When a baby begins to take his first steps, he often falls many times. However, if you ever watch a baby attempting these first steps, you will see that he does not seem to stop and think about his fall. He does not see it as a failure. He is not embarrassed that he fell. He does not criticize himself nor does he compare himself to others in the room. He is simply in the moment. After he falls, he pauses briefly and collects himself. Then he turns his attention back to what motivated him to move forward in the first place. He pushes or pulls himself back up to standing, and then he tries to take another step. He has a goal in sight, and he knows the only way to get to that goal is to move towards it. How do others react around this baby while he is in this learning stage? They support him. They do not laugh each time he falls. In fact, the baby is often encouraged to get up right away and start again. And what happens along the way as he takes another step? Each one is celebrated. The people around the baby delight in every one of his small accomplishments. The baby sees the happy smiles, and in turn, smiles as well. It is a joyous process even though it is full of stumbling and falls. As a result of this process and all his attempts, the baby will eventually gain enough experience to walk on his own.
Now fast forward to an adult trying to take those first difficult steps towards something. Maybe someone is trying to adopt a new healthy habit such as exercising a few times a week, learning to meditate, or eliminating junk food from his diet. Maybe the person is trying to overcome a fear, a limiting belief, or an addiction. The person takes a few steps forward toward his goal, but then something causes him to have a bad day and he gets off track. When this happens, the adult acts very differently than the baby would.
Too often, when an adult meets an obstacle and stumbles, he is embarrassed or ashamed. He may criticize himself because he believes that he has failed. During those difficult moments, the adult might be unkind to himself. He might talk to himself in ways that he would never talk to a friend or a loved one. He may contemplate giving up because he thinks that his goal is unattainable.
We all experience challenges in life. So why do we not give ourselves more grace when we stumble a bit? Why are we so quick to give up on ourselves and the goals we want to achieve? What if we had done that when we were young? We would have never learned to walk. We would have stopped after those first few falls and thought that all was simply impossible. But we did not. We kept going forward. We did not let our thoughts and fears stop us.
As adults, we need to remember that not much has changed since those days when we took our first steps with regards to what we are capable of. We have always had the ability to get back up after we fall. At some points in our lives, we have all stumbled, but we learned how to pause and then continue forward. These abilities and this inner strength are already present within each of us. We simply need to remember the prior obstacles that we faced and how we eventually learned to overcome them. We need to remember how in those same difficult moments, we thought we might never be able to achieve our goals. Most importantly, we need to remind ourselves how we called upon hard work, courage, vulnerability, strength, and persistence to overcome those challenges. How did we feel when we were finally successful after reaching our goal?
We need to remember that forming new habits and ways of thinking is difficult. Change is difficult. This is what makes it essential for us to celebrate each of our small accomplishments along the way towards our goal. In addition, we need to acknowledge how brave we are for even starting our journey.
Stumbling in life is normal and inevitable, and each of these stumbles in life is a lesson for us. They teach us about ourselves, and they show us how strong and resilient we really are. At the end of the day, we need to recognize that each time we stumble, we are simply practicing how to get back up and move forward again.