This weekend my daughter and I were on a camping trip. Like a typical parent, I worried way too much about everything being right and about all the little details that are “needed” to make camping fun and enjoyable for everyone. But it wasn’t until I let go that the fun really began.
At one point, my daughter and I were sitting on our camping chairs, trying to follow the shade around, playing with two plastic nets and a ball. We got bored with the game and decided to create our own. The campsite had a few holes that must have been imprinted into the ground by previous tenants. We looked at each other and both exclaimed at the same time “Perfect for playing golf”.
We used our little nets as golf clubs and the squishy ball as golf ball. Our game was on. I don’t know if you ever noticed, but the underlying believes we hold about us and the world become apparent in everything we do… even a made up game of golf. My daughter has the tendency to beat herself up over any missed shot in a game and quickly draws a negative self-image out of her “mistakes”. I on the other hand tend to be apologetic and at the same time can find a million reasons, why I didn’t succeed at that time.
Once you allow yourself to become aware of your patterns though, you have the power to change them. So when I realized that I was falling into my typical pattern, I stopped myself and decided to change course. Now this is a 7-year old we are talking about, so I couldn’t help myself but make my change drastic. With every putt of the pretend golf ball that didn’t make it into the hole, I cheered and celebrated myself for trying so hard and taking a shot at it and getting closer to my goal. I might or might not have added a little dance to it as well. At first I received the typical response from my daughter, which generally includes a “Mommy, you are so weird” (which I, by the way, tend to take as a full-out compliment). But after I didn’t stop doing it, she started to question me.
She said, “But mommy you are not actually hitting it into the hole”. I said: “That is true, but I am trying the best I can with what I have and I don’t give up. Plus, each time I try I am getting a little bit closer to it”. She then contemplated that I must be wearing different glasses then she does, because through her glasses her shots do not look that way. She just sees that they were missed and was sad that she didn’t actually make the hole.
I asked her, whether her negative feeling bad about not making the shot, actually made her feel more confident that she would make the next one. I said that I enjoyed all the fun I was having playing the game. Even though I don’t always make the hole, I still get to cheer for my efforts and even get to do a little dance, which is fun all by itself. She had to contemplate this for a while, and then stated “Mommy, I think I have decided I want to wear your glasses.”
And that is how simple the lessons in life can be sometimes.
If you are constantly beating yourself up for not reaching your goals, your incentive and confidence to keep going until you get to your finish line, might be much reduced. If nothing else, cheering yourself on along the way for every little milestone you hit, no matter how small, will make the journey to your finish line so much more enjoyable.
And that joy is more contagious to the people that surround you while you are reaching for the stars, then you beating yourself up.
So put on those new glasses, go all out, and do a little dance along the way!