Dee Chadwick
29 Nov 2020
My mind immediately leaps to a limbo bar, where sadly, the bar would have to be pretty high for me to be able to limbo below it! Setting aside such thoughts and a not particularly inspiring mental picture of my attempted limbo, let’s expand that bar to include other versions and also metaphorical ones. Though on a grey and damp Cheshire day, the thought of attempting to limbo to a backdrop of a party atmosphere, on a beach with the sea lapping in close by and a long cold drink to hand sounds very tempting! Then again, even better without the limbo bit of that mental picture.


As a teacher, setting the bar for the teaching of a lesson was a carefully thought through task. Every child in my class had equal rights to access the material I was offering. To learn and grow as a person, as well as simply expanding their knowledge and more importantly their understanding whilst I was their teacher.  There was a whole range of ability, background knowledge, concentration ability, language skills amongst the factors to be considered. If that bar was set too low, the academically more able pupils quickly became bored. Too high and those who could struggle academically would also become bored, but for different reasons. It was therefore a case of an initial aim at some sort of middle ground for an introduction, then a variety of tasks to suit the variety of pupils. That way, each could progress at a pace best for them.

I guess this is how we work out things for ourselves. If we set our personal bar too low, probably at a level that we know we can achieve, then achieve we will. But – achieve what? Maybe achieve acquiring new facts, new information, but, just as with those children probably boredom could be included as one of our achievement.  Especially so if we don’t bother to go on to use that knowledge in ways that allow us to expand our horizons, stretch ourselves towards reaching our potential. I wonder how many of us feel that we are moving along the road to achieve this?

I am well aware that I have been keeping my bar at what I believe to be an achievable level involving only a little stretching  over the past months. I guess this has been my way of endeavouring to maintain a reasonable level of mental and emotional well-being by not over-stretching myself with the challenges that I set.  However, I have been  nudging that bar up a little bit with each task.  Maybe I lacked the motivation of being able to share my achievements with friends, or maybe I was content to see lockdown as a period of consolidation rather than expansion.  Whatever, it has been working for me, so I won’t knock it.

It is each to their own when it comes to a COVID bar. Doing something, setting some targets, some goals is good. Throw in at least a bit of a challenge and it’s even better. I hold my hand up to one challenge on which I gave up. Of all things, it was a jig saw. A lovely picture, but one that saw me coming close to flinging my version of it through the window. I kept spending a bit more time on it, but it was just too difficult. I would aim to place 10 pieces, then down to 6, and eventually – can I get just one piece into the correct place? It wasn’t something that simply HAD to be done and I had reached the point of the challenge giving rise to frustration and zero enjoyment. Decision made, I gathered the pieces back into their box. Maybe I will have another go at a later date, or maybe I will simply take it back to the charity shop from which it came and hand the gauntlet on to someone else. Sometimes looks can be deceiving and what I thought was an achievable bar level proved to be anything but.


It is assumed that the bar setting analogy is related to the sport of pole vaulting, or the high jump rather than my afore mentioned limbo dancing. If I had set the bar too high, it would no doubt have come clattering down with me in an untidy  heap with the pole hitting me as a final indignity.  The best way to achieve success with that higher bar is to gradually increase its height, building on previous achievements and the confidence gained from this. Then again, there is always the opportunity to go for the limbo under the bar rather than the jump over it. Is that dipping out, or putting a positive spin on a situation?


We have times in our life when we have to make those decisions about setting the level of that bar and decide if we are a limbo under or up and over sort of person. Maybe now that I am older, I am finding it acceptable to make any adjustments by small increments. When we are younger, we often set the bar much higher. If we do this, we also need to recognise that we could be setting ourselves up for a fall, for failure. Then again, those who have read previous blogs of mine could well be aware that I prefer to put a positive spin on things and see a perceived failure as a positive learning – of how not to do something.

You are the person who best knows YOU. You know if you tend to take the easy way out; push yourself way too hard; or prefer to perform at some middle ground between these extremes. You know if you are best keeping to your own counsel or seeking ideas, encouragement, a kick in the pants from others. 

There are many who have lost their jobs in our current pandemic who are wondering where on earth they can find employment. A way of earning a living which may have to be very different from their previous way. Where do they set their bar when there are so many others out there wondering the same thing?

It’s important  not to associate your self-concept, your self-worth with your present situation which in all likelihood is due to factors that were way beyond your control. It doesn’t  matter how good at your job you were, no matter how much you earned.  Remember that if you are taking a side step, you may feel that you have to either take the risk of setting that bar higher than you are comfortable with, or lower than you would choose to. It’s a means to an end, involving setting SMART targets, or goals. Simultaneously you could well be endeavouring to keep other doors ajar whilst being open to trying new ones that you may not have previously ignored. It’s a keeping options open time for many.

Do you set that bar low, with the risk of this converting to a self-fulfilling prophecy with your belief becoming that this is all that you are capable of?  Easy to do. How well I remember, many years ago when my focus had been on raising and supporting my sons, but was at the point of beginning to look for work. I had been doing what I believe was one of the most important – and best  - jobs around in nurturing my sons, but felt it left me unprepared for the world of work. I had a phone call offering me a job as a classroom assistant – and when I put down the phone, I can remember shouting  out – ‘I’m NOT a cabbage’. Someone wanted me! In fact, this turned out to be the beginning of my move to becoming a teacher. The career that had always been my chosen path, but had been set aside for my family.


As in being in a state of limbo, not as used in a religious sense, rather as being in an undecided, uncertain state whilst you are trying to decide what to do next. Do you endeavour to try your hardest to hang on to move back into the type of employment you previously worked in, even though it may be some time before this picks up again. In our current situation, I am thinking of the performing arts, the aviation industry, hospitality – to name just a few. Do you start putting out feelers along with many others doing just the same? Do you call on any contacts you may have, no matter how tenuous your link to them may be?

It can be like the sporting comparisons used where preparation is everything. A high jump limbo! The practising, the honing both body and mind to be in the right place for approaching that bar no matter at what height it may be set.  As for in other than a sporting life, it’s knowing that we have chosen to set that bar at a height that is right for us at this particular time of life. Right for each of us as an individual.

Use that limbo time wisely if you are job seeking, or if you are simply waiting for our new way of normal to gradually replace our current way of being. Use bar setting  to enable you to feel that you have control of what you are aiming for – and how high you feel  is OK for you to aim.

Take care .... and if you end up on your backside – pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go re-set your bar for your next attempt.


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