This lesson is about the power of positive framing, kind ‘inner dialogue’ and persistence. We learned it on the roller-skating rink of all places and the lesson was from a 7-year old named Jorgie. Jorgie demonstrated an exuberance and zest for life that both inspired and intrigued us. She is the kind of little person that will try anything! She’ll volunteer every time, is the first to try something new, wants to be involved in everything and concentrates and persists until she achieves whatever she has her eye on – horse-riding, cooking, farm-tending, roller-skating.
We don’t usually hang out with 7 year olds – maybe we should do it more?
We are more interested in the ways adults learn. When imparting new skills, we often need to remind learners that skill acquisition requires patience, persistence and repetition. What more perfect a place than the skate rink.
Jorgie’s night began with some wall hugging. No doubt a natural course for a first-time skater, as she found her feet with the slippery 4-wheel action below. Despite the clutching, she showed a natural ability. We watched amused for a time and then I held my hand out asking if she’d dare release the wall. At first, she declined, opting for some mid-ground – one hand on the wall, one hand with Paula – Jorgie in the middle.
I offered some coaching, suggesting she might bend her knees a little, stand upright and focus forward. She wobbled a few (hundred) times and each time, she muttered two phrases. It was at this time I noticed the power of these mantras. They were not uttered to me. They were uttered to herself, with a steely determination and focus.
“I can do it” and “I’m alright”.
Over and over. She self-coached her way to keep trying, each time pushing the boundaries of confidence and balance – always with a joyful smile, two front teeth missing and a sense of joy and true achievement. It was inspiring. Inspiring enough to think of what it takes as adults as we re-engage as learners and what we can learn through this special child’s eyes.
Being with Jorgie seemed so different to the learning barriers we experience as adult educators.
So, here are our lessons from Jorgie to inspire our adult learners through their skill acquisition:
1. Trying a new technique is like hugging the wall. Find safety in the formula, try it out and hold on to it as you’re beginning. You might be surprised that after a few laps, you need not cling so tight to the technique and can be more present to the experience.
2. Take a hand to take the big steps. A coach, mentor, or peer support can be crucial in giving you the confidence to step beyond known limits. Reach out to them, make requests, know that the stretch is possible and support yourself with all the encouragement required to stretch beyond what you think is possible.
3. Speak kindly to yourself. Using the power of positive ‘self-talk’ is instrumental to keep moving forward despite setbacks. “I can do it”…. “I’m alright”
4. Expect to fall, get back up, dust off and do it again. You might do this literally hundreds of times, and that’s part of being a learner, gaining competence and this is the only pathway to mastery. As a wise man once suggested, “progress is better than perfection” (Thanks Dale!). Sometimes you have to risk the identity you have to create the one you most desire.
5. Approach being a learner with joyful abandon. The mood you bring to learning is like the secret sauce of success. A positive, open mood will greatly enhance your capacity to take on feedback, adjust and continue along the learning trajectory.
In summary, life’s lessons come in surprising bundles. Thank you Jorgie for reminding us (and maybe others) that sometimes we get in our own way!