10 May Part 2: Lessons from my bicycle
Learning those hard lessons
I recently shared how hard it was for me to literally get back on the bicycle and learn to cycle again. Technically I wasn’t learning to ride all over again but after 30 years of not being on a bicycle, it sure felt like I was learning to ride and balance all over again. I love taking every day experiences and drawing correlations to the world of adult learning – a world I am deeply passionate about. So here are some lessons to take from my recent every day experiences:
It sucks to not be good at something – I keep telling myself that I know how to ride a bicycle and this leads to immense frustration that I can’t just hop on my bike and go. As learning leaders, we always tell the people we engage with, that it’s normal to first grapple a bit until you become fully competent and develop mastery at a skill. But when was the last time you were in the shoes of the learner and felt what it’s like to really suck at something. It feels terrible! Nobody likes feeling incompetent or incapable. I challenge you to try a new skill and feel what it feels like, to be the one person in the crowd who can’t do what everyone else is doing. It’s not a great feeling. Putting ourselves in this position as learning leaders, is a great reminder of what conscious incompetence feels like.
Empathy is essential – leading from the point above, it’s important to have empathy with the learners that we engage with. And importantly, we must show ourselves empathy on the learning journey. What do we do though? We become more self-critical almost as a way of inducing punishment to motivate ourselves. Why can’t I balance? What on earth is wrong with me? Others can, I can’t. It is very normal to ask these questions but don’t let it take over. Instead, acknowledge that these seeds of doubt are there but speak to yourself with a kind voice. Speak to yourself in the same manner that you would speak to your bestie if it was him/her/they trying to ride again. Empathy towards others is important. Empathy towards yourself is magical!
Developing competence takes time – there are no short cuts. You have to, quite literally, get back on the bike and cycle over and over again until it feels normal. The only way to get to a point of competence and mastery is to do it over and over again. The only way to get to the other end, is to persevere. This takes time but you will reap the rewards.
Comparison is the thief of joy – I also look at my children and how easily they seem to take off on their bikes. In general, children seem to have an ease about themselves when they are learning. They are focused on their own journey and are completely immersed in their own world, spending very little energy comparing themselves to others. I’m definitely taking a lesson from them on that point. Because as I admired other cyclists this weekend I kept wondering – what is wrong with me? Why isn’t it so easy for me? By doing this type of comparison, I am really robbing myself of the joy I might feel as I become curious about learning to cycle and balance all over again. I am robbing myself of the joy I might feel when I take time to celebrate every small milestone. Nothing is insignificant on this journey. And children will show you how to celebrate every milestone with glee!