Baby steps (sourced on November 2, 2023)

We are all in such a hurry to “be there”, to have arrived. There is little patience in our crazy hamster-wheel-of-a-culture for the small increment, the piece-by-piece, the growth mindset that allows for gentle, slow, mindful progress.

My students (and I, and all of us) are incredibly hard on themselves/ourselves. Hardly have they/we had the opportunity to grasp a new skill and they/we are already dumping on them/ourselves about how it isn’t the best it could be. “Best in Show” is a mentality I’d really like to move away from. It’s not the bright and shiny that’s the goal, it’s the achievable. And even that is not an end unto itself, but rather just another step along the path.

When babies take their first wobbly steps, we don’t admonish them for “not getting it right”. We are full of excitement and encouragement at their initial, clumsy attempts. No matter how many times they stumble and fall, we urge them with enthusiasm to get back up and try again. So when do we lose this “beginner’s mind” approach?

I’d like to give a shout-out to celebrating the smallest of small steps. I’ve been inviting my students this week to “take the win”—that is, to celebrate the little victories, no matter how small or apparently insignificant. I’ve been urging them to notice the tiniest improvement, the minuscule bits of growth. All of this is evidence of practice at work: when we spend time on tiny chunks and work at them carefully and intently (“one bite at a time”, as I blogged about last week), we move forward, inch by tiny inch. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling good about that. In fact, if we don’t allow those moments of repose to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment at a task well-done, it all just becomes a slog.

So let’s remember the joy of baby steps, and keep on taking them one tiny step—and one big celebration!—at a time.