Years ago we considered whether our just-5-year-old daughter should start kindergarten or wait until she was older. “She’ll be one of the youngest in her class,” warned the teacher. The school prided itself on rigorous academics and kindergarten had a 1st grade curriculum. Our daughter seemed ready and wanted to go to school like the older brother she looked up to. We found out there were some subjects that she just wasn’t ready for and she struggled. Several months later, they were a breeze for her. Today, she is doing well in medical school.
In the office I work in, one of our medical assistants has returned to school to become a nurse practitioner. “Terrible in math,” was her self-described previous school experience. As a 22-year-old mother of a one-year-old, she is not only in school but is working part time and earning A’s and B’s in math and all the other subjects she has taken.
Too often, we limit ourselves by thinking that one experience defines us for the rest of our lives. “I’m not good with computers.” “I have two left feet.” “I’m terrified to speak in public.”
When a student becomes frustrated that he hasn’t learned something, my immediate response is, “You haven’t learned this YET.” Our current state doesn’t determine our future, unless we let it.
Sometimes, as in the case of our daughter or the medical assistant I work with, the issue is one of maturation. As adults, it’s often a matter of opening our minds to the possibility that, although we have not been able to do something in the past, perhaps with time, assistance, and effort now, we might be able to accomplish it. When we purchased a computer in 1985, my first action was to erase the word processing icon from the desktop. “Terrible with computers” was my self assessment until I set up my own office in 1997 and knew I needed computer skills. Through a combination of tutoring, reading, many trials and even more errors, I managed to run multiple computer-based programs for my practice. Still not a technology whiz, I know that if I calmly direct some attention to learning new computer skills or programs, I can usually figure them out.
What new skills would you like to learn? Do you want to learn to dance? Make pottery? Do research? Become a dynamic speaker? If you hear yourself immediately think, “I can’t do that,” gently add the word, “yet” and then ask yourself what would help you learn. Is there a class you can take? A friend who can help? A tutor or book you can enlist? There are few things in life that we cannot get better at if we put our minds, talent, and determination into the effort. It might just be the right time to start.