What Striving to be More Tolerant has Taught Me

One of my new year’s resolutions last year was to fix something that had started bothering me about myself.

I’ve never been a particularly tolerant person, and I used to justify it as me just standing up for myself. But over the last few years I had started to feel petty, bitter and nasty. It was making me feel unhappy about myself, and I realised I was becoming a not very nice person.



I would see friends, calm and collected, non-judgemental and supportive and wonder how I could be like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a beast. I’m supportive but I could see a side of me I didn’t like. I would jump to assumptions about people, gossip and scoff at things I didn’t understand or were different from me. I wouldn’t listen and I wouldn’t learn.

So I made a conscious effort to change my behaviour. Instead of immediately jumping to an assumption about someone, I thought about things from their side. Before I scoffed at a trait or behaviour, I found out a little bit more about it.

It’s made me feel calmer and happier about myself. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a way to go, and I could never claim to be a saint. I have times where I snap back to old behaviours, when I’m tired or stressed or caught up in the moment. But those will change with time, I hope.


I hate it when someone belittles me for something I’m passionate about, or tries to make a scene about something they don’t understand (even if they think they do) so why would I do the same? And when someone does behave like that towards me, I can now sit and reason it with myself, deal with the bad feelings it’s given me and move on. I don’t retaliate, or have that burning feeling that I have to defend myself for too long. And afterwards I can remind myself I’m a good person, and getting better every day.

It all boils down to the golden rule, do as you would be done by.

I’m pleased I took a step back and thought about what I didn’t like about myself and made a change. I hope I stay on this journey as long as it takes to become a better me!


Are You On a Quest for Positivity?

I follow a YouTuber called Justin Scarred. Justin is from California and is primarily a Disneyland Vlogger (well that’s how I found him) but he also does random vlog around his life, the area he lives in and also Knotts Berry Farm, which is local to him. He’s recently travelled the whole length of Route 66 and back, which was very very interesting to watch, and I’d recommend watching it if that’s the kind of thing you like.

Anyhow, the other day Justin vlogged an update on his Quest for Positivity (or Q4P) and it was a really inspiring video. A few years back Justin went through some big life changes and somewhere along the line he made a conscious decision not to be a victim of the unhappiness he was feeling. He felt he was spiralling into a bitter cycle of feeling sorry for himself, which was projecting into the world around him, and he was tired of it.


Listening to him talk about this Q4P and how he was getting on with it, range true with me. I’d like to think I’m a fairly positive person, but I can feel really negative too, and when I do it definitely spirals. Many years ago, I considered the practice of counting my blessings on a daily basis, and that’s where my Q4P began.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all the way there yet, and I have MANY off days. But I know I’m trying. I’m certain that perspective comes with age. I’m about to hit 34 years old, and though no drama has really affected my life, I’m sure the things I’ve dealt with, seen and helped other people deal with, have given me the unique perspective I have on life. And by unique I don’t mean that I’ve got life all sussed in my mind and you haven’t – I just mean my perspective is different from everyone else’s – as is yours.



I often see people being victims of their circumstances – they’re so deep into the emotions they’re feeling about something that’s happened to them that they get stuck in a rut. Even if they feel like they’ve dealt with the drama they’ve experienced, they’re now in that negative mindset and so that’s now how they deal with every situation that comes to them. Even positive circumstances will be tarred with a negative or dismissive brush.

I’ve come to realise that in my life, I need to accept negativity, then step back from it, brush it off and look at the bigger picture. I have to reset my mind to the middle ground – nice and calm, neither good nor bad – and then take the next thing I have to deal with as a brand new situation.

I’ve gotta admit, this isn’t easy. It takes a lot of practice and I’m not there yet. But once you accept a crummy situation as just that, it’s easier to deal with. No point in fighting it – just use the same amount of energy as you would feeling bitter, and put it into finding a solution.

Justin was right when he pointed out that if you keep hold of that negativity or anger, you’ll spit it out into the world, and eventually you’ll be one of those bitter and twisted old people you saw when you were a kid, but never wanted to be. That’s no way to live!


So, you want to begin your own Quest for Positivity? A simple place to start by consciously counting your blessings every day. It can be as simple as;

  • Someone asked me how my day was
  • I heard a great joke today
  • That was a lovely cup of tea
  • I have a roof over my head
  • I’m feeling better in my self, than I was last week

There are so many things we can be grateful for, each and every day. And counting your blessings is a fantastic place to start.

We can gain perspective for ourselves, by considering the perspective of others’ in a non-judgemental way. Why did that person act this way? If I was in that person’s shoes, what would have been the catalyst for that behaviour?

As part of considering others, I’ve found it naturally leads to a change in my behaviour, because I won’t do things that might cause anger or hurt to others. I have more insight into how my actions might affect the emotions of others, and in turn I become a better person for it.


I’m a crazy emotional person, and I find it very easy to jump to anger in many situations, but my quest for positivity has definitely helped me to gain perspective and stay calm in situations where I might not have in the past.

I’d be really interested to hear about your Q4P, if you’re on one. You might not call it that, but if anything you’ve read today rings a bell to you, I’d love to hear what practices you take to better yourself and help you along to a happier and more positive life.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

We have now reached that awkward stage in the year where Christmas is over, the new year hasn’t arrived yet and we’re all sort of in limbo.

I like to use this part of the year to reflect on the last 12 months, as many do. I also like to take down the Christmas tree as soon as I can and start tidying and cleaning. No doubt some kind of diet or detox will be on my plan due to all the rich food and drinks I’ve consumed over Christmas. I also tend to try a new skincare routine, which I love for the whole week and then have to go back to work, lose the will to spend the time on my face and go back to soap and water….. (shock horror!)

Anyway, one thing I have done for the past 2 or 3 years is look back and look forward in a more tangible way. Each year, on Christmas Eve, Gary and I read a letter we have written the previous Christmas Eve. It’s a letter we’ve written to ourselves asking about things for the future year. Things we want to achieve, things we wonder and things we’d like to change. We read our own letters and then read out anything we want to each other. I honestly had no idea what I’d written in this year’s before I read it.


I really enjoy this new tradition we started 3 years ago, because it really puts a timestamp on the mentality I was in when I wrote the letter a year previously, and it sets the tone for the next letter. A year goes so fast but it’s easy to forget how much we do, see and how much we change in that 12 months. Reading my letter year on year really reminds me of this. We keep each year’s letters and at some point in the future I’m sure we’ll re-read them. Or maybe we won’t. It’s just nice knowing they’re there!


Another tradition we started last year and brought through to this year is a Happy Things jar. I cut strips of coloured paper, and whenever we feel grateful or particularly happy or excited about something we write it onto a strip of paper. Then we roll up the strip and pop it into the jar. On New Year’s Eve we open the jar and take it in turns to read out what’s written. I really enjoyed doing this last year so I’m excited to do it again this year.ny4


These are only new traditions, but they make me feel really happy. I love the idea of continuing this for many years to come. Counting my blessings is so important to me. It helps to keep me grounded and grateful for the things I have and what I have achieved. It calms my brain and makes me a better person.


If you like the idea of these simple traditions, why not start one (or both!) yourself? It’s so easy to write a letter to yourself, and as long as you don’t forget where you put it you’ll have something to look forward to in a year.

I’d love to hear if you do anything similar in your family. Share your traditions with me!

Saying Goodbye

Last week we said goodbye to my Grandad. During the funeral service the Vicar read out a sermon that my Grandad wrote in at the time he was retiring from a being Headmaster in 1984. It was so beautifully written and poignant that I wanted to share it with my readers.


Sermon of Ian Rowarth on 29th July 1984 on the occasion of his retirement from teaching as Headmaster of Scoulton School.

Entitled ‘Ian’s Benefit’.

I consider myself to be a very fortunate man. Fortunate first to have been born British for I think that ours is, overall, the best country in the world, despite the efforts of a certain section of the community to ruin it. What is more, since the age of 10, I have lived in one of the most pleasant parts of it. Other parts have a more spectacular beauty and I like to visit them, but as a place to live Norfolk is beyond compare.

I am fortunate to have been born into a family of loving & caring parents and grandparents who helped to form my character, the good bits and the bad, and gave me an interest in a wide range of subjects. This of course makes me a jack-of-all-trades, but I think this is a desirable quality for a primary teacher. It is thanks to my mother and a little twist of fate that I am able to retire now as she got me registered as an un-certificated teacher and on the county’s books before I began my 4 years War Service in the RAF.

I have a lovely wife who has supported and encouraged me all these years, and has made me a nicer person than I might have been otherwise. I also have 2 daughters of whom I am very proud, and 2 gorgeous little granddaughters.

Since I began teaching I have never had to work with anyone unpleasant, in fact almost all of my colleagues have been very nice friendly people and those with whom I have been working recently can’t have been nicer. A lot of complimentary things have been said about me and my school in the last few days and I must share the honour with them because we have all worked together so well as a team. Of course, there are two other groups of people involved in a school – children and parents, and I have been very fortunate there too. If you are a carpenter or builder or other kind of craftsman you can look at a job when it’s finished and say “I made that” and get a feeling of satisfaction. But if you are a teacher you can never do that. It takes a lot of years before you see a former pupil making good, but it’s very satisfying to know that you have had a hand in them getting there.

Some people say things like “They don’t stay children long” and really don’t want them to grow up, but I have always been glad to see them growing and learning and changing, my own as well as other people’s.

I have spent 25 years at Scoulton school and 23 living in Watton and I really enjoy seeing old boys and girls of the school – often enough now with families of their own. This is my reward for having stayed here a long time and it is one which I shall be able to enjoy for the rest of my days.

This has been a recounting of my blessings so I hope I haven’t bored you with it. Rather, I hope it may encourage some of you to go home and in a quiet moment to count yours. Thinking positively about the good things is an important factor in being happy. Remembering niggles and upsets and rows can only lead to bitterness and misery – and who wants those? Scoring one over someone else may make you feel good for a moment, but it won’t win you any friends.

In the business world it may bring financial advantage, but do you remember Ken Dodd’s song ‘Happiness’?  It says there “When it comes to measuring a man’s success, don’t count money, count happiness”. And that is very true – well, I hope it is, because I haven’t got an awful lot of money!

None of us is likely to make an impact on the world in general, in fact most of the world will never know that we ever existed, but we can try to shed a little light in our small corner of it and to leave the world a little better than we found it.

Thank you all for coming here today to support me. I really do appreciate it.