Whilst visiting friends recently, we decided to fling our kids (age range: 7 – 14 years) around a park, enjoying some life affirming and beautiful sunshine in the process. There was much laughter and merriment, until the children began challenging each other with i.e.: who could run faster, climber higher etc - and then things started getting a little more serious and (amicably) competitive.
As I am one of those people who can find a teachable moment in almost any situation (including my now infamous teachable mowing the lawn and opening a can of soup moments), I saw an opportunity to set the kids a teachable moment challenge. May I refer you to the photo which accompanies this article. You will see how the park included an undulating bridge (for cycling over I guess), complete with narrow undulating wooden support edges, parts of which are quite steep in places. My challenge for those who chose to accept was this: starting at one end, walk the entire length of the bridge's edge without falling off; if you fall off, you start again.
This challenge was initially met with a mild dose of derision, and a fairly hefty dollop of complacency for being “too easy”. I smiled. The children's initial confidence and natural exuberance saw them set off a pace, wanting to complete the challenge as quickly as possible and before anyone else, but I had never told them it was a race or a time trial – they assumed this, and subsequently created a false reality for themselves. As ever, I wanted this task completed well not quickly, therefore making technique more important than speed.
As you can imagine, because the children's mistaken focus was on completing the task quickly, their technique was sloppy, and they fell off the edge repeatedly. So back to the beginning they trudged, regardless of how close to the end point they may have been. We don't do excuses at Dennis-Towers; you can either be successful or make excuses, but you can't do both. After a few unsuccessful attempts the children began to realise that if they continued to do what they had always done, they were going to get what they'd always gotten. This realisation led them to slow down their pace, focus on what they were trying to achieve, concentrate on their technique and find the balance they needed to complete the task – and they were eventually rewarded with success, to much acclaim and modest rewards.
So therein lies our teachable moment. Life lessons will repeat themselves until they are full and learned. Is there a pattern in your world which keeps repeating itself? Does it ever feel like Groundhog Day to you, i.e.: same shit, different day and it's just the depth that varies? If so, now you know why; you haven't recognised, acknowledged or accepted the lesson within your circumstances. If you respond to your situation in the same way that you always have responded to it, why do you think you're going to elicit a different/better result this time? The definition of insanity is said to be doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Change something, because nothing changes if nothing changes!
Just imagine the kids at the beginning of the edge challenge, rushing headlong into it without enough focus, concentration or balance - falling off repeatedly and running back to the start to try again – mistakenly believing time was of the essence. Now imagine night has fallen and the kids are perpetuating the same attitudes and behaviours, only now they're floodlit because it's dark and late. At what point would they be considered crazy? After minutes not hours, surely? Now let's apply this logic to your circumstances. Which issue keeps showing up in your life? How have you responded to it in the past? How can you respond differently from now on? Do you accept the ups and downs - the undulations - of life, always starting again when success or progress is denied to you? Are you able to move forward in your life now, deleting the word "failure" from your vocabulary, and replacing it with "learning"?
So many of us choose not to live mindfully and as such, have no idea where we are going - but are in an awful hurry to get there. Wouldn't it be wiser to slow down and use the additional time to think, focus, concentrate and refine our techniques, so that our lessons are not doomed to repeat forever more? In this example time was not a factor, but I accept it so often can be. My advice would be much the same: anything less than sure-footed competency is a false economy. You either do it well, or again.
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