The Spelling Test

Lose your footholdWhen I was 11 years old I moved from the little school to the big school.  It was the only time I moved school in 13 years of childhood education.

It felt like a giant step.  Moving from a cosy, local primary school – just down the road from my home and with a couple of hundred children.  A safe, secure world I’d known for 6 years.  To the big secondary school – with over 1000 kids and a 5 mile (8 km) trek to get there by car or bike, train and foot.

I knew that changing schools meant a different life, new people to meet and a massive opportunity to learn.  I was an eager, enthusiastic child, who generally wanted to please and do well.  But I couldn’t imagine what would be expected of me.  Remember trying to envisage what it would be like turning 21 when you were 7 years old?!  Yep – that’s about how well I could imagine being at big school.

I can clearly remember thinking about my new school and trying to work it all out in my head.  I asked my parents questions.  And I tried to understand what I would have to do.

I convinced myself that when I got to big school I would be expected to be able to spell EVERY word in the English dictionary.

I don’t know why I got this into my head or where I got it from.  Nor do I understand why this would have worried me so much.  It’s true I was slow learning to read, but I had caught up fast and writing stories or reading books was favorite homework for me.  As you can see I haven’t changed much!

But for some reason I was absolutely convinced I had to know how to spell EVERY word.  I’d look at the dictionary on my bookshelf and scare the heck out of myself.  Every page seemed to hold hundreds of words I didn’t have a hope of remembering how to spell.

I allowed my thoughts to drive me into a corner.  I created such a sense of fear in my head, that just thinking about my new school sent ripples of terror and adrenalin through my body and tied my stomach in knots.  So you can imagine the way I felt the first time I walked in to an English lesson ….

Of course I was wrong.  Of course it was totally untrue.  And of course I still can’t spell every word in the dictionary.  Thank goodness for spell check!

So why am I reminiscing about school and childhood fears?

Many of the fears we create in childhood set the scene for our adult lives.  We create patterns of thought and behavior that can stay with us throughout our life.  Often unconsciously.

Many of these will be constructive and useful patterns and habits.  Others, are at best a waste of time and energy, and at worst utterly destructive.  They HOLD us imprisoned.  STOP us stepping out of our comfort zone.  And seriously LIMIT our possibilities of success.

It’s recognizing these patterns.  Raising your self-awareness.  That will help you control your thoughts, instead of your thoughts or your unconscious controlling you.  It doesn’t matter why the pattern arose.  What matters is you realize it occurs.

Once you achieve that awareness you can identify the trigger and develop an entirely new strategy to go down a more positive and constructive path.  Or you may find a way to adapt that old strategy for the good.  It’s quick and easy once you recognize the pattern.  It may take a touch of courage.  A bit of bravery.  Or simply some lateral thinking.

How do I use my ‘I must know it all’ trigger?  I re-route before I get into that old pattern of fear.  I gather information, to plan and to give myself a sense of control.  I ask questions and more questions.  I work out what I really need.  And I accept wholeheartedly that I don’t need to know everything for things to turn out well.  Even really well.

Have you got an old pattern that you need to change?

I tripped over a wonderful quote this week while I was reading the autobiographical ‘Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and the American Dream‘ by Deepak and Sanjiv Chopra.  A great read by the way.  It wasn’t a book where I expected to run across a quote from the Danish philosopher, poet and theologian Søren Kierkegaard….  But it seemed like a perfect way to finish today’s post.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  Not to dare is to lose oneself.”


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