This weekend was a cold, but beautiful weekend here in New England. My seven-year-old son Quin and I love to cross country ski together. He’s really gotten the hang of it this year after two prior years of struggling with an over-achieving mother who wanted him to just “try harder”. This Saturday we started down a gorgeous trail on a golf course close to our house. After about 35 minutes of gentle ups and downs, stops for quick conversation, we came to the top of a giant hill. Quin was so excited to quickly head down the hill. I was not. Many years ago, I had suffered a terrible fall (with several broken bones) on a downhill slope. Although I had returned to downhill skiing several times after the accident, downhill skiing never had the same appeal for me after that. I took up cross-country knowing I’d have a better chance of controlling the ups and downs!
As I looked down what felt to me like a mountain, my son bounded down the hill with eagerness. He made it all the way to the bottom, then fell, but turned around to look at me from his prone position and said “that was the funnest thing I’ve ever done, come’on Mom, you have to try it”. And I thought to myself, how many times had I said that to him.
As he was getting himself back up the hill, he kept asking me if I’d try it. “Please, Mom, you can feel the wind on your face. You’ll love it once you do it. You just need to say to yourself, ‘I think I can, I think I can (from the children’s story, The Little Engine That Could)”. I gulped and my throat went dry. How many times had I used that line on him to take first steps alone, to jump into my arms from the side of a pool, to swim across the pool, to skate across the pond… How many times had I asked a manager, employee or client to do something they weren’t comfortable doing. Learn a new skill, try something they had failed at in a previous situation or with a previous boss. Again, as an over-achiever, Type A personality, I know I had pushed my employees, clients, sometimes my friends and certainly my children to do something they were not only uncomfortable doing, but downright scared of doing.
I looked at my son and he looked at me with great hope in his eyes. He quietly said, “Mom, I know you can do it. You CAN do it.” And with that I positioned my skies, bent my knees and sailed down the hill. I was thrilled, my son was thrilled. I thought to myself, there’s nothing wrong with pushing an employee, client or child out of their comfort zone, but it is absolutely critical to provide the space, support and confidence in them to help them move. Oh, and my son was right about another thing as well…I did feel the wind on my face.