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Replacing two little words can change your life

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When I teach dance, there is a strict rule in my class – never say “I can’t”.

At 3 or 4 years of age, little ones will explore and imitate movements and actions. They giggle happily, and if they don’t do it perfectly they giggle some more. Somewhere around 5 or 6, the dreaded “I can’t” begins to creep its way into their vocabulary. It hasn’t taken over yet, but it gives them some pause. At 8, “I can’t” is a dooming force that precedes almost everything new. As soon as something seems challenging, a child will exclaim “I can’t”. In my classes this is always met with a chorus of kids saying “oooooohhhhh” as if a bad word has been spoken, because it has. At this age, I have to offer coaching to get the child to truly give it a try. We replace “I can’t” with “I can do my best”, and remember that learning a new skill requires practice, so perfection is not expected.

Recently I taught a kids conditioning class where two teams of kids raced through an obstacle course to get to the soccer ball first and kick it through the cones. Sounded easy until I told them they had to do the whole course while balancing a bean bag on their heads. The 5-7 year old group was a little taken aback, but they went for it, and did a great job. The 8 and up age group immediately shut down, they didn’t think they could do it, and didn’t want to try. Some kids actually sat down and refused to participate. We went through with the activity as planned. The kids were dropping their bean bags constantly, and getting more and more frustrated. They were reinforcing their initial belief of “I can’t”. By the time everyone had their turn, most of the group was very upset and complaining about the activity. Once again, this age group required some coaching. We talked about replacing “I can’t” with “I can do my best”. Then we discussed the worst case scenario.

What is the worst thing that can happen? i-can

The bean bag will fall off my head.

What happens then?

Pick it up, and keep going.

Is this a big deal?

No.

Lastly, we talked about not taking ourselves so seriously. This is supposed to be fun, so let go, and have some fun. They decided to give it another chance. This time they really tried. The difference was amazing. They did such a better job, and they actually had fun.

We are programmed to avoid failure. It ensures the survival of our species. However, if we are not planning to out run a lion then this fear factor generally doesn’t serve our best interest, and actually prevents us from reaching our true potential.

Have you ever stopped yourself from giving it all before you even started? I know I have; many times. By breaking down blocks and beliefs buried deep down in my subconscious, I have been able to open myself to so many more opportunities. This summer when we had the opportunity to move our family to a new state, leave our community of 20 years, and start all over again my knee jerk reaction was a bit of a pull back – we can’t do that. Why can’t we do that? It will probably be hard. So? What worth having isn’t hard? So we went for it, and are so happy we did. Was it easy? No, but what worth having is? It took a lot of work to reset my mindset and subconscious beliefs to get to this point, but it sure is exciting and gratifying to fully live life.

Be on the lookout for your “I can’ts”. They come in many disguises “it’s not possible”, “I don’t know enough”, “limited resources”, and so on. Then begin to imagine what it would be like to be those kids with the bean bags. Replace “I can’t” with “I can do my best”. Conquer perfection paralysis by picking up that dropped bean bag, and keep going. Enjoy yourself and the moments, and don’t take yourself so seriously.

One of the kids in the class decided that she would dance around like a fluffy, pink unicorn on a rainbow cloud so that she didn’t take herself so seriously. That seems like sound advice to me, give it a try 🙂

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