Yesterday, I attended the Pre-K talent show at my daughter’s school. If it compared it to a ballet school performance of the same age-group — it was disorganised, at best. If you compared it to a ballet show of professional dancers — it was a disaster.
But, for those of us in the audience, watching the show – it was a celebration. They were out of unison. There was one dance in which the group was to start hunched on the floor, before getting up — and one little boy stayed hunched up in a ball the entire performance! He was the star of the show! Did absolutely nothing! But we enjoyed it.
Because our expectations were that these 3 to 5-year-olds would do their best and that their best would show up as whatever it was. No one was holding these children to any high standards — the only pressure was to show up and do whatever they were going to do!
We didn’t expect any of them to be professional ballet dancers or performers. They were just kids doing a talent show in pre-school.
Afterwards, I got to thinking about this… and about my expectations of myself.
Anyone who has been a parent knows how many attempts, failures and tries it takes for a baby to learn how to stand, much less walk. But at no time does the baby doubt his or her ability to stand and walk! They simply accept that they don’t know how to do it, and keep striving, falling, failing and standing again until they master balance, standing and finally walking.
We give a child 12 years of school and then University or other studies, apprenticeships or learning experiences to get started in life.
And yet, we are hard on ourselves when we step out into a new area of knowledge and expect ourselves to master it immediately. We’re no longer willing to fall over and get up as many times as an adult as we were as a child (okay… so it hurts a little more now, I get it!).
It reminded me of the book “Mastery” by Robert Greene, which I listen to as an audio-book a couple of years ago. As one reviewer from Goodreads wrote (see above link):
“The primary difference between masters and ordinary people is that the masters never gave up on their craft and took as long as it was necessary to perfect it.”
And another wrote:
“A master is someone who, through long training and discipline, has acquired the ability to enter this state of mind at will, and whose work therefore has a characteristic stamp of authority and innovativeness.”
While I’m not convinced of the exactitude of 10,000 hours of study to become a master, I am convinced that many of us have unrealistic expectations about how easy it will be to master a new skill or area of expertise. We think we can do an online course or two and that’s enough, forgetting that learning is only truly learning when it changes our results!
Ken Blanchard says:
“Learning is defined as a change in behaviour.”
So many people read a “self-help” book and move on to the next book, without actually applying what they read to their life. I did this for many years, always moving on to the next book — hungry for knowledge. But I hadn’t really learned anything!
Now, I’m taking things a little slower. Re-reading books a few times before I move on to the next (when the book is worth it). Giving myself time to try out suggestions and “habit stacking”, working on changing and tweaking little things in my life, rather than trying to make drastic changes.
Slowly but surely.
I’ve slowed down on how many courses I’m taking, but I’ve increased drastically the amount of time that I am dedicating to practicing the new skills. And I will say this: I feel much further out of my comfort zone now than when I was comfortably reading and studying to gain “head knowledge” than what I am now that I am driving myself to “master” the skills rather than the knowledge.
Take a moment today and look at your life: what small change could you make, that if you mastered it, would make an exponential change to your life over the course of the next year, 5 years, 10 years? What could you build on to really transform your life if you dedicated time to mastery? If instead of pursuing simply knowledge, you pursued really knowing?
Let me close with one example that I have experimented with last year and this year, and written about a couple of times on this blog: balanced breathing and mindfulness. Last year, I was practicing meditation “sometimes”. But it certainly wasn’t part of my daily routine. Likewise, writing in my journal and being consciously grateful was not part of my routine. There are days I forget to write in my journal what I’m grateful for… and so I try again. But these new habits have become part of my lifestyle as I focused on my breath and mindfulness – becoming more aware of what creates within me peace and well-being. As I have “taken it more slowly” and made more space each morning and evening for quiet time, my creativity has increased as well as my focus. But I have started to “master” new habits before I try to adopt a new one. And I am willing to accept that sometimes I am not perfect. Some days I might forget – but that’s not a reason to quit. Eventually I will master these new habits and transformational tools, as I learn to rewrite my life.
I would love to know how you are “habit stacking” and what learning you have integrated into your life.
If you are looking to get coached through a transformation period in your life, don’t hesitate to reach out to me through my page.