"I Believe in Miracles" - Scotland can beat anyone.
No one accomplished anything without first believing that it could be done.
At first, this might start as a joke, made as a throwaway comment and getting a few laughs at its absurdity. Next, perhaps some meat is placed around the bone, and some folks might combine their chuckle with a qualifer, 'aye, but there has been improvement', before someone else in the group quashes that with a dose of 'realism'.
Then, maybe, against all the odds, something actually happens that means the reality is shifted - perspective is altered - and everyone is now forced to recognise that the joke has become, in part, reality. It is true. What is more, it's better and even more enjoyable than you could have hoped.
Sound familiar? We charted all of these steps over the last year and a bit in following Scotland's eventual qualification for the Euros. This means they are currently at their training camp, preparing for their first warm-up game against the Netherlands on Wednesday. It's true. It's happened.
Scotland have qualified for the Euros.
There is something else that accompanies change. Something we don't often take cognisance of, much less acknowledge is there, but something we sometimes feel through nerves, anxiety or a flutter of butterflies in the stomach. It's not easy to ascertain because it might be conflated by other feelings too. One of the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis, put this feeling of reality shifting this way;
There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall?
- 'Miracles' p.94
Although part of a larger discussion, ironically enough in a book called 'Miracles' (though I'm certain he wasn't writing with the Scottish National Team in mind), you might think from the quote that Lewis' illustration is quite dark and negative.
What in fact he is talking about is the fear aspect that accompanies new realities and experiences - and this happens to all of us.
The illustration ends in a quite positive destination, but the fear aspect is an unavoidable real station en route.
I work with children who really struggle with new experiences or influences on their world. It is more than challenging for them, they react at times like it is terrifying and overwhelming and respond accordingly to preserve their worlds; their version of normality. This can look very 'visible' and difficult behaviourally, as they try to make sense of the shifting goalposts around them. It really is scary. There is a real fear attached. This is reality.
However, there is an alternative mdoe of introducing change - one that I can swear by because I've seen it happen hundreds of times with hundreds of children in over a decade of specialist teaching.
Slowing down to see the world as they see it. I would take part in their world as they allow, not encroaching, not becoming a threat, but just taking part. If they're playing in water, I play in water, without words, without eye contact. If they're flapping their hands and bouncing, I'll do the same. Inhibitions don't belong here. Over time, we establish a shared mode of communication, and more importantly, we create a connection. This connection means that I can maybe start to alter their world slowly, through certain means, giving them the chance to trust the changes. Trust the process.
Adults do this too. Adults need this too.
Big changes are hard.
In my other job, I help adults to think through moving from a 'Fixed Mindset' to that of a 'Growth Mindset'. If you're in any way familiar with A\M, you will no doubt have heard this before.
Interestingly, when people hear a 'Growth Mindset' outlined, they often think, 'all aboard!'
This is great! And it demonstrates the 'good science' behind what the research has exposed about the human condition. However, the difficulty in all of us adopting a growth mindset, comes in the change that is required. This takes time, and is often painful. Why?
It's not easy to challenge established modes of being or traditional systems of thought. We're protective of the patterns and nuances of thought that we've formed over time, even if deep down, objectively, we might really know that they're not very helpful and in need of uprooting.
When you uproot something though, you're often surprised by how deep that root burrows. You might need to untangle it first. You might need to retrain it or cut it off. This can be sore. It can be hard. And well, basically, it's easier to do nothing, and so remain 'fixed'.
Fixed means settling with something you know is a problem, because it limits growth. Even if that something is 'bad' for you, or detrimental to your health. It's fine, I'll live with it.
'Fair enough', you might think, and that's totally understandable! After all, it's like the problem of the constant gardener - there's always ways we can be 'better', and one person's 'better' might be another's 'worse'. There's always individualistic expression to be mindful of. Some things are subjective, and there are lots of shades of grey.
However, some things are objectively true, and objectively real.
Scotland are going to the Euros.
What I'm really burrowing down to is this; however hard we suppress it - when something happens that makes you feel like a change is possible or that a new, better way to live might actually be within your reach; you can't help but become excited at the prospect whilst simultaneously feeling fear at the same time.
Scotland have qualified for the Euros.
See, with Declan Rice's tweet, we are confronted by all of these things at once. For context, he is a big Chelsea fan, and huge mates with Mason Mount, so he's understandably 'liking' lots of tweets. He might be even joking that Scotland have a chance against England, I don't know. But the fact is - we'll be playing England and we can beat them.
This is unavoidable fact because 'upsets' happen in sport all the time. Greece won the Euros. Leicester won the league. St. Johnstone won a double and their goalie claimed an assist against the best team in the country. A rudderless Chelsea went from 10th to 4th in 4 months and won the Champions League. Not quite the same level you'd argue - but would you have found anyone who would've bet on them then as with all of the above? Nope.
Winning is a very distinct possibility and outcome. In fact, I'd go one more and say, without thinking you can beat England, there really is no point in turning up.
To return to the very first illustration, this is often where cynics wade in and present a dose of 'realism', listing all the reasons why we can't. They did the same before Serbia, and that was something we took head on in our most read article to date; Scotland from a Serbian perspective.
What A\M contends for is positive realism.
If that means being painted as naive or foolish from time to time, and quite honestly, probably achieving some of those characteristics, then that's fine too.
The claim that we can 'win the Euros' might be laughed at at the moment, but it doesn't stop it being real. Being a very real, distinct possibility.
Outlandish things happen all the time.
Truth really is stranger than fiction.
Are you willing to be counted as foolish? Because let me tell you, as someone who nailed his colours firmly to the mast ahead of the Serbian game (whilst being every bit as scared as you), we can beat Crzech Republic, we can beat Croatia, we can beat England and because that is true; we can beat anybody.
Saying whether or not we're likely to is another question entirely, let's stay with the reality that we can.
Fixed or Growth? You choose.
Aye, we can.