16 Jan New Year, New Course of Action?
It’s a tradition in my family that each New Year we undertake a ‘360 degree’ appraisal with each other as a group. This entails each person inviting the other three to comment on their ‘performance’ throughout the previous year, noting any special events or achievements but essentially commenting on any character traits that could be improved upon. What fun I hear you say! In truth, this can provide a brutally honest assessment from those dearest and nearest. This year, for some reason, I felt particularly vulnerable about my feedback. With so much change in the world of education recently, 2017 was a particularly busy year and I started to wonder if some of that ‘busyness’ may have spilled over into the home. Should I try and avoid this year’s ‘resolution gathering’ therefore, where we are each assigned three areas to work on; should I ‘square up’, with a ready-made defence and counter-argument; or should I just be accepting of what was to be delivered, with an open mind? Would the feed-back help build my resilience or create disharmony in our family and simply give me a reason to retaliate, when it came to my comments on others?!
Given that we are a close family that loves each other ‘warts and all’, I quickly came to the conclusion that I should be grateful that people who care for me and have my best interests at heart are prepared to give the time and provide a realistic opinion on how I might gain personal development in some way. As I heard said recently, you can’t clean a house until you can see the dirt!
On the theme of cleaning, I undertake most of the cleaning at home and sadly have developed a bit of an obsession over this task. However, I find that it not only provides good exercise but also helps you keep in touch with your home and monitor any areas that need maintenance or works of improvement. The same would seem to apply to ourselves, in that whilst we shouldn’t always look for the negatives in our lives or the ‘dirt’, it is perhaps right to recognise our faults and weaknesses, including any self-doubt or fears and then look for ways to ‘clean them’ and thereby remove the obstacles that block our personal progress.
I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation recently from Tori James, the youngest Welsh woman to climb Everest, at the age of 25. She described her personal difficulties in this major challenge, particularly in the final stages before the ascent to the summit, where she felt most alone, isolated, physically and mentally exhausted and naturally fearing for her safety. She was asked how she overcame this part of the journey and responded that two thoughts sprang to mind. She had a sudden memory of making a Victorian sponge cake with her Grandmother, as a child. When asked to open the jam jar, she tried but was unable and handed it back to her Grandmother, who promptly replied ‘there’s no such thing as can’t’. She tried again but with a bit more effort and the top of the jar sprang-off! Secondly, she had been trained in her preparation for the climb to visualise herself standing on the summit, to help her push through such expected and almost inevitable times of self-doubt. What an incredible journey!
She also spoke of the importance of how to prepare for such a journey, such as taking an expert with you (someone who has experienced the journey already); using data to inform on progress, in reaching small milestones; remembering to celebrate reaching those milestones; making sure that you practise and fail early on, to learn and correct your path; and hanging on to the positive comments from those around you providing feedback; and lastly, keeping your foundations (in her case, her feet!) secure. It struck me that much of this good advice applies to the journey that we would take one of our own learners on, when they embark on a programme of learning at JACE. You can be sure that everyone at JACE is here to support and guide a learner through their apprenticeship, traineeship or study programme. However, like Tori, a learner must draw on their inner strength and be a self-starter to fully achieve. There will be times when they will be alone on that mountain, hypothetically speaking. Challenges will present themselves in many ways and how motivated they are will play a huge part in how they conquer their own issues. Only they can decide to be on time to a workshop or placement; to prepare for and sit an exam; and to complete course work on time. Invariably, when they don’t feel like they’ve done something well and are experiencing self-doubt, they will need to stay focused and carry on, in order to reach their goal but always with our continued support.
Whilst I won’t divulge the New Years resolutions assigned to me by my family, I do intend to keep cleaning, both at home but also cleaning out of my mind any negative self-doubts. I’ll also be taking a leaf out of Tori’s book, by visualising fulfilling my dreams for the New Year and beyond- good luck to you and your dreams for 2018. If that involves a decision to undertake a new course of learning, then JACE would be pleased to hear from you!