You don't know until you know: the difference between "doing it" and "done it", is people!
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
I walked on fire the other day.
It was part of a fab fundraising event for The Lewis Foundation's 6th birthday - you can read about their work in this article.
As I've been taking a moment to reflect on
what I've learned during my fundraising challenges this year, the thing that jumped out at me was the trepidation I felt in the build up to the event, and on the day when we were undergoing the 45 minute training session...to the extreme exhilaration and confidence I felt having done it...and then lining up to do it again...I did it 3 times that night (and yes, that's me practically "catwalking" it the last time!)
It's what I always say to clients - you don't know until you know...and what I mean by that is, you brain can say all the right things, you can set intentions, you can have determination...but there comes a turning point when you move from thinking to being - and that is when you KNOW - you know with your body, your heart, your soul, not just your mind...and that's transformation. But how do you get there?
When learning - it's NOT always about enjoying the journey - and that's ok!!
Especially as adults, when we have carved out some time in our lives to make a change, setbacks can hit us hard. And while we can say "enjoy the ride", or "it's ok, there's always tomorrow", what we are feeling is a frustration of what has been lost today and that's ok. You're allowed...and don't let ANYONE tell you otherwise!
When my husband was training for the London Marathon, and now when I'm training for the Dart 10 - for him it wasn't about enjoying the scenery, any more than it's about me enjoying the water...there's an element of needing to KNOW you can make that distance in that time during that month in the lead up. What is more helpful is perhaps making sure, as adults, we build in "failure" time, and learn from what happened making the changes in future. When you have done it, then of course, take a moment to savour the good bits...they are still in your memory, even if you didn't quite capture them consciously mid process.
Learning point 1 - savour the journey...but it's OK to do it AFTERWARDS!: I will not chase achievement after achievement...I will take a moment to reframe my experiences learning to my achievement and savour all the little wins and fun times getting there...BUT it's ok if I'm not doing that along the path!
Try these prompts after an achievement:
- Where am I now?
- Where did I start?
- How did I get here?
- Who/What helped me?/Who/What kept me motivated
- What did I learn?
- What next?
(Adapted from The Storyboard exercise by Rodgers & Marshall 2019)
Learning from someone who has done it helps - if they are your style of teacher
This is an interesting one...all teachers are different, all students are different - this is probably a good thing. I know I have progressed more when my teacher understands how I like to learn, but takes the stabilisers off when they sense I'm ready anyway.
I am a cerebral learner - but I have a tendency to be too cerebral...I will read, I will watch, I will "understand" - but I won't always do. (I also have a thing where I sort of like to "look good" when I'm doing it!) So when I learned to ski, my teacher spent 4 lessons building my confidence through knowledge - and relating what I was doing to posture and style, and on the 5th day he "dropped" me off at the top of a run and said "You have a tendency to need to think - you have spent 4 days thinking, I KNOW you can get back down..." I did, and actually with a bit of finesse. I was always going to have to trust myself, but being taught by someone who is a brilliant skiier but couldn't explain the mechanics was never going to work for me - my teacher got me...that's just how I learn.
Learning point 2 - find what works for you: When teaching, work with the student and tailor the material where possible. There are many ways of saying or doing the same thing - but you never know which one will resonate.
And this is just how UK Firewalk explained it - our trainer, Scott, gave us the science, the pseduo science, the spiritual and the "zone" approach - one of those was going to hit, for me probably 3 elements did!
It helps if someone is doing it with you - but ultimately you walk alone
Not only were a team from The Lewis Foundation - whom I've come to know and love greatly (catch my interview with Lorraine Lewis on NLive here (from 9.15pm)) walking the coals (as was my husband - whom you can see photobombing!), but of course Scott, the instructor, did it first. Somehow in that moment it didn't matter he had done it LOADS before (the man holds 2 Guinness World Records for it), he was doing it this time, on these coals, with us. Having someone there with you experientially is very different to learning theoretically. You are sharing that moment, and in some ways, you draw from each other's energy. Plus...there is something about seeing others do it, and knowing how they feel which helps for both teacher and learner. I was helping our good friends' daughter to skate the other day, and gauging her
balance while on skates myself made a huge difference compared with trying to help her without them...again, I come back to - you don't know until you know is about that switch that flips when theory becomes practice.
Having someone alongside helps with theory and instruction, and you can draw from their confidence (because they are experienced) to energise yourself to go for it...but it is YOU that has to make that choice to take the first step.
Learning point 3 - you walk alone: A dear friend of mine who has worked super-hard recovering from a stoke in 2019 said he finally feels like he's "turned a corner" - which in some ways seems strange because to me (or the outside world) he's been doing phenomenally well - leaps and bounds in fact. However it is now he feels more confident that the gains are here to stay. And, like many of my own clients who make huge leaps in their learning and self development - there is an element of trust that you need to find in yourself to know you can not only do it once, but likely you can do it again.
But maybe that trust, that fundamental "knowing" doesn't just come completely on its own...
This was challenge 3 out of 7 this year - the next 3 are swimming based, and the final sees me back on stage - and once again I have to come back to the reason why I was able to do a firewalk in the first place...it was a fundraiser for a brilliant cause.
The Lewis Foundation gifts care packages to those fighting cancer in hospital. A care package won't fight cancer itself in the same way as a teacher cannot walk the fire for me...but knowing someone has my back...my back - individual needs and all - gives me that little bit more strength to keep going. That's true of ANY battle - whether with illness, or with transformation.
Willpower, Strength, Determination, they are all a finite thing. It can - and will - deplete over the course of a long fight...but having someone on your side is one form of replenishing it.
The journey is hard, and whilst you're facing it, maybe it's hard to find joy - that's ok...just remember to be proud of yourself when you win your first round; if you know what you need and speak up - people really do want to adapt and help (I am flexible with my coaching and
training, The Lewis Foundation learns from their beneficiaries what will make the most difference; UK Firewalk has extended their client base to support blind people doing the walks!); and while you walk alone - the positive energy of others goes with you - when someone has your back, all you need to do is go forward.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; or her Radio Show "The Wellbeing Lounge", and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt
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