately. I would love to get into academia, but it’s a really hard nut to crack. Anyway, someone said to me the other day that I was making excuses for not following that path and that essentially, if I really wanted it enough, it would happen. Talk about red rag to the bull (OK so I never actually unleash my rage on people but boy I was mad!).
I’m sure there are lots of different opinions on the power of the mind. I genuinely do believe it is an incredibly powerful thing. I don’t however believe that it has the potential to overcome every single external hurdle you are faced with. I also think there is an inherent danger in this attitude. What are we doing if we bring our kids up with the inherent belief that if you just try hard enough you can achieve anything? It seems a bit of a double edged sword. It’s important that we all try to achieve things. But sometimes we will fail. And kids need to know that.
Enter children’s literature…
If you haven’t ever seen it I thoroughly recommend the book Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss. Apparently it was the last book he wrote before his death, and it deals with the journey of life, complete with its ups and its downs. It is so refreshing to read a book for kids that acknowledges falling down as being part of life. Here’s an extract:
Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.
You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump. And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
Of course we all need hope and inspiration. We all need to think the impossible is possible. But sometimes we also need a bit of an OK that sometimes things just don’t go right, but that’s OK – it’s like that for everyone.