Initially, there’s a high probability you will lose your balance when learning to ride a 2-wheel bicycle. Also, there’s a high probability that you will fall off the bike and land on the pavement. Ouch. So, what will you do next?
Right now, many of you parent, teach, or coach young people doing life events for the first time: learning to ride bicycles, play sports, attend kindergarten. Their experiences just may be a reflection on how much you, yourself, are focusing on being perfect, personally and professionally.
Are you superimposing your own historical experiences and biases onto what they, themselves, experience and try to communicate to you? Or are you doing the best possible job being purposefully present? How will you show up in those messy, less-than-perfect moments, particularly for the people in your life whom you mentor?
I learned all about being purposefully present – which means not having any of the right questions or answers at all – from a 6-year old a few years ago.
One of my sons practiced riding a 2-wheel bicycle in the basement throughout one winter. He was 6 and was tired of getting pressured at school about the fact that he couldn’t ride a bike yet. After all, he was so athletically proficient in sports that this bike thing was bothering him – although he didn’t tell me. He created his training program and dutifully followed it, night after night, after dinner. First, he started with training wheels, rapidly progressing to one training wheel. Then, there were no training wheels: he was a 2-wheeler ace in the basement.
Finally, I asked him what was up with the clandestine basement biking. He looked at me and replied: “Mom. I’m going to be 6 years old. I do not want other people watching me fall off learning to ride my bike. I want to go out and ride perfectly in the Spring, not just practice. All my friends already know how to ride.”
OK, I could understand things a bit better. So I probed a bit further. Why this goal of perfection rather than practicing (to make perfect, as the saying goes??) To his young eyes, he observed me attaining (not continuously putting in the work and practicing to attain) consistent professional perfection in my performance. Thus, for him, the message was clear: settling for anything less than perfect was unacceptable. Hmmm …
Maybe it is time to take a step back and cut yourselves some slack about focusing on how you define being perfect. This focus can impede your being purposefully present in bringing out the best in others as well as yourselves. The true focus may be more about being perfectly imperfect than you and I realize.
Recently, I was sitting around the adult table with a younger colleague at a children’s birthday party. My colleague shared with me that her 5-year old daughter was learning to ride a 2-wheel bicycle and had recently taken a hard fall. Despite parental encouragement to get back on that bike, the little girl remained reluctant to try again. So I told her the story about my own son. Then, I asked whether it was possible that her amazing and delightful daughter was focusing on being perfect? What did her daughter see in her mind’s eye: was she riding in front of an audience, real or imagined? Perhaps taking her daughter to a BMX or skate park might allow her to “see” other kids learning how to be perfectly imperfect: that getting to the next level of complexity often involved taking the risk of trying, falling, learning, and practicing. The goal of these athletes was gaining master while embracing the risk of looking less than perfect to themselves (and observers).
Sometimes giving ourselves permission to fall off the bicycle is precisely the goal when moving forward within the continuous complexity of what is new, next, and changing. Often, what matters most each day is respecting the value of being perfectly imperfect (and imperfectly perfect) to our highest abilities. So go head. Wobble on that professional bicycle. Even stumble during new scenarios. Often, becoming purposefully present is accomplished by trying and choosing to practice something new out in the open. Then, realizing the goal is about moving forward one millimeter at a time, together, to get to where you really need to go.
Catalyzing you to be ahead of what is new, next, and continuously changing. | Professional Innovation | Cross Functional Leadership | Complex Problem Solving | Speaker, Consultant, Coach |
- Need to stop spinning your wheels professionally? Searching for a speaker focused on doing the smallest things with the biggest impact to get you towards what is new and next? Then engage me to present a One Millimeter Mindset ™ program! Delivered virtually or in-person.
One Millimeter Mindset® programs catalyze professional innovation, cross functional leadership, and Change. Move beyond relying on current professional tools and mindset to define you. Focus on 3 Core Questions, 4 Change Agreements, and 5 Professional Whys. Become more professionally visible, cross-functionally relevant, and strategically valuable to your clients, colleagues and yourself. My playbook of cross-functional collaboration, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com. Contact me here. Image source: Getty Images.