Setbacks are springboards

‘Setbacks are opportunities for us to reflect and refine, they should not define us.’

This was one of the messages our guest speaker, James Shone, shared with us in assembly last week. James’s message may sound glib, and you may question whether it is realistic to be able to respond to setbacks with such perspective. But while relating some of the personal setbacks James has faced, he explained that it is possible to cope with and see positives in truly challenging situations.

In a calm, deeply personal and at times self-deprecating manner, James spoke about being diagnosed with an almost inoperable brain tumour and some of the many challenges he faced after surgery. James could not talk, eat or drink for three months, had to learn to walk again and is now legally blind.

As James explained, his tumour was discovered during a routine medical assessment arranged as part of being appointed as Headmaster of a school in England. Being a Headmaster was his dream job, especially at the young age of 39, but one which he had to forgo.

While describing these confronting situations, James provided some insights into how he overcame the mental and physical challenges he faced.

In addition to encouraging us to see setbacks as opportunities, James also suggested focussing on ‘the possible, not the impossible’, being thankful and to dwelling on the positives. He also encouraged us to adopt a ‘growth mindset’, i.e. to think, ‘I can’t do something yet’, rather than thinking something is impossible.

Teachers, mentors and co-curricular coaches work with students to develop these attributes. Hearing first-hand how James rebuilt his life during such trying times was inspiring and reinforced the importance of the approaches we encourage our students to adopt.

Graeme Young
Acting Head of Senior School