by Helen Bryant
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider whether or not stopping something in the middle and changing it is a good thing.
Preparation and materials
- None required, but have available the song ‘Rip it up and start again’ by Orange Juice and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
- I wonder if anything like this has ever happened to you.
I was teaching the other day. The lesson wasn’t going particularly well – the students were getting confused and so was I. They had written a few things in their books, but no one was really making any headway (I include myself in this). So, I stopped them, told them to rip the page out of their exercise books and we went on to do something else that was eminently better and, as one girl put it, ‘Much more fun’.
- I explained to the students – while I was reassuring them that, yes, it was OK to rip a page out of their exercise books and, no, they weren’t going to get in to trouble – how, sometimes in life, we have to realize something isn’t working and then it’s often better to cut our losses and just move on. It’s not a case of admitting failure, but, rather, being aware of when to give up on something and do it differently.
- When you ‘cut your losses’, it is often taken to mean that you are walking away from something without anything to show for your efforts, but I’m not entirely sure this is true, as you have had the experience, which you can reflect on. For example, I won’t teach that lesson in the same way again. I will change things and make sure that I do it differently next time. That’s not leaving with nothing, it’s learning from experience.
- Let’s take a couple of other examples. Is it better to stay in a relationship with someone who treats you badly or end it because it’s not really doing either of you any favours? Is it better for parents to live separately rather than stay together ‘for the sake of the children’, then spend their evenings arguing, causing everyone to be unhappy?
- One of the reasons we often don’t tend to ‘cut our losses’ is because we think that if we do we have somehow failed. We often don’t want to admit that something is wrong or we haven’t done as well as we thought we would or we aren’t as good at something as we had hoped.
I tried rowing when I was in my first year at university. I had all sorts of images and ideas as to what it would be like. It was rubbish. It rained, I nearly fell in and I hated it. I cut my losses. I decided that there was no way it was for me. I could have continued making myself miserable and being a total pain to the people trying to help me, but it was the best thing for everyone that I chose to use my time to do something else instead. I expect you’ve had similar experiences with sports and hobbies in your lives . . .
- The same goes for realizing when it is time to go your separate ways if a relationship or friendship isn’t working. The same can be true of a GCSE choice that doesn’t feel right, an A level or even a career. You may have spent thousands of hours and possibly quite a bit of money on training for it and feel that you have to carry on. We look at what we have invested in these things as something that is lost if we stop, rather than see the experience gained. We also forget to look at what damage we do to ourselves if we keep going with a situation that is damaging to us or makes us unhappy.
What advice would you give to someone else in your situation? Chances are you’d tell them to put it down to experience and move on. It is better to focus on what moving on and doing things differently will give you or what you will gain rather than think about what you have lost.
- So, remember that ripping out the page and starting again is hard, but it may well, ultimately, be much better for everyone.
Time for reflection
Think about the areas of your life that are proving difficult at the moment . . .
How will you work out what is worth persisting with and what you should walk away from . . .
How many relationships are hard because you’re responsible for others? If you walked away, what would happen to those people? What about the ones where others are responsible for you?
How many lessons are tough, but well worth the effort? How will you know?
‘Rip it up and start again’ by Orange Juice