The Howells Group Blog

Adopting a Toddler Mentality

Adopting a Toddler Mentality

 

Showing up as a “finished product” is a pressure we all experience. As a coach and consultant, I hear it from all kinds of people in all kinds of work and life situations. And I experience it myself; trying to avoid looking “slow”, “out of touch” or “uncool”. Yet isn’t it ironic that expending so much energy to appear fully competent in everything is actually one of the greatest barriers to learning?

Just think about toddlers. I love watching them.  Ever noticed when they learn to walk they are falling more than they are upright?  They hit the floor. They tumble on coffee tables and they seem drawn to anything with a sharp edge. Their learning process is really the perfect picture of how we learn. But as adults it’s hard sometimes to keep stumbling and falling forward – so we hold back.

I remember at age 40  when I decided I wanted to learn to water ski at the Canadian retreat center our family loves.  Set in the stunning and ice cold ocean sound, I remember thinking “This looks fun! How hard can this bePlus, I’m a pretty competent snow skier, so I’ll probably get right up”. I was so ready to be impressive! As my family and friends watched from the dock, I started to feel the pressure. As I put on the clunky water skies, I began to fear it wasn’t at all as easy as I thought. I started to worry how I’d look as I saw the dock fill up with spectators. I even considered backing out – but didn’t want to be a bad example to my kids, so I pressed on. Getting in the icy salt water with skies that seemed 10 feet long (I’m 5 foot 4) felt so awkward, then wrestling with the rope and bobbing up and down like a cork.  It took five falls before I could  get upright. Finally, I let go of how I looked and decided to just enjoy the process. And then – I was up! I was bouncing along, nearly flying around the bay, hanging on for dear life. Awkward was the path to exhilarating.

Falling is learning. It’s all part of the process. Toddlers just forge ahead, never concerned how they look and not focused on the falling. So, what would it look like for you to adopt a “toddler mentality”? To put ALL our energy to the task at hand instead of avoiding failure? Would you apply for that job that you’re afraid you won’t be “perfect” at? Would you learn to paint? Plant a garden? Dance the tango? What could happen if, like a toddler, you expected yourself to take a few tumbles along the way towards competence? What if you threw yourself in, cold water, awkward and all and just enjoyed the process? No matter what – I predict you’ll learn a lot and that you’ll be exhilarated if you let yourself!

 

-by Karen Howells

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