She falls, then stands back up again.
My nine-year-old daughter struggles to pick herself up from the ice and gets shakily to her feet. It’s her first time skating and ice is not much fun (well, not for me – not from my overly-cautious grown-up perspective). Somewhere on the other side of the rink is my son, holding on to the side as if his life depends on it as he tries to master the brand new skill of skating. This continues for an hour: they try, they fall, they stand up and try again. Eventually they manage to skate for a while without falling, even if still a little unstable. As they skate closer to me, with beaming smiles and looks of absolute joy on their faces, they cry out – ‘’This is so much fun, mummy’’.
This experience really stirred up something deep inside of me. When did we adults lose our ability to go out there and embrace something new, without the fear of looking foolish or worried about falling?
When my children asked me and my husband to go ice skating, our first reaction was one of terror. Not because we didn’t think it was fun, but because we knew how bad we were on the ice. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to learn something new, we were both more worried about failure than fun. And yet we did it (all this ‘’practice what you preach’’ nonsense really comes back to bite us sometimes) and guess what? The whole family improved in the end.
I quickly realised how much I miss this child-like perspective of grit and determination: to find what excites you, what you know you want to learn, and just go for it. There is really no excuse not to. None of us were born walking or reading, doing basic math or driving – yet we all manage to do those things in the end…
So I thought about how we can break this child-like grit down – and this is what I came up with:
- You need a clear purpose – why are you learning this new skill? You might want to learn just for the sake of it, or because you know you have to do it in order to move forward (we all had subjects at school we were not keen on, but did those assignments in any case, because we knew we had to. We just did it).
- Once you identify the purpose of this new endeavour, you need to pause and think how you learn best. We’ve all learned new things in our past – so use this experience. What worked? What didn’t? Then go for it. Do you work best with other people or alone? Maybe you prefer breaking down large tasks into small goals, or perhaps you need to see the whole picture first. There’s no right answer. How you learn depends on your natural set of talents. Understanding your talents and using them to help you, rather than hinder you (yes yes, your talent can be your enemy as much as your friend), will help you on your path to success.
- Embrace the joy of falling. This was the biggest lesson I got from my children. They knew they were going to fall, they also knew they would stand up and fall again, but they had a go anyway. They knew eventually they’d be able to do what they set out to learn…and they did it with joy!
Children instinctively know failing is part of the process – they don’t perceive falling as failing.
Let us all fall with joy, rather than worry about keeping our balance and staying on our feet!
Wishing you a lifetime of falling and striving.
Dovile Corrigan. Azkua