‘Please release me, let me go.’ E Humperdink

Taking a quote out of context is sacrilegious, of course, but I thought it might get your attention. Of course, Engelbert’s song is not often heard now, but the sentiment remains. It’s time to let our brains take a break.

As we enter a new term of activity and learning at school, we will be taking our boys on an more inward journey, looking at intrapersonal skills, such as developing self-confidence and self-care, emotional awareness, integrity and reflection, to name a few. These skills are hugely important and increasingly there is a move to take them very seriously rather than assume they are for new-agers and navel-gazers. Indeed, some people are naturally inclined to intrapersonal intelligence, which is not purely so that they can focus on self-development. As social animals, it is vital that these people can show us all how better to live. How better to ‘be’.

I was tempted to focus on integrity today, as No. 10 Downing Street is much in the news. However, I think it may be more important to set the scene. What do we want to achieve for our boys? We surely want them to learn to ‘be’ as well as ‘do’. However we define happiness, it is surely a sense of fulfilment that we seek for the children in our care and for all of us in our lives.

Success, and the trappings that come with it, are only part of the equation. Now that we can put the consumerism of Christmas and the New Year sales behind us, we can remind ourselves that success is as much about fulfilment. Otherwise what is it all for?

Not only that, but in order to ‘do’ – to be successful, to achieve, we – and the boys – must learn how to ‘be’. In fact, there is now a great deal of evidence to show that ‘being’ is more than just enjoyment of the here and now and stress-reduction. It is also about letting our brain off the hook for a while.

We all know the benefits of sleep, a fundamental human need. Rest, as well as sleep – ‘downtime’ – is as important as activity. During rest our brain will consolidate learning, develop memory and enable that most precious of human gifts: creativity. Being idle is not being lazy. The two may be very different.

We must allow our boys… no actually we must encourage them, to ‘be’ as well as ‘do’. And that does not mean all downtime is screen time. That is ‘doing’, as it keeps the brain on high alert – especially gaming. Instead, think of fiddling, wandering, thinking, drawing and playing, daydreaming and reflecting, meditating and contemplating: all of these are special and precious habits.

As the brain calls to be let off the hook, we must respond. Model it for your sons. And let them learn to ‘be’. The world will be a better place for it.

J. R. Peck – Headmaster