“Wisdom often comes from the mouth of babes.” Game of Thrones
Children say the “darndest” things. This is what I discovered while I supported my eight year old niece, Marla, last summer, in her efforts to master the skill of rollerblading. Little did I know that this exercise was going to remind me of some valuable motivational growth lessons. I started out as the teacher, but at some point along the way I became the student.
Armed with all of the accoutrements associated with rollerblading we searched for a quiet, inconspicuous, safe spot in which Marla could learn and practice this new skill. We found it in the underground parking lot where I worked.
Having no experience in teaching rollerblading skills, I laced up her boots, ensured she was well padded and was wearing a helmet that was a fraction too big for her head and set her on her feet. “Okay, go!”
Clinging to my leg she froze. “Honey,” I said, “you have to let go.” Shuffling over to a post nearby, with Marla clinging to me for dear life, I peeled her hands off me and said, “You are going to have to do this by yourself.” She quickly grabbed the post and latched on to it. Her eyes filled with fear. It hadn’t occurred to me that she might need support.
Holding her so that she could steady herself and get her bearings, I encouraged her to let go of the post when she was ready. She would not let go.
“How are you going to learn,” I said, “if you don’t let go?”
She made several indecisive attempts to move forward but still could not bring herself to let go of the post, for fear of falling. Even with my support, she would not take the risk and solidly gripped my arm.
The more she tried to move forward, the more she held on. Finally, I impatiently said “Marla, honey. You have to let go of the post. You can’t hold on and move forward at the same time or you will fall. It has to be one or the other.”
Let Go and Move Forward
Without knowing it, Marla had reminded me of an important life lesson. In order to move forward in anything you do, you must let go of where you are. The simple act of letting go always involves some sort of risk. Simply put, the universe will not allow you to hold on to where you are and allow you to move forward at the same time. You cannot do those two things simultaneously.
“Marla,” I said softly, “if you want to roller blade today you are going to have to take a risk and let go. I will support you.”
This simple lesson was demonstrated very loud and clear. You can decide to stay where you are or take a risk and let go and move forward.
As she finally realized that if she wanted to rollerblade that day she would need to let go of the post, Marla said, “I’m scared.”
Plucking up her courage, with strong, loud encouragement on my part, Marla did let go of the post she was tightly holding and scurried forward to post number two; she hung on to that post for dear life!
After what seemed like an eternity, she gathered up her courage again, let go of post number two and tentatively scurried on to post number three, and then post number four and so on and so on and so on, until she had come full circle.
I noticed that as she went from post to post she seemed to gather momentum; each time she reached a new post the time spent at that post got shorter and shorter.
Congratulating her on her achievement after she had circulated the course, I asked her how she was able to make it all around the course. “Easy,” she beamed proudly, “I just went from post to post one at a time.”
Break Things Down into Manageable Steps
As she clearly made this point, another motivational growth lesson emerged. When faced with a challenging problem or situation we can embrace the bigger picture, but in order to make things easier for ourselves we must break that big picture down into small, manageable steps and take each step one step at a time.
Pretty soon, Marla – bright young thing that she was – was confidently and comfortably gliding around the parking lot from post to post on her own. She had mastered the art of rollerblading pretty quickly.
As I congratulated her on her achievement on the ride home in the car she chatted away, unknowingly giving me her formula for success.
“Well,” she said, “I only fell twice, but that was because I was looking on the ground. When you look ahead and keep in mind where you’re going you don’t fall.”
“What’s that?” I said.
“Yep,” she prattled on, “I focused on where I was going; that’s why I hardly fell.”
Set Goals to Focus You
Unbeknownst to her, Marla had given me another personal growth lesson. Always have a point of focus, a target, or goal to direct your actions. Without a goal, destination, purpose, or direction you are more likely to get off track, lose your place of purpose and lose your way.
Was there no stopping this child? Personal and motivational lessons that I had spent hundreds of dollars on learning from books, videos, courses and workshops seemed to already be an integrated part of her eight-year-old psyche. Marla continued on babbling in the car about her achievement and how proud and confident she felt mastering the new skill of rollerblading.
As Marla prattled on while I drove her home, she shared what she thought was a secret with me.
“You know, Aunty V,” she said, “when I first put on the rollerblades I was really scared, but I knew I was going to do it. You know why?” she asked pensively.
“No, I don’t,” I responded. “Why? How come?”
For a brief moment, she had a sincere and determined look on her face. “I saw myself rollerblading yesterday. I kept dreaming about it in my head. I imagined myself rollerblading and then I started telling myself that I could do it over and over again. And guess what I did?”
Positive Self Talk and Visualization
“Mmm …” I thought to myself – positive self talk and visualization. I knew children’s brains were like sponges – they soak up everything in their environment – but somehow, somewhere my eight-year-old niece had soaked up some powerful positive growth material.
Have a Cheerleading Team
When she got home she excitedly relayed her success to her mother, father and older brother; they in turn were duly impressed and cheered her on. I thought how important it was to garner support, share our success with others, and to have a personal cheerleading team – people in our lives that acknowledge, recognize and validate our accomplishments.
So there it was – I started out my day with a plan to help my niece master the art of rollerblading, but somehow I ended up reviewing some powerful motivational growth points, principles and lessons:
- In order to move forward in life, you have to let go of where you are.
- See the bigger picture, but break it down into small manageable steps.
- Always have a goal or plan to help focus your destination.
- Visualize yourself repeatedly achieving your results.
- Use positive self talk to keep you motivated.
- Have a cheerleading team in your life that supports your achievements.
Taking a leaf out of Marla’s book, I’m going to try something new. I’m going to learn how to play golf this summer. I’m waiting to see what lessons I can gleam from trying to get that little ball into that small hole.