I do a lot of engineering outreach with children of all ages, and sadly, the pattern of enthusiasm always seems to be the same. The young children in Primary Schools are so keen to learn new things; their endless energy and number of creative ideas and questions never ceases to amaze me. At the upper end of Primary School, you’ll get general cooperation, but there are clearly a few kids in every class who just don’t want to be there. The enthusiasm decreases further as you get to Secondary School kids, and by year 9, the phrase, ‘I hate biology’, or ‘English is so boring’ are among the many similar phrases that get bandied about on a day to day basis. By this point, children are already very confident about what they do and don’t like, and are not afraid to complain about it to whoever will listen. I am no exception by the way, in case you think I’m looking down on these kids – I decided that I disliked PE very early on! Sixth form seems to release fresh interest in students, they’re starting to think about the subject they will go on to specialise in at University, or are simply taking A levels for the pure enjoyment of delving further into a specific subject. University students are a funny one. The majority of the many hundreds of students I have met over the last three years, seem to simultaneously defend their subject fiercely to anyone who dares belittle it, and complain about the inner workings of their course on a daily basis.
And from my experience, after this stage of your life, people just seem to become less and less satisfied with their lives. Ironically, the most common cause of starting a friendly conversation with a stranger on a train, is that they start complaining, and I get dragged in. Don’t get me wrong, we always go on to have a nice chat, but only as a result of a grumble or a discontented murmur.
Now, I know that my observation has been a sweeping generalisation, and that you do indeed get very grumpy children and very chirpy 50 year olds. However, I think it’s sad that so many people get stuck in a rut of complaining about their lives, often even if nothing particularly bad has happened. I even found myself slipping into it recently when my research started to take a turn for the worse, but I caught myself, and I urge you to do so too. Let’s break the mould. Let’s refuse to become adults who are never happy with their lot, and rarely have a good thing to say. Not only is it better for the people around you – I guarantee you’ll feel better and more free once you start acknowledging the good in your life. A positive outlook is a real game changer. So go on…try it!
Featured image by Georgie Sharp, Flickr.