I went skating on the weekend. Now that might not seem too remarkable a thing, except I haven’t been on skates since I was a kid and I never did master it. So, getting on skates now, was an adventure. It also marks my efforts to say yes to more opportunities.
Shonda Rhimes found the wisdom in doing so, and I’ve been working on this myself over the last several years.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the word – opportunity. And its flip side, failure.
They’re both nouns and yet one is filled with promise and potential, while the other threatens lack of success and potential embarrassment, even shame.
As adults, we tend to think of opportunity as business or investment related. Yet, it’s so much more than that, isn’t it? Opportunity is an opening to what could be, for ourselves. A window into who we can be, should we choose to accept what’s on offer.
Learning to skate is one of those things I’ve always longed to do but despite chances to learn as a child, didn’t. For reasons both physical and emotional I ended up bailing on my efforts. Not acquiring the skill left me on the outside of some of my friend’s outings and as a Canadian – feeling a bit of a fraud.
So, here I am, well into adulthood and an opportunity presented itself to give it a go. Dare I? Could I conquer those childhood fears? Overcome my fears of failure?
How do we conquer fears that become larger than life over time?
In part, we re-frame it and bring it back to the right dimension. This isn’t a life or death situation, it’s simply something we are trying. Saying that, we then give ourselves permission to be a beginner. To suspend self judgment and just say yes.
We also surround ourselves with supportive people. People who encourage us to say yes and who are willing to provide us positive messages.
For too long I was surrounded either by indifference or by messages that confirmed my fears rather than bolstering feelings of an ability to learn.
It makes me realize how integral support is to all our endeavours. On the one hand is our willingness to try, but we also need people who are willing to be there and continue to offer calm assurances. Whether it’s skating or becoming an entrepreneur. We do better with support.
When I got the invitation for an evening of skating, I realized an important internal change. Primarily, a shift in perception.
I didn’t think of all the times it didn’t go well – a potential for failure. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity. I was under no illusion that I’d get on a pair of skates and be transformed into a gliding and graceful skater. It just doesn’t work that way, with anything new.
No, I knew that I’d be wobbly and slow and anxious. However, I also knew that my partner in the adventure would be kind and encouraging. That he would laugh right along with me and not give up. And that, if a tumble occurred, we’d take it together. Then, we’d get back up and start again.
Instead of worrying about what other people thought, I released myself from what researcher Amy Cuddy calls the “spotlight effect”.
I just concentrated on what I was doing knowing that for the most part, that’s what other skaters were also doing.
If anyone was watching, I suspect they were applauding my efforts, instead of condemning my skill. I know I do, when I see someone trying something new.
Realistically, there’s potential for falls and even injury. Some of that I can plan for, wearing a helmet if I like, or wearing extra layers to cushion any tumbles. Accepting the possibility doesn’t mean however that I use them as reasons not to try. That’s the fear of failure trying to get a foot hold.
My mindset has evolved with effort and practice. I’ve come to appreciate failure as a skill development issue, rather than a personal failure. That makes a huge difference in whether I continue to pursue the practice needed to become proficient. In this and any other new things I choose to try.
Many of us hold back on things we’d like to do because of a fear of failure. The more we say no, the harder it becomes to stretch ourselves in new directions. We risk not just complacency but also a less fulfilling and happy life.
There’s no certainty as to what you’ll find once you start down the path of opening to potential, other than the sheer “aliveness” that will come to find a home within you. I know how much my life has changed for the better, not because I am undertaking huge new adventures, but rather saying yes to more of the small ones.
So, what do you say? Yes, I hope. Here’s to you and all your adventures and the changes they bring to your life.