By Christopher Spriggs of ‘Heads Up Now’
With the formal point-scoring track and field events done – where dozens of children had hurdled, shot and sprinted for all their worth – it came to the final novelty event of the day: a three-legged race. The temptation to strap an ankle to that of another person and dash fifty metres was too much to resist for many.
It sounds easy. But there’s a reason we are not (usually) born with three legs. As the race unfolded, some finished intact, but there was one pair for whom the strapping got terribly twisted up. The girl, still standing, drove onward, ever-onward (you can imagine it, right?) to the finish line, yanking her leg with force. Meanwhile, a boy smaller than herself, strapped to her ankle, bounced with bottom bumping, one hand grasping the grass for help, the other trying to untangle the strap. They finished safely, but in last place.
What has this to do with looking after our own mental health? Because some of us – maybe more than will admit – wake up still ‘attached’ to yesterday. As if in that moment when our feet touch the bedroom floor, some devious fairy straps yesterday’s conversations, problems or worries to us for us to drag along all day.
Blaise Pascal – 17th century philosopher and mathematician – said “we never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future, as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does…”
Instead of feeling the immaculate “new-ness” of this day, hearing the birds sing or noticing the play of colours around us, we are sucked backward into our thinking. For some of us, it’s “yesterday’s” stuff we drag around; for others, perhaps it’s “later today” or “next year”. We rush breakfast. Get the chores done. But our beautiful mind gets “dragged along by its bottom” into some relentless anxiety, resisting the invitation to just Be Here. To Notice This. To feel your feet kissing the ground, your skin stroking the air and the pure honey-eyed wonder of being alive – at least for 30 seconds. After all, none of us are here forever. Sure, our mind has tasks to do, some of “the stuff” matters. But it is okay – and necessary – to pause now and then, and get untangled from that thought which is, after all, just a thought. This, in a picture, is the work of Heads Up Now – for young people, teachers, and leaders – to get unhooked from what holds them back, and be set free to run their own race.
What was evident to Pascal 400 years ago resonates today. It is oh-too-easy to get tangled up in the past, or later on, and suddenly we are divorced from being at our best in the here-and-now.
So in these words, may I just offer you permission: permission to pause. To give yourself a chance to get a little less tangled up. Take a breath. Find a way of working with whatever is going on. Get in touch if you think we can help, for life flows easier when we stop dragging yesterday around with us.
Christopher Spriggs is the founder of Heads Up Now, which offers coaching and support for young people, teachers and leaders to think, feel and perform at their best, more often and more easily.
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