On one occasion, it happened while on my way to a school and became very useful in the session.
During the morning commute I noticed a man plodding in a small figure of eight on the pavement. He wore an advertising board which offered a 2 for 1 pizza deal. His head was down, only occasionally looking up at the passage traffic. He, perhaps naturally, didn’t seem to be having much of a jolly time standing by a busy road at 7:30 in the morning.
About half hour later I came to the next town, I noticed another person with the exact same advertising board. But it wasn’t exactly the same, there was something distinctly different. Here, on the corner of a busy roundabout, was a lady with the same sign but rather than plodding, she had her earphones in and was subtly dancing, occasionally clicking her fingers to the beat only she could hear. I smiled and thought, that’s a better way to enjoy what can’t be a lot of fun on a cold morning.
They all had a choice about how they were going to handle and get through the morning.
Then 500 meters further on, I see another advertising board and another lady. But this lady wasn’t dancing but wearing a big smile and waving at the cars going by. Thrilled with her energy, I naturally smiled and waved back.
What I loved about these different events and what I tell to the pupils is that each of these people had the same job. Neither was better off than another. All had to get up early and stand by a busy road for a number of hours. They all had a choice about how they were going to handle and get through the morning. Each one had a different approach.
Each one made the best of it that they could – yes, even the man who wasn’t enjoying it
So in session I ask, they are equal, but what’s the difference between these people? And the answer we invariably get to is: each one made a decision, perhaps not overtly consciously, but they chose their attitude for their day. They determined how they were going to approach the work and each defined it in different ways. The pupils were invited to consider the same thing about their own choices and how they may find a more useful approach by a little change of attitude.
It is after all our decisions that govern our behaviour. How we decide to feel about something. How we choose to react. Those sandwich board people chose how to define their day. Each one made the best of it that they could – yes, even the man who wasn’t enjoying it. It was the best he could do at the time, that’s not to say he couldn’t do any better. The way we can do a little better is by finding some enjoyment, something that pleases us, that we can make the most of. It can be the same with school. It’s about tuning in that part and noticing what or how we can make this experience the best possible.
It is this aspect that I wanted the pupils to understand. By focusing on how to make the best of the experience we begin to improve it, and perhaps, find some benefit from it. I know I did as I saw the lady I waved at smile back.
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Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.