Joy and knowledge

Crossroads, boiling frogs and noticing

In every journey, a crossroads is reached. Some of these crossroads are more significant than others.

I arrived at a crossroads this evening on my bus journey home- a crossroads I am supposed to disembark at to continue my journey on foot. Except tonight, my journey would take me further than intended. On this particular journey, I was too busy drafting some ideas for this blog on my phone to notice the crossroads had been and gone. Fortunately, this bus makes a loop at the end of its route to return to the same crossroads so I could make the walk home in the pouring rain and wind after all.

In the journey that is life, each of us will reach crossroads of different kinds and levels of significance. At each one, a decision must be made that will affect life, work, love or all three. I have long since been able to take comfort in advice I once received- that any decision made is a moment in time: a next step that can be as temporary or permanent as I want it to be. It needn’t be a step into forever.

You’ll know by now that I have been attempting to find my feet on an unfamiliar road I’m travelling. On Tuesday afternoon of this week, I looked down upon my feet and there they were- the trusty ones that had carried me this far and are about to carry me a great deal further.

Every day, I receive a ‘nudge’ from ‘only do 1 thing‘. These nudges have lead to acts of gratitude, mindfulness, or exercise and one time, office karaoke to the tune of Luther Vandross.

On a Sunday, the ‘nudge’ becomes a ‘blog’ and it was a recent post on ‘noticing’ that must have entered my sub-conscious- to be realised this week. Ever since @MartynReah‘s #teacher5aday was launched on Twitter, ‘notice’ has been my favourite of the five themes. I’ve always found it beneficial for my wellbeing to notice the features of the present moment; pulling me out of fretting about the future and/or dwelling on the mistakes of the past.

This blog on ‘noticing’ began with the boiling frog analogy, which someone else also used in a message to me at about the same time- have you ever noticed how often that happens in life? Something you haven’t thought about or heard about for a while or even something brand new altogether will, all of a sudden, have a strong presence in your life? I’m one of those believers in fate and I think moments like these align because the universe wants you to notice something.

We’re probably all aware of that boiling frog analogy. The one that says if slowly boil a frog (gross), the frog is mainly screwed because it kind of doesn’t notice—the normality of its environment is only changing gradually, until boom! It’s one hot, dead frog. But, the analogy goes, compare that with dropping a frog into hot water and it’ll jump right out, or at least try to.

Amphibian cruelty aside, it’s one of my favourite analogies about life because it’s so damned true. Our normality, our way of being, our status quo, can be hard to identify as hot water, or as something we don’t want to be in, because well, normal is normal. It just ended up that way. And conversely, we sometimes don’t notice the strides in progress that we make because we’re so tied to what we consider to be our normality. Noticing blog.

I had my ‘boiling frog’ moment in summer 2015 when I looked around me and noticed the hot water I’d got myself into- a commute that was exhausting me and a job that was, somehow, no longer filled with the energising challenge it had once been.

It took a job advert from Google to lift me out of the water. I spoke excitedly about the job in one of my coaching sessions and it was then that I realised how much lighter my mind and body were feeling about a new adventure. I never applied for the job with Google. London wouldn’t really have solved my commuting issue and it may have been a case of peaking too soon in life: let’s face it, a culture like Google’s would have been a difficult one to leave and I’m not exactly one for remaining in one place forever; least of all a city like London.

It turned out that my new adventure would be in Sheffield instead. As the day of my interview wore on, I felt lighter and lighter until I was floating: this lead to me accepting the job before my partner had even had his interview, let alone accepted it (as fate would have it, his interview went really well and he could accept his job too).

I then had a long three months stood at the crossroads before my journey could even begin. This three month standstill was difficult for me to endure- I could see the road that lead north on my left but would I regret not having an adventure to my right down in London? The road behind me was beckoning loudly at times: could I just turn around and re-start my journey where it had been headed? Perhaps I could make the most of it after all? What would the road ahead of me look like then?

I had a visit up to Sheffield during this standstill and although I notice it now, I didn’t at the time: I was being offered all that I was currently craving- I was just too scared to realise it. The ‘scared’ continued once I started the job:

  • The continual feedback made me question all that I thought I knew and could do
  • The honesty of my manager about the challenges we faced made it all seem too great to surmount
  • The responsibility I had for my team made me wonder if I was ready for ‘management’
  • The accountability for outcomes made me re-think everything I’d learnt to believe in
  • The level of knowledge my manager has about teaching & learning was intimidating

In the ‘noticing’ blog, the writer describes how she realised that the hot water had been escaped and her new journey had begun: she realised the changes that had occurred and she noticed how far her journey had taken her towards the things she had previously been longing to achieve in her life.

It was this week when I finally realised how far my journey had taken me from where I had been and how the things I was experiencing needn’t be feared at all but embraced- they were exactly what my journey had needed:

  • Continual feedback means I’m learning, and that can only be a good thing- levels of challenge are high and designed to develop and motivate me.
  • The honesty from my manager means I know exactly what we are facing and we can work to solve it together.
  • The responsibility I have for my team means I have a team- and this means there is more than one of us able to shape learning and development across the organisation.
  • The accountability for outcomes means that people both care and value the impact of what I do- I have stretching targets to work towards.
  • I am learning at least one new thing about teaching & learning every single day .

These were things I had been craving for so long on my previous journey that I hadn’t realised they had all arrived:

  • More useful and specific feedback
  • Helpful honesty and transparency
  • A fabulous team to work with
  • Challenging targets to work towards
  • Daily learning opportunities- in abundance

Noticing is a worthwhile exercise to sit and force yourself to do. After a productive day’s work on Tuesday, I sat writing an update to my manager about what had been achieved and whilst writing, I realised that although I have a great deal to learn- I’m in the right place to do it. I also recognise that I do have skills and qualities to offer too and that I shouldn’t neglect to recognise their value. An aligning of moments in time this week brought me back from fear and doubt. My bus did head well past the crossroads but returned to its original destination- I’ve been given a rare opportunity to begin my journey again but now I’m on the happy, excited and confident side of the road.

Sure, there is still more to do and deeper to dig. But by noticing my reality, rather than lugging my normality around with me like a joyless, heavy weight, I realised something of vital importance. That we have to notice, or we miss out on so much potential for joy. So if you only do one thing today, really notice. Notice everything with a wide-open mind. Make the distinction between your normal and your reality, and maybe you’ll spot where perhaps you owe yourself a word of congratulation—and a sorry for not having noticed before. Noticing blog.

Unlike Robert Frost, I am not sorry that I couldn’t follow both roads. I took a road to the left, to the north, and that has made all the difference.



My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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