Legend has it that the kings of the East asked their wise men to work together and come up with a phrase that is eternally true and always offers hope. A proverb that would guide them through life. After much thought and debate they came up with, “This too will pass.”
In the most difficult of times, when all seems darkness, burdens impossible to carry and mountains too high to climb, we take comfort and strength from the fact that, “This too will pass.”
When things are going well, when our stars seem to align, when we experience unexpected success at home, at work or at play; again, this too will pass.
Nothing lasts forever.
Martin Seligman, the co-founder of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and the brains behind the Positive Psychology movement, reminds us that when bad things happen to us, there is solace in knowing that they are not personal, not all-pervasive and not permanent.
Ten years ago my first mentor when I became a headteacher wisely told me, “When everything is going well, inspections, grades, feedback; it’s not all about you and will pass. When everything is going badly, again it isn’t about you and it won’t last forever.”
Time is a great healer. But knowing that time will pass and things will heal, improve and change is also great for our souls and mental health. Particularly when we are in the middle of something really difficult.
It is the double sided aspect of this proverb which makes it so attractive and enduring. On the one hand, it offers hope in the toughest times. This isn’t going to last forever. Things will get better. Stick with it. Be resilient. On the other hand, it is also a great reminder that when things are going really well, that too will not last. We need to enjoy the moment, to celebrate with the people who count, to savour success.
Several years ago I had the chance to attend an awards ceremony at Versailles Palace for a degree I had completed. But I was busy, money was a bit tight, I felt a bit of an imposter at the thought of going. When I realised a few months later that only a fool, or someone with a far better excuse, would miss this, I tried desperately to get a place; but it was too late. Time had passed.
I want to celebrate the freedom that is coming in the next few months. I want to enjoy so many things that I have missed and not take them for granted ever again. And I have promised myself that I will live more in the moment when things are going really well.
But I have also learnt that what can make our toughest times endurable is the simple knowledge that they will end.
CEO, LIFE Education Trust