Learning from a Toddler


Photocredit:Alexander Dummer

This past week, I have been reflecting on a recent discussion with a friend about how Intentional Health is in a ‘toddler’ phase:

No longer in its infancy, discovering how to stand on its own two feet and walking unsteadily with small, baby steps, whilst at the same time, often wanting to run on way ahead of what it is capable of!

As I watched a toddler play over the weekend, I was reminded of just how much joy there is in this toddling phase of life.

Everything is seen as a huge adventure playground; an opportunity to learn and discover new things, and of course, to ‘get it wrong’. Thankfully, because a toddler’s centre of gravity is still low down, ‘falling over’ isn’t too traumatic! In fact, it is a normal part of life and something adults usually make a game of and celebrate to encourage more baby steps!

I then thought about how different ‘getting it wrong’ or ‘falling over’ can be in later life, and about how it is not readily celebrated because the expectation is that we “really ought to have learned and grown up by now”.

As a result, our worldview changes and instead of being full of joy and learning in our baby steps, we end up feeling shame, inadequacy and ridicule.

We give up trying new things, for fear of failing and instead, we listen to lies about how we are not good enough, clever enough, rich enough, patient enough, generous enough, disciplined enough, certainly not as good as them, the list goes on…

We believe these lies and accept that it might be best to stay safe, in our comfort zone, believe 'they' know best and just do nothing.  After all, it is much easier to do nothing, because doing something, anything requires ownership, humility and effort on my part, and that often requires courage!

Of course, it is true and healthy to put away our childish ways and grow up.  And growing up also requires an acceptance that we are not perfect, we will probably make mistakes and will definitely  ‘fall over’ if we try and walk before we can run.

I would also argue that it is good to remember we can’t always expect to get something ‘right’ straight off or have knowledge or mastery if we have never understood or experienced it before.  Does that mean it is better to do nothing, to not take any steps, rather than try and get it wrong? That doesn’t require much courage.

When I listen to lies about how I might not ‘be enough’, I become trapped in my shame, fear and focused on my inadequacies.

Negativity and lies paralyse me. Lies cause me to not take any baby steps and certainly do not motivate me to change! Listening to lies also means I miss out on opportunities to grow, learn something new, overcome life's obstacles and really live life to the full.

When I see friends, family, colleagues become paralysed or give up from listening to these lies and ‘falling over’ in shame and fear, I have a unique opportunity to be even more courageous. I can challenge those lies on their behalf, by encouraging them to celebrate just how many baby steps they have taken and call out the amazing and good things about each of us… of which there is always more 'good' than we might dare to believe!

A toddler has very little shame and fear, learns lots and has an abundance of joy!

Shame and fear will cripple us of our joy and make it really hard for us to make any progress, grow or develop. I wonder if this is because instead of taking ownership for the tiny steps we are able to take - we become paralysed in accepting the lie that we probably are not enough, which leads us to settle and give up.

This week, I am going to choose to focus on what it might look like to grow up, to take full responsibility and ownership of any areas of my life I can control, let go of the things I can’t and become a little more courageous in taking a few more baby steps. Will you join me?

I believe that only then, will we be ready to make the changes that lead to a life of joy, a life in all its fullness and celebrate all that we have learned and achieved so far! 

This week at Intentional Health we have taken more toddler steps and launched our new website! It is not perfect and there are some things that still aren’t quite working properly yet, but we are getting it out - so please bear with us, and encourage us as we learn and develop something new!