Look After Your Mind – Seeing with new eyes

Look after your mind

The French novelist Marcel Proust famously said (paraphrased slightly), “Real voyages of discovery consist, not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes”.

While this might sound a little grandiloquent, the idea is a powerful one that can have useful everyday applications.

Keys and Parrots

For instance, when my wife ran Lime Trees Day Nursery in Market Harborough some years ago, she would encourage children to eat salad by calling it ‘crunchy water’. Many were then more tempted to try. Similarly, we didn’t serve them peas and carrots but “keys and parrots”. The children always corrected us. The little play on words seemed to encourage them to eat more of the vegetables.

Helping people to look at something in a new way is a kind of reframing technique. Changing the label or the metaphor shifts the way someone thinks about a subject. This often results in changing the way they feel about it. For instance, I was once running a story-writing workshop in a school. One boy came up to me and said he couldn’t do it. When I asked him why he said, “Because I’m thick”. Where had he picked up that unhelpful belief? Off the top of my head I said, “Well pretend you’re thin for a bit and show me when you’ve finished your story”. His mood changed at once, he chuckled, went away and wrote his story.


I’ve since discovered that ‘pretend’ suggests the task is somehow less real, therefore safer and less daunting. While ‘when’ is called a presupposition of success, suggesting that I expect the child (in this case) inevitably to succeed. Now if a child says he or she can’t do I piece of writing I say, “Pretend you can and show me when you’ve done it”. For the most part it works like a charm.


Also, with children in mind, another technique is to introduce them to kennings. A kenning is a kind of metaphor, originating in Anglo-Saxon and Norse literature, that looks at things in a new way. So, for example a body might be called a bone-house, the sea the wave road and winter is a light stealer. Once children get the hang of the idea, they often delight in making them up. Good guidance is to be found on The Young Poets Network

Children I’ve worked with in the past have invented: knowledge-giver (book), sky warrior (falcon), mouse stalker (cat), tree tapper-grub grabber (woodpecker) and many more delightful ways of seeing with new eyes.

Steve Bowkett