Photo by Jane Fuller with Sir Anthony Seldon at a Harvard Business Club evening - April 11th 2017.
“Positive emotional energy is the key to health, happiness and well-being. The more positive you are, the better your life will be in every area.’ - Brian Tracy
I’m a big fan of Sir Anthony Seldon, not only as an acclaimed historian and one of Britain’s most prominent head teachers, but as a person too. I first met him when he was Headmaster of Wellington College, the independent school in Berkshire, where he had just introduced ‘happiness and well-being classes’ for pupils AND parents! He is co-founder of the national body, ‘Action for Happiness’ and governor of The Royal Shakespeare Company amongst many other attributes. I call him a modern day visionary!
At the age of 25 years he took up meditation and yoga and stopped drinking and smoking and began to live healthily with the help of his soon-to-be wife Joanna. After a year or two of living this way he ‘began to feel a lightness and happiness that he had never experienced before and I realised that every decision we take in life makes us either a little bit lighter, or heavier’. It was at this time he came to realise that ‘happiness is a totally different and much profounder experience than the pleasure I had pursued before. It is longer lasting and emanates from meaningful connection with other people, from harmony with nature and works of art and the deepest parts of ourselves.’ Everything that I have learnt and been sharing in my previous blogs… When we choose to create peace and harmony and balance in our minds, we will find the happiness and well-being we seek in our lives. The more we are able to nourish that inner connection the less we need of the material life to keep the sense of emptiness at bay!
‘Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.’ – John Keating, ‘Dead Poets Society’ movie 1989.
I believe by educating our children, teenagers and adults to take good care of themselves with powerful preventative measures such as healthy eating, adequate exercise, sound sleep and good friendships, we would within 25 years decimate the visible costs to our healthcare systems. How we lead our daily lives requires vital personal choices, however could schools, universities and workplaces help us prioritise well-being by making this the foundation of their whole ethos? Some are already doing this – but not enough…
‘No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.’ - John Keating – ‘Dead Poets Society’ movie 1989.
Sir Anthony Seldon was a pioneer for prioritising the principles of well-being in the whole school ethos and curriculum at Wellington College. He introduced educating the whole child, not moulding children to fit a place in the workforce but ‘opening hearts and opening minds’ (echoes of that wonderful movie ‘Dead Poets Society,’ 1989). He introduced classes of teaching the ‘skills of well-being’ by studying lives that have gone particularly well, so the pupils gained an understanding of what might help a life flourish. They learn about the importance of relationships with others, as well as the benefits of good nutrition and exercise. They learn techniques such as imaginative rehearsal (I call visualisation), positively channeling emotional energy and overcoming fears and unhelpful inhibitions. After that summer the school received the highest public examination grades in it’s distinguished history! Food for thought, eh?
We must bring these lessons into our state school system and see our children thrive. Watch this space!
‘If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.’ - Edith Wharton