Successful Learning Curves

Learning curves – imagine being in a constant learning curve. Think back to a time you were in a new situation, perhaps a job, having a baby, living in a new city, something big that was major in your life. Nothing was familiar or if it was familiar it wasn’t known, it just had aspects of familiarity – for example you have shopped at a certain market chain before but not this exact store in this new city that is laid out differently. It is harder, longer and sometimes frustrating to just shop for a few things for dinner. Everything takes more time. The basic, simple things in life take more time. You know you are an intelligent, competent person and yet you feel incompetent most of the time. It doesn’t make sense. You see others navigating themselves around with ease and yet you are struggling, each day it is like learning the basics all over again. The mass of new information – new people, new places, new systems, new smells, new sounds, new ways to do things you thought you knew how to do – makes remembering it all, all at once, a lost cause and you get bits and pieces but they don’t fit all together. It takes courage to start each day and some days it is just too much. It becomes a No Way, Not Today; today I want to hide, kind of day. Appetite and sleep can be affected as well as just every day productivity and absolutely self-esteem. You’ve had those times, right? I think we have all been there.

Recently I have found myself in just this situation. I tell myself daily I am competent even though there are countless times I am not feeling or even acting competent. I can be hard on myself so I remind myself I am capable and the learning curve will be surmounted step by step. I have done it before, I can do it again even if it takes longer than I want it to or think it should. Patience, a sense of humor, and an experience of “I can, I have succeeded” allows me to get through even those No Way, Not Today days.

What would happen, I wonder, if I didn’t have that reservoir of experience of success? What if I just had experiences of what I thought of as failure? What if I couldn’t count on myself? I have a much better understanding of how hard it would be to keep going; how easy it would be to dig my heels in, be resistant, “oppositional,” blaming or distracted. I have a new understanding of the importance of acknowledging small, even tiny, wins. Because those seemingly insignificant wins can feel like huge accomplishments and they build the reservoir – drop by drop – so it can sustain me when I am experiencing my own personal drought. Sometimes I can do it for myself and other times it is really nice when someone reminds me of what I am doing well, even if it is a small thing. For a younger person, someone without multiple personal experiences of success (not what other people think they should feel, but what they truly feel inside themselves), acknowledgement of specific wins and their value builds that support base inside of them. So often when something is easy or second nature to us, we don’t realize how truly challenging it can be for others. I am learning that it doesn’t matter if I think something “shouldn’t” be challenging for someone, if it is part of a learning curve, particularly a big, multifaceted one, I just need to be compassionate and find ways to help develop that internal reservoir with that person so that one day they will be able to reach into it and make a No Way, Not Today day into a I Did It Anyway kind of day.

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