The simple truth is that assuming we can’t solve a problem that frustrates us most likely won’t move us towards solving the actual problem that frustrates us.
However, by approaching a problem with the same curiosity of an explorer plotting her course across the Seven Seas, we may just find more than one route to its solution.
Had I approached the obstacle of learning to ride my bike the same way I approached learning to play the recorder in grade school, I never would have ridden my blue Raleigh dirt bike a single mile.
I couldn’t force myself into mastering either bike or recorder by thinking alone, but in retrospect my mindset towards the problem at hand determined the actions I took in each instance.
I was absolutely determined to ride a bike. That determination flowed into the repetitive action of getting on my bike, pumping the pedals, hoping for balance, falling off, skinning my knees and elbows, applying bandages, then getting back on my bike and doing it all over again. In this case, my mindset held that a fall was an invitation to try again. I literally learned to ride my bike by repeatedly failing to ride it.
Whereas, with the recorder my mindset held that I simply couldn’t do it AND that it was a WASTE OF TIME to even TRY. So instead of practicing, I became a master of coming up with reasons not to practice. Then when music class rolled around each week I sounded awful, which I used as proof that I’d never be good at playing the recorder. I was creating my own proof of ineptitude by choosing not to practice. Amazing little system I had going, huh?
To me, it became the absolute truth that I couldn’t play the recorder with any degree of skill.
But how true is that “TRUTH” of mine, really?
From the vantage point of where I am now, I realize I have no real way of knowing if I could have learned to play the recorder as successfully as I learned to ride a bike.
This realization is far different than saying “I can’t play the recorder.” as if it’s an undeniable truth.
It’s not always fun questioning our own questionable “truths” about ourselves. But it is liberating.
I now have the freedom to choose to take up the recorder again if I want to and that feels pretty darn good. Maybe I’ll try. Most likely not. But now I know I have other truths I deem “undeniable” that could use my reexamination.
How about you?
JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment. He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.
He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “Doing your Imperfect Best ™”.
His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.