Sometimes I look back at things I’ve done and wish I could have a do-over. I don’t have regrets. I simply know that if I knew then what I know now, I would have a better experience.
I was young – in my early 20s – and I was excited to try snowboarding for the first time during what was to be a fun outing with my sisters and cousins. I had heard I was in for some pain. I wasn’t prepared for the all-body agony that resulted from skull and body thwacks against the ground tumble after tumble.
It was terrible. It was excruciating. But mostly, it was humiliating.
I have a bit of an ego. I like doing well, and I like others to notice that I do well. When I sucked at snowboarding, I looked and felt like a newbie. I was not used to this at all. In my mind, I was one of the better skiers at the hill so when I was suddenly really crappy, it disrupted by self image and made me worry about the way others would think about me when they saw me.
So I stopped. At lunch, I sulked in the lodge to drown my disgrace with a boat of fries and gravy. And I didn’t go back out.
Here is how I will coach myself the next time I find myself in a similar situation, whether it’s snowboarding or in life.
Prepare. I was really not ready. No helmet. No lesson. No knowledge.
Do things to plan for the event. Take some lessons. Speak to others to get their advice and tips for a beginner. Learn graceful recoveries after a stumble.
Get comfortable feeling like a novice. As I’ve stated, I exceedingly dislike feeling and looking like a beginner. I hate feeling like I’m struggling. Research on success indicates that those who embrace discomfort do better than those who don’t. Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success says, “Like it or not, we will be turned into a novice over and over again. We need to be comfortable with struggle and confusion.”
Be gentle with yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. I really beat myself up over my lack of talent and I felt horrible. It seemed like everyone else immediately took to snowboarding and I was the only one who struggled. First, that was probably wrong, and second, by comparing myself to others, I felt less than. As my dad used to say, “There will always be someone else out there better than you.”
If you don’t get something right away, don’t give yourself a hard time. That will only discourage you. Instead tell yourself positive things. Accept that others will be better than you and focus on having fun and getting better.
See it as an adventure. By trying something new, the common became novel. I thought I knew every bit of ground on that ski hill, and by switching from skis to snowboard, the experience rewarded me with new perspective.
See the value in exploring a new activity. Look at it as a fun fling. The perspective you gain could reward you with a new creative thought or idea.
Stick with it. People say that one or two days of pain is all it takes to find your feet with snowboarding. That said, I didn’t have a helmet, and so it’s probably a good thing I stopped when I did.
So long as you’re prepared and have some armour, don’t give up on the first day. Try it for just a little bit longer.
Think strengths, not weaknesses. We hear messages all of the time that we need to keep going, to be persistent, to keep getting back up after we get knocked down. I’m not sure about that.
When I ski, I’m pretty good in most situations and I love it. It’s my strength. Snowboarding is neither my strength nor my passion.
You’re better off honing your craft and leveraging your strengths and enjoyment rather than working to improve your areas of weakness.
In order to assess whether you should try, try again, answer the following questions:
- Is this action aligned with your goals?
- Is it required to succeed?
If yes, then remember the Japanese saying, “Fall seven times, get up eight.” Keep going. Or consider alternate ways to reach your goal while minimizing this area of weakness. Or find someone else who is excellent at it.
If no, then it’s okay to stop, to return the gear, and to congratulate yourself for trying something new. Then head into the warm lodge to celebrate your adventure with some hot chocolate, fries, and gravy.