Edicts for living – Number 3 Be Brave

“It takes more courage to change your opinion than to keep it.” Willi Brandt

This is the third quotation on my Nobel Peace Centre postcard. In 1971 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Willy Brandt, leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany from 1964 to 1987 and Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1969 to 1974. Brandt was pivotal in facilitating communication between the East and West and this in turn resulted in the bringing down of the Berlin Wall with all that meant and represented.

Learning and development have always been of huge interest to me and not only motivated my years of study to become first a teacher and then an Educational Psychologist but have also became central to my practice as a Registered Practitioner Psychologist. I discovered for myself along with all the reading of research and theory about learning that you can only really learn if you are willing to review and sometimes let go of what you thought you already knew. For this reason, Brandt’s words ring so true.

It isn’t just the learning of individuals that has to be subject to this process for it applies equally to organisations and even governments and global bodies. How refreshing and how convincing it would be if bodies like WHO* and NICE* along with national governments not only communicated at regular intervals, say at least annually, what they consider they know but also what they thought they knew that they had had to revise.

As Brandt highlights, such candour requires courage. The appeal of knowing and of having all the answers is obvious but it is also dangerous and takes no account of blind spots, of the need to recognise partisan interests and to address the abuse of power and privileged voice. Sometimes, if the road ahead is obviously the wrong one then the only thing to do is a U-turn, even if it results in a loss of face, embarrassment or compensatory actions and words.

Although I have the greatest respect for academic endeavour and well-crafted and executed research the drive to know and to answer and to reject mystery and intuition risks underestimating and even ignoring the complexity of life and its immeasurable aspects. Only the bravest and wisest can acknowledge and embrace uncertainty and sometimes, the unknowable.

*WHO – World Health Organisation * NICE – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

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