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Perseverant Polly, patient pony.

This heartwarming video came up on my Facebook feed this morning.  I don’t usually take more than a glance at these apparently random videos (although at least it wasn’t cats) but there was something about it that piqued my interest: small girl, bright pink, filly net skirt, counterpointed comically with wellies and a hard hat. Unusual and fun. So I watched on, and spent a minute or so wishing, willing this small girl to make it onto her pony. It’s nail biting stuff and I almost had to hold my breath as she struggled to mount her Shetland pony.

Then I glanced at the comments left by others ‘Oh cute’, ‘what a cutie’, ‘well done ‘ and masses of other such reactions were the order of the day. But my reaction to the video went deeper than ‘How cute!’. What is behind the cuteness? Why are our hearts in our mouths? What’s keeping her going; what is underneath?

I was so hooked that I immediately had to give the girl a name: Polly. (Later research revealed that her real name is Crosslyn.) Firstly ‘Polly’ has her very own goal of getting on her pony. It’s her goal and no one else’s. She wants to achieve it. This is a key aspect in the early stages of building perseverance. She’s resolutely focused on this achievement. Nothing distracts her. Despite many failures she’s never downhearted. There’s no anger, tears or tantrums. She’s enjoying the struggle and remains positive – no mean feat! Along the way she tries several different approaches to mount her patient pony, some more determined, some a bit half hearted. But the point is she is trying a variety of tactics. At one point, after many failures, she seems to look for things to help her : “Where are the stirrups?”. But she’s undeterred. Then, from off screen, she seems to be given a word of encouragement which gives her another idea to try…..and she succeeds! Her triumphant smile and our relief is our reward. Throughout this process Polly is laying down memories of things that didn’t work and of course those that do. So in the future, despite her height disadvantage, she will master mounting her bareback Shetland pony with ease.

A special “Well Done!” goes to the person filming this little episode. How many of us would have been tempted to down tools and rush to help?  We need to be able to stand back, not intervene, and let children enjoy their struggle. In so doing they learn far more, and can really own being proud of their subsequent success.

It is the strong display of perseverance, especially in one so small, that makes this so watchable. It is fascinating because it so beautifully gives us a quick-reference snapshot of what perseverance might look like. There are masses of ways to encourage and support it without ever using the word. What steps might you take to encourage perseverance in others today?

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