I’m currently watching my six month old daughter on the floor, pushing her top half up with her hands, hoisting her bottom up over her knees and trying over and over again to get her hands and legs coordinated enough to give her some forward motion. Sometimes she manages to do a little bit of a seal crawl where she scoots forward and falls on her chest. Other times her arms push her backward and she ends up losing ground. The only thing that remains constant is that so far, she hasn’t given up. She hasn’t even become discouraged. She just tries again, over, and over and over, and like every able-bodied human before her, she will learn to crawl, and then walk, and she’ll forget all about the struggle that I’m witnessing right now.
Often times I encourage her, sitting 2 feet away with my arms outstretched, saying “Come to Mommy!,” cheering her on, telling her she can do it. She smiles, revealing two tiny white peaks poking out of her gums, sticks her tongue out, saturating her chin with drool, and rocks back and forth like a revving engine.
It doesn’t bother me that she goes absolutely nowhere, because I know, in time, she’ll come, and then eventually she’ll follow me everywhere like Mary’s little lamb. It's the reality of virtually every able-bodied human.
In my observations I've noticed several qualities that allow her to work toward and accomplish her goals. Here are eight:
- Optimism - Doubt is simply not in my daughter’s vocabulary (well, nothing is at her age, but you get the idea.) When I watch her, there is no indication that she doesn’t think she can do whatever it is she’s trying to do. She fully believes that the best will happen. If we truly live like we believe the best will happen, chances are, it will.
- Patience - It doesn’t matter how many times she face plants, she always gets up and tries again. She never complains about not being able to do something immediately. Yes, there are moments of frustration, but she never gives up. We need to be comfortable with not knowing how to do something. It's ok to be a beginner and cut ourselves some slack. We should be kind to ourselves, especially when we're learning something new.
- Focus - My daughter has no desire to jump or write or ride a bike, though she’s seen all these things demonstrated. She’s focused on just one thing: crawling. Because she’s so laser focused, she will achieve her goal in no time, and be on to the next step. She doesn’t try to skip ahead or do too many things at once, and as a result she makes steady forward progress.
- Fearlessness - Of course she’ll cry out if she feels afraid or threatened, but when it comes to sitting up, crawling, or pulling herself up to stand, she does not let fear of failure hold her back. If she did, she would still be an immobile blob (a cute immobile blob, but an immobile blob nevertheless) There would be no growth.
- Dependence - It's true that most parents want to raise their children to be able to take care of themselves, but this can backfire when we start to believe that we're somehow weak or defective if we can't do everything on our own. My daughter knows she can't do everything herself and isn’t afraid to ask (or scream) for help when she needs it. It's ok to need help and it's ok to ask for it. No one does it alone, and those who achieve success in whatever they strive for often have a support system behind them.
- Pride in accomplishment - It doesn't matter if she scoots herself 1 inch or 100 inches. She's proud of what she does and enjoys her accomplishments even though her main objective is not yet realized. "Not good enough" is another phrase that's not in her vocabulary. Likewise, we should celebrate a win no matter how small because it stands for progress. It keeps us motivated to keep reaching for our big goals.
- Sense of Boundary - My daughter knows her limits. She pushes herself, but she's quick to pull back and rest when she's had enough, and she feels absolutely no shame in doing so. Somehow we've been fed a lie that slowing down and self-care are signs of weakness when it's really a sign of maturity that we know and care about ourselves enough to say "Enough."
- A never-ending desire to progress - I know that once she starts crawling, she'll want to stand. Once she stands, she'll want to walk. Once she walks she'll want to run,, and jump, and climb and swim. Work is something we need to do to stay happy. What that looks like for each of us is vastly different, but there should always be something more for which to strive. That doesn’t mean the same thing as being constantly busy. Some of our greatest work happens when we slow down and create space and quiet.
We all have things we want to accomplish. Maybe we want to pursue higher education, get married, buy a house, sell a house, find a new job, start a business, travel the world, pay off our debt, get rid of stuff we no longer want or need…
Whatever you're hoping for right now, your dream won’t be realized with this article. Nothing you read will be a magic bullet, but maybe it would do us some good to tap into who we were when we were just getting started on this planet, before we made huge mistakes, before people told us we couldn't, before we suffered loss. We were all babies once. We all believed in ourselves enough to push up off the floor, deny that gravity that threatened to keep us down and MOVE. We kept moving until it was second nature to walk, run and jump. We did it, and we can do it again, with kindness and compassion for ourselves, joy in our accomplishments, laser focus, an understanding of our limits, and undying optimism.