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Healthy hearts and minds in February

Posted: February 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 4, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Imagine you are standing across the room from a baby who is just beginning to pull themselves up and walk.

This is a child you care about — your own child, a grandchild, a favorite niece or nephew.

The baby is standing and holding onto the sofa. He or she turns to look at you, takes a few steps toward you and then falls and ends up sitting on his or her diapered behind on the floor unhurt.

What do you focus on — the fact this precious child took some of his or her first few steps or the fact this child is hopeless and will never master walking?

Unless you are heartless, you cheer those two or three steps, probably saying something like “Look at you! You took three steps! Try it again. You can do it!” 

You see those first few faltering steps as evidence this baby will soon be toddling everywhere and then walking and running with ease.

Now, let’s look at what happens when you try something and it doesn’t go so well the first, second or hundredth time you try it. What do you do?

Perhaps you notice that you are not as supportive with yourself as you were with the baby or would be with a dear friend.

Don’t beat yourself up. This happens to all of us. We forget how much work learning new skills took when we were children.

As adults, we often think we are failures if we don’t master something quickly. One of the skills that can help us achieve our more challenging goals is learning how to be our own cheerleader. 

I was raised by two super sports fans. We went to live sporting events almost every weekend. One of the things I learned watching my parents at those football and basketball games was the way they cheered their teams on. When there was a fumble or a bad play, my mom and dad would clap and say, “That’s OK! Get back in the game. You can do it! Let’s go!”

I remember other people in the crowd who yelled at the quarterback for taking a risky shot that didn’t work out. I cringe as I remember one man’s booming voice yelling at a high school basketball player “Are you an idiot? That was a completely stupid shot! Bench him!” 

I have to admit over the years I haven’t been much of a sports fan, but I realize the attitude my parents showed in supporting their teams was a good influence on my whole life.

When something didn’t go the way I wanted it to, it was almost like I could hear my mom and dad clapping as saying those very words to me. “It’s OK. Get back in the game. You can do it. Find a way. Let’s go!”

Humans have amazing minds that are able to collect evidence to support just about any viewpoint we want to hold. We can choose to be our own cheerleaders or we can choose to be naysayers.   

Let’s say you started the new year with a goal to exercise every day and you did exercise two days each week. Did you cheer yourself on for those two days or tell yourself you didn’t meet your goal?

Let’s say you are looking for a new job and you are worried about the family finances and you had an interview that seemed to go really well but you didn’t get the job. Did you tell yourself, “I am never going to get a job” or did you say, “My new job is out there somewhere. That good interview proved I am in the game”?

Do you look at friends who are succeeding at finding jobs as confirmation that there are jobs out there or are you angry that they got the job and you didn’t?

Is your goal worthy? Will it make your life better if you succeed? If your goal is truly a life-enhancing goal, make a commitment to be your own supportive fan instead of a name-caller. Be as supportive of yourself as you would be to that infant learning to walk. Catch yourself when you are in negative fan mode and change the cheer.

“Get back in the game! You can do it! Find a way. Don’t give up. Keep trying until you succeed!”

Carol Woodliff and Lifestyle columnist Karen Maleck-Whiteley are partners in WMW Group, a seminar and personal development company. Woodliff’s column reflects her own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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