To celebrate my little girl’s birthday, and the launch of “Could I Do That?“, I wanted to share a short story. This little passage comes from “Could I Do That?” and shows me why some people achieve almost anything they set out to do, and some don’t. I hope it’s of value.
A Tale Of Two Sisters.
Once upon a time there were two sisters, one aged six and the other five. As with many children of their age, these two bundles of loveliness were learning to ride their bicycles. Their Daddy (that’s me if you hadn’t already worked it out) had taken the bold step of removing the stabilisers (a.k.a. training wheels). One sunny afternoon in May the two excited girls, and their rather nervous Daddy, were out in the yard with the bicycles. Their epic mission; to ride on their own, without any help at all! Now that’s quite a challenge.
Let me give you a little insight into the two sisters. Like many siblings, they are like chalk and cheese. Although their challenge was the same, their approach to it was very different. The slightly older of the two tends to be the quieter, calmer one. She also tends to listen and consider things before trying them out. In many ways, the younger sister is the more physically capable and athletic. As well as being physically strong, she is also strong willed and has a noticeable stubborn streak (which she gets from her Mum – not me, honest). The youngest of the pair tends to be more impetuous. She prefers to get stuck in and try it first, rather than listening and considering. Sometimes this works for her, sometimes it doesn’t.
As they started out, the two girls had a very similar level of ability. They were both very wobbly and needed a lot of support to begin with. They took it in turns to ride along with Daddy supporting them. Their Daddy gave them exactly the same advice – keep peddling and steer. Neither of the sisters took to it straight away; they both tried with varying degrees of success. One sister got upset when things didn’t work out quickly. She started to get frustrated and irritated when she was offered advice. She didn’t want to learn how to ride her bike, she just wanted to be able to do it.
The second sister approached things differently. She would give it a go and actively tried to follow the advice. Inevitably it wouldn’t work first time, or second, but she would make a few changes and go again. Often she’d say, “oh, that was closer, I think I’m getting better” and “I almost did it”. She was engaged in the process of learning and understood that she was making progress, however small. Unlike her younger sister, she didn’t view this as ‘black and white’, ‘all or nothing’ or ‘success and failure’. You will not be surprised to hear that after a little while she began to cycle independently. It was just a meter or so at first, but gradually became three meters, five meters, ten meters… and she was off. “Daddy I can do it, I’m cycling on my own”.
Those innocent words were like a red rag to a bull. The fact that her older sister could now ride her bike made the younger one more determined to succeed. Unfortunately, her determination was also accompanied by impatience. She tried, didn’t succeed, tried again and still didn’t succeed. The younger sister was focused on the ‘black and white’, the ‘all or nothing’. She wasn’t looking for glimmers of progress, so she didn’t see them. As far as she could see, she had nothing and her sister had everything. She was trying again and again, but still had nothing. Her frustration compounded. After a few attempts she broke down in tears. “I’m the worst bike rider in the whole wide universe, and my bike is the worst bike ever”. In her eyes she’d failed. She concluded that her sister was just better at riding a bike. It’s almost as if her sister had received this amazing gift from on high, and she hadn’t. “It’s just not fair”.
It’s tough as a parent to see your beloved little ones tying themselves in knots, but it illustrates how differently humans take on challenges. It shows how our perceptions of success and failure impact upon us. It shows what happens when we focus on the process as opposed to outcomes, on progress rather than hard results. Are we engaged in the journey, or only interested in the destination? Can we celebrate “almost”, or is that failure?
Have a great day!