Andrew Foster, Tougher Minds Head of Education, believes that lack of ambition can damage anybody’s performance and achievement, and says that Japan’s recent Rugby World Cup upset proves his point.

There are two words that pupils and even teachers often confuse. The consequences of this confusion are rarely noticed but their cumulative effect is severe and damaging for all concerned.

The two words are “target” and “prediction”.

I have had the following conversation, almost word for word, with pupil after pupil.

“I see that your target for subject X is a B grade. Don’t you think you could get an A?”

“I could… but I think I am more likely to get a B.”

“If it is possible to get an A, why not target an A?”

“I don’t want to be disappointed on results day.”

This idea that we are leaving ourselves vulnerable to disappointment if we target an outcome that we may not achieve is both widespread and pernicious. Teachers have a duty to help children realise that whatever price is paid on occasions when their efforts are not rewarded as they like, it is nothing compared to that which they will unwittingly forfeit throughout their lives if they never attempt anything where there is a chance of failure.

The excitement of rugby fans and non-rugby fans alike at Japan’s shock victory over South Africa in Brighton illustrates how supposed realism in setting out one’s aims is limiting. It makes no sense that Japan’s first World Cup victory in twenty-four years should come at the expense of the twice-World Champions. Until you realise that it did happen and it must have been possible all along.

We are too quick to say “He/she/I could never do that.” We are confusing ‘could’ with ‘might’, ‘will likely’. A target should not be a prediction, a simple weighing up on the probabilities.

We should consider all the possibilities and select the most desirable, given the time and resources available to us. It may not happen but it will be even less likely if we wrongly dismiss it as impossible.

Had Japan’s skill and bravery not been rewarded with victory yesterday would they have considered themselves foolish for daring to dream? The reality is that even in those circumstances, behind the scoreline would have been moments of play, successes, standalone triumphs of which to be proud.

Let us all aim high in the 2015-16 school year. Life is too short to be doing anything else.

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