In his book Necessary Endings, which I found so helpful in making the decision to leave my previous job, Henry Cloud explains that one of the reasons people get stuck and can’t move beyond something is that they believe that an incompatible wish will come true. They believe that a contradiction that can never happen will, as if by magic, somehow happen.
As I read his list of ‘incompatible wishes’ I realised that I had done the same. I believed that I wanted to be the highest performer in the school but also wanted more time at home with my family.
It had been explained to me that as the deputy headteacher I should be the second best teacher in the school, after the headteacher that is. As the headteacher didn’t teach however, then by definition this meant I should be the best teacher in the school. Now there are some things that I think I am particularly good at and I know that that there are others aspects of my teaching at which I’m not so strong, for example my own written presentation and therefore my teaching of handwriting.
It became clear as I worked harder and harder to try to address the issues where I wasn’t ‘the best’, I was doing the opposite of the other part of my incompatible wish, namely spending more time with my family.
Reading the section on incompatible wishes was incredibly releasing. It released me into making a choice – between being the best performer in the school and spending more time with my family. I stopped being stuck. I recognised the incompatible wish – that contradiction I had thought to be possible – and chose the latter: the necessary ending that meant I could spend more time with my family.
One of the lessons I learned in ending my previous job was that people don’t think the same as each other.
It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? People are different, so clearly they think differently from each other. But I had made a presumption that we were all at least on the same bus as each other. But I was wrong. We’re not.
In my last post I mentioned I had read Henry Cloud’s book ‘Necessary Endings‘ and how helpful that had been. As I read through Chapter 7, entitled ‘The Wise, the Foolish and the Evil: Identifying which kinds of People Deserve Your Trust’, I realised I had made a couple of catastrophic errors in how I related to various people who were working with me to improve the school. Firstly I presumed that others thought the same as me and secondly I presumed that all the advice I received would be wise.
Henry Cloud says this:
“The truth is that not everyone on planet Earth is like you. Not all take responsibility for themselves or care about how their actions are affecting other people or the mission. Moreover, some are even worse than that. Some people are actually out to do you harm.”
Necessary Endings, p120
Reading this chapter was vital to me because it made me realise where I had gone wrong in my communication with other people. Cloud is clear that one of the main differences between wise people and foolish people is how they receive feedback – wise people listen and respond, whereas foolish people shift the blame and make it your fault. I was in the position of seeking feedback in how to do a couple of parts of my job that I hadn’t done before. But when advice and feedback was not forthcoming I began to lose hope. When I was told I had to improve without advice or feedback entirely in my own strength the hope drain continued. By admitting my errors and failures in the journey of the school from ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’, I had expected to be advised on how to put things right. Instead my failure became part of the narrative of the school. Now I was hopeless.
Up to this point I had mainly focused on how well I was performing at the various functions involved in my role as Deputy headteacher. Now I was confronted with the fact that my communication to others had contributed to a narrative in which my position was increasingly untenable.
Cloud’s solution about dealing with foolish people is to stop talking. “Talking about a problem with a fool does not help it all.” Cloud writes. At the end of the chapter, he talks about getting to a ‘good hopelessness’. I mentioned earlier that I had been beginning to lose hope. Now as I read ‘Necessary Endings’ I realised that actually that hopelessness was a good place – I was hopeless for my role at that school, and that meant I could venture into the unknown of finding an exciting role somewhere else.