One day my older daughter came home from school, excited to show us that she had just learned how to do cartwheels. Beverly demonstrated this new ability several times, making it look easy. Her younger sister, Suzanne, wanted to try doing cartwheels, too. But each time she tried she fell over sideways, and after a few attempts she stopped trying.
Watching from the kitchen window, I saw her disappointment. Quickly drying my hands, I went out to her.
“I can’t do cartwheels,” she said, visibly upset.
“Oh, I’m sure you can! It just takes practice.”
Bev told us how: “Try to picture where your body is when it’s in the air. Think about where you want your legs to be, and how you want to land.” We all tried it together.
Sue and I landed in a crumpled heap. Sue laughed at seeing her Mom try something only kids usually do.
We kept at it. Finally we both did cartwheels, keeping our legs straight and landing cleanly. Bev congratulated us on our success.
Such a small moment in our lives. But what a powerful impact that learning experience had for me!
Weeks later I was offered the position of Director of a small museum and art gallery on an interim basis. I had very little experience, having worked there only part time for a few months the previous year. I also had no office experience, let alone administrative experience. And new exhibits were coming into the gallery! My first reaction was to refuse.
Then I remembered the cartwheel experience. Was everything really that simple? I wondered.
If so, then I could break the museum job down into a few basic steps. I needed to understand what was required of me, visualize how that could be done and then put those proceesses into effect.
In the six months that I was Interim Director I used every resource at hand. My volunteers were women who had retired from various professional positions and one of them set up the office administration. When she reviewed the system with me we fine tuned it together.
When I found an infestation in one of the permanent displays, I conferred with a UBC professor who advised me on how to deal with the current problem and prevent future similar issues.
Professionals from other galleries gave me advice on hanging, lighting and installing exhibits.
Did I celebrate this success? I’m not sure, so probably not. Yet that is what experts tell us to do.
A celebration is an acknowledgement that actively reinforces our understanding of our ability to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.
The rite of celebration ensures that we will be more confident, ready and even eager to accept the next challenge.
What are your recent successes?
Maybe it was something very simple like phoning to get the interest rate on your credit card reduced. Were you polite, positive, and interacting well with the agent on the phone?
Perhaps it was a successful coffee date with a friend. Did you listen attentively and engage with their train of thought?
Or maybe it was something more difficult, like taking a test which required weeks of preparation, or completing a long-term project. What steps did you take to help make success possible?
However simple or complex, when you do well, acknowledge your success!
We can tend to focus on what went wrong. When you do so, learn from it! What will you do differently next time?
As when doing cartwheels, looking at why you failed is important to the next success. Temporary failure is only a negative if you get stuck on blaming yourself.
Instead, think of what you could have done differently, and visualize it happening. Just like having floppy legs when doing cartwheels, acknowledge the problem, clearly imagine the adjustments you will make, and move on.
When we focus upon and acknowledge our achievements we help to ensure many more successes in the future!