Endings and Beginnings

The Commonwealth Games have now ended; a post-Games era has begun. The holidays have ended and a new term has begun. As each experience or stage in our lives ends, another begins, including the beginning and progression through each stage of formal education: Pre-school education, Primary School, Secondary School, any changes of school that take place along the way, transitioning and graduation from tertiary studies, entering the workforce and progressing through numerous different stages of life.

There are many endings and beginnings to experience and transitioning from one to the other is not always easy.  Alexander Graham Bell said “Sometimes we stare so long at the door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.”  It is easy to become creatures of habit and become comfortable with what is familiar. It requires cognitive flexibility, effort, courage and persistence to make changes, especially to change ourselves and to be prepared to adjust focus.

The current emphasis on practising mindfulness is simply about learning to focus on the present – whatever is happening here and now.  Continually dwelling upon the past means that current opportunities to learn, grow and develop can easily be missed. Feeling anxious about the future can be a distraction from what can be done now to equip ourselves well to deal with future challenges.  It is not possible to change the past or control the future; it is only possible to focus on the present; to take every opportunity to learn from the past and utilise the present to equip well for whatever lies ahead.

Each transition requires adjustment in thinking, feelings and behaviour.  The human brain has the capacity to be extraordinarily flexible; however Norman Doidge (author of “The Brain that Changes Itself” and “the Brain’s Way of Healing”) introduced the concept of the ‘plastic paradox’.  This concept explains that one of the ways in which neural pathways change is to become more established in their current form rather than changing.  This indicates greater rigidity of thought, emotional response and behaviour rather than establishing flexible thinking and associated behaviours.

In order to make progress, it is important for changes to occur; otherwise established patterns become rigidly fixed and more inflexible.  There will always be endings and beginnings.  As each phase ends and new ones begin, this provides an opportunity for students to examine what has previously been learned; to determine what adjustments need to be made and to implement those changes now in order to take advantage of opportunities that arise in the future. How well transitions are managed will greatly influence future outcomes.

© Michele Juratowitch