JOY Blog

Be a Beginner
January 21, 2016By Royann Bold

Explorer takes a breather by Ruth Hartnup on Flickr under CC BY 2.0

As adoring first-time grandparents residing in the Midwest whose dear granddaughter lives on the East Coast, we cherish FaceTime chats and weekly video messages that fly through space and time to land on our cell phones.  

I recently got one of those videos. After gushing through my usual “awwws” and “too cute” reactions, I saw much more that got me thinking about beginnings.

In this video, titled "Sitting," I can hear my granddaughter’s mommy telling her to “go show Daddy how you sit on your stool.” She proceeds, while babbling to herself and dragging her favorite toy bunny, to walk over to a tiny wooden footstool less than 12 inches off the ground.  Once there, she pivots and does a semi-yoga downward dog, putting her hands on the floor to get positioned to sit.  

As she lands her bottom on the stool, she’s off just enough to start tipping over the stool, but in the nick of time--and with encouraging words from Mommy to “keep trying”--she stands up, repositions herself and sits squarely in the middle of the stool, all the while keeping a tight grip on bunny.  She announces “There!” in a most satisfied tone, letting out a big sigh that makes her sweet wispy brown bangs fly straight up in the air.  Mission accomplished…a perfect 10 on the second landing!

As much as I adore watching and re-watching this dear little girl do such cute things, I marvel that this single simple act of sitting down is something she was curious enough to try and fail at a number of times before she figured out how to get in just the right position to land her bottom on that little stool.  Everything in her body had to work in unison to complete the task, with many hits, misses and plops on the floor along the way.

We can learn much watching babies and toddlers try, fail and try again to master their physical surroundings, all while they are going through their own growth spurts.  God-given natural curiosity drives their desire to try new things.

Unfortunately, that’s a trait we somehow lose as we enter adulthood. We fear failure, which suppresses our desire to try things we feel uncomfortable with.

Think about it. When’s the last time when you as an adult took a spill or fell down flat? Those incidents are not only hard on your body, they are downright embarrassing.  When this happened, did you jump up and look around to see if anyone noticed?  And if you were able to go unnoticed, did you feel relieved...and completely shook up?  

Why are we so afraid to fall or to be seen falling? Is it because we want to be looked at as graceful, self-assured and confident in our abilities?  All that certainly goes out the window when we go down in a heap.  

German theologian Meister Eckhart has a quote that spoke to me regarding these tendencies: “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” Every morning a baby is willing to begin again to learn something new and to master their physical surroundings.  Likewise, we need to be willing to try and risk failing at whatever it is.  

So throw aside your fears, surround yourself with encouragement and give it a try! As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” As the New Year ramps up, recognize that we once were all babies and failed many times before we figured out how to do whatever we were trying. And take inspiration from a little girl who tries and tries again until she’s sitting (with her very favorite companion) on a tiny wooden stool, exclaiming, “There!”

How do you recognize and conquer your own fear of failure that may be keeping you from moving forward in your life?

Royann Bold has lived in North Dakota her whole life and is a prairie girl at heart. She and her husband are empty nesters, having seen their three sons take flight to three different states. She also recently retired from the 8 to 5 grind, and is awash in pursuing her interests of writing, reading, volunteering and lifelong learning. She thoroughly is enjoying her free time to participate in Bible and book studies. Read more articles by Royann.

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