In which I suddenly realise the purpose of ‘Where’s Wally?’

Idly browsing my Facebook feed on Sunday morning, I came across a 360 degree ‘Where’s Wally’ picture, and because I had some spare time, I thought I would just try and find Wally. Now, I will confess that the last time I looked for Wally – in a picture book – feels like a hundred years ago, and I remember (to my chagrin, now) that I was actually perplexed by, if not dismissive of, the concept, because – beautifully drawn though the pictures were, and intriguing as it was to search for the bobble-hatted, bespectacled cartoon figure – I reasoned that once you had found Wally in each of the pictures in the book, the book was no longer of use; the intrigue and excitement of the search was over, and the purpose of the book was fulfilled. Relegated back to the shelves of the library it would be; and I actually remember feeling a little sorry for the artist, who had put so much effort and ingenuity into hiding Wally amongst so many distracting red herrings, only to have super-efficient, hawk-eyed children spot Wally in the first few seconds, and ‘complete’ the whole book within minutes. Back to my preferred entertainment of choice, lengthy novels, I went …

How wrong I was! The arrogance of impetuous youth, to think that the purpose of the search for Wally was actually to find him! Of course, there continues to be a satisfaction in spotting the eponymous hero of the piece – Aha! Le voilà! – but I discovered this morning an unexpected feeling of joy in the search itself, as I really noticed the other characters and wondered about their stories. How easy would it be to do yoga in a crowded square, was the giraffe enjoying its feed from the tree, and what on earth was that streaker thinking?! Even when I spotted Wally, I kept exploring – wondering, reflecting and imagining. Underpinning this was the absolute key, the real purpose of ‘Where’s Wally’, I realised – noticing.

Noticing what is around us …

Noticing. Just noticing, sitting with the noticing, and then reflecting on what we notice. Noticing allows us to understand ourselves and understand others. It allows us to accept our feelings and those of others; it is a core component of effective coaching, as I know well from my practice over the past 6 years. Noticing – and accepting – feelings is one of the important parts of Dr Danielle Einstein’s Covid-19 Chilled and Considerate program for school students (and I am very much looking forward to supporting her on one of her many Zoom calls with educators on Tuesday). Noticing is key to the joy we feel when we go out for a walk or run, and feel the sun on our face and smell the flowers blooming. Noticing is the first step in learning to make the right choices in our lives.

And noticing, it turns out, is the real purpose of ‘Where’s Wally?’. What a wonderful revelation on a weekend morning! And if this isn’t enough to send you scurrying to look for Wally yourselves, then perhaps you might anticipate a vicarious pleasure in witnessing in the pictures a plethora of un-social distancing … it will come again, but for now, as we fight this virus, any deliberate and joyful invasion of personal space on a mass scale – and people-watching – will have to come from books and online.

Enjoy noticing …

Dr Helen Wright is an executive coach working with leaders in the UK and internationally, and is the author of The Globally Competent School: a manual

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