I hated yogurt, or at least I thought I did, until I became a brave heart.
Now, I like yogurt. But I didn’t know I did until recently, because I refused to try it for my entire adult life. Why? For some reason I had already made up my mind that I would not like it. I was afraid it would taste disgusting.
How many of us can admit something like that about not trying?
Why are we afraid to try?
We can be rather creative about all the reasons we invent for not trying new things.
- We fear we might get injured.
- We fear we might be emotionally hurt or embarrassed.
- We fear we might fail at something and affirm our perceived incompetence.
- We fear any number of unpleasant results, including something will taste bad or smell bad.
I’m guilty of using all of the above.
Try it; you might like it
For years I thought line dancing looked stupid. I convinced myself that I was above it, and refused to try it.
Then I met Cyndi, a dance instructor, and she encouraged me to try it. Heck, I’m a boot-scooting dude now. I enjoy every step of it, and you know what? I don’t care how stupid I might look, ’cause I’m having a blast.
Don’t use fear as an excuse
I have my limits. I won’t try something that I’m physically incapable of doing, which also might result in my demise. Mountain climbing, crocodile wrestling, milking venomous snakes, and base jumping are a few examples (although I think I would enjoy base jumping).
However, many fear to try because they exaggerate the possible bad consequences of doing so. If you are in that category, I encourage you to get real about what the fear actually is, and ask yourself what you can do to lessen it. Get in better physical shape, take lessons, be honest about why you are afraid to try.
Take it from me. You won’t look stupid, and you will be proud of yourself that you took the first step by trying.
“Will this be on the test?” Students would ask me, during my days as a university assistant professor. My stock answer was that if it was important enough to include in my lessons, it could be on the test. It was definitely worth learning.
We do live in a world of just in time learning. We want to know when we need to know. That approach also means we are in a state of stress (a.k.a. internal conflict) when we realize something is in jeopardy because of our ignorance. OMG!! I DON’T KNOW HOW. PLEASE, SOMEONE SHOW ME HOW!!!!!
Just in time learning–really now
Most of the training I have done in my career has been that kind–just in time before things get out of hand, and just enough–but no more–than absolutely necessary. I’ve lost count of how many times a company asked me to change a lifetime of employee bad habits in a two hour block. Sorry. Won’t happen. But I’ve tried.
There’s another problem with that.
When we are in stress, our ability to think and learn is inhibited. The stress hormones pulsing through our bodies get in the way of rational thinking. Taking time to learn ahead of the need is more effective, and the learning has time to find its way into our long term memory. That’s also why studying a little every day is more effective than cramming the night before an exam.
Why take time to learn when you can just Google it?
He didn’t have time to Google how to crash land a jetliner when both engines go out. All those passengers walked away because Sully had spent hundreds of hours learning how to handle that situation just in case. He wanted to know so that if, and when, he needed to know, he would not have to deal with the added stress of learning and applying a new skill in the moment of crisis.
A positive stress
When you want to know, you might put yourself in uncomfortable situations. The difference is that you choose to do so on your terms. The life-long learner does just that. They seek new information and new experiences to satisfy their own curiosity and to prepare themselves for the unpredictable. There is actually joy in that experience, and it fosters self-confidence. Who knows; it might show up as heroic someday.
Worst fear of all
I am an idea guy. I like to do big things.
Through trial and error I’ve learned to mesh the big idea with the small steps. Like many who have come to their senses about this, before I jump head-long into a big project, I spend some time thinking about the small steps I must take to get it done.
Little by little
The value of the small step is that I can often do it quickly, and I can tell that I have done it. Check it off the list: done. And that feels real good. There’s an immediate reward and a sense of both accomplishment and momentum.
When I was younger I wanted to write books, but I didn’t know how, and it seemed like a pipe dream that was out of reach for me. Now, I’ve written four with a fifth one in the works. I write and self-publish all my training courses and certify instructors to present them. I blog. I podcast. And I’m helping to grow a network of Millennial leaders emerging onto the scene across Oklahoma.
How do I get all this done? One step at a time.
Do I have every step identified and planned out? No way! But I have a pretty good idea of what needs to get done. I know what I can do now, and I do it.
First things first
Sometimes I realize that I needed to do something else first. I learn from the mistake, which causes me to review my list and see if there are any other instances of overlooked first steps. After going through that a few times, it’s become more automatic for me to pause and ask if there is anything I need to do first, so I can accomplish that task effectively and not waste time and resources.
You see, when ever you set out to do anything, there is usually something else that needs to be done first. Another small step.
I’ve learned that several small steps add up to a significant milestone. Like in my writing, I sketch out an overview of where I want the story to end up. I chunk the story into smaller bits and make some notes about what the scenes might be. I make some notes about plot, the sequence of the scenes, and characters involved. Then I get started and see what happens. I tweak as I go.
Before too long, I have the story pretty well shaped. Then I go back and revise.
Small steps. Getting even the smallest next step done is a thrill. And that goes to my basic approach to everything, which is to finish the day a little better off than when I started it.