April 25th, 2012
Bananas and Personal Growth
Just this past weekend, you started saying “nana” in clear and obvious connection to bananas. About three weeks ago, you started obsessively saying “Dada” specifically in connection to Dada (And I say obsessively only because you decided to start with Dada. Had you chosen not to break your mother’s heart and start with “Mama,” perhaps I would have used the word “enthusiastically” or even “excitedly.” But, meh, what are you gonna do?). A few days after “Dada,” you included a meaningful “Mama” to the mix! So, to review…You are 16 months old. Your verbal language includes: Mama, Dada, nana, a guttural version of vroom-vroom for car, quack (which was your first word), “ugh, ugh” for woof, woof and a staccato high pitched “ah, eh” to mimic when we say Ai-den. Your sign language includes: milkies, more, eat, all done, help, please, tired and as of yesterday, thank you.
So….what on earth, Mama, does you saying “nana” have to do with personal growth? Well, Mama has a really cool job. It’s hard to explain. But sufficed to say that I support people as they grow to become their best selves. I know, right? Like I said, I have a really cool job. Anyway, I’ve been paying close attention to you lately. How you are learning, how you are trying, how you are celebrating. And I’ve been paying close attention to Dada and I lately too. How we are supporting your learning, how we are encouraging your trying and how we are helping you celebrate. Here’s the thing Aiden. I support other people to grow and become even better. But not because I have the answers; but because I have the passion. I don’t have the answers and just like everyone else, I am also always on my own road to growing and improving myself. And I have had many exceptional teachers. My favourite one these days? You guessed it!! It’s you, my sweet little monkey!! Here’s what you’re teaching me about personal growth.
You will be more successful if you follow your own passion- not the road that somebody else paves for you. And trust me. I worked hard to guide you towards having “Mama” be your first word. That was my road. My passion. My plan. Let me make you two promises. Promise #1- this will not be the last time that I try to guide you towards my plan for you. Depending on where you are in your life, you may just shake your head at me and think it’s cute. “Oh Mama. Please. I got this.” Other times, you will be flat out discouraged and offended by my interference in your journey. Promise #2- my intentions in guiding you towards certain goals will ALWAYS be honourable. They will ALWAYS be based in the deepest and most genuine level of love that has ever existed. So, as we experience these moments, I promise to do my best to remind myself that even at 16 months of age, you had to pave your own road. So long as you promise to do your best to remind yourself of where my behaviour is coming from. And I will be reminded of this lesson as I work with women to support them in their own self improvement journeys. You do not need to discount or ignore the perspectives of others in your life. But do tease out your passion and purpose from the gentle nudging you have received from others so that you can be assured of the authorship of your journey and increase your likelihood of success.
You have to start somewhere. You still have the fearlessness and naiveté that children so often have to just give it a go. I mean, what do you know of failure, or of being made fun of, or of grading systems that tell you your attempt was either a resounding success or an utter failure? All you know right now is that, if you don’t try, you won’t know. So, when I say “Can you say Ai-den?” and you rhythmically say “eh, eh,” you have no shame. You don’t think to yourself, “Wow, that’s not even close. Next time Mama asks me if I can say Aiden, I’m just gonna say Mama and hope that makes her happy enough not to bug me anymore.” You don’t judge yourself, shake your head in frustration, refuse to try again. I swear, when you say “eh, eh,” I can see it in your eyes. You are saying to me “I want to say Aiden. But I have to start somewhere. And eh, eh is what I can give right now.” How I wish that we kept that same attitude as we got older. You don’t know this yet Aiden. But fears creep in. Fears of ridicule, rejection, failure. They can be so debilitating that people don’t even try. Can you even understand that? People will want something incredibly badly but won’t even try. They don’t even start. One of the women in my current coaching group is trying to live within the perspective of, just start somewhere and trust that you will get there. Aiden, you already know this. Try with everything you have to hold on to this knowledge. It will serve you well as your future unfolds.
We must surround ourselves with people who will help us celebrate the start and the step rather than the obvious final outcome. We talk a lot in the growth and development world about the inherent strength of intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation. We talk about it so much that I think we sometimes confuse need for support and encouragement with extrinsic motivation. Aiden, when you say “nana” and Dada and I clap our hands, raise our voices and say “Good job Aiden,” you light up. You feel supported. You are learning that your genuine attempts and starts are celebrated…as they should be. You are encouraged to try again, and again. We aren’t going to wait until the day that you say banana. We are going to celebrate and encourage your first attempt and let you know that we are proud of “nana.” And as you grow and continue to try new things, don’t you ever feel less than or weak or needy if you need those around you to celebrate you and your attempts. In fact, surround yourself with those people. Right now, you are as pure a soul as you will ever be. Unwritten on by experience. Unknowing of “right” or “wrong” behaviour. And your pure and honest reaction to support and encouragement is joy and the desire to try again. It feels good and that’s ok. As adults, when we are making genuine and honest attempts at growth and development, we also deserve support and encouragement, and not only for the final outcome, but for the start and the step. Thanks for reminding me about the power of encouragement. It will help me better at my job.