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"Skill to do comes of doing." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Remember homework? No matter how far we are from our last assignment, we all remember homework―some with a bit more fondness than others, I'm sure. As I remember it, doing homework was never too much of a chore, but it sure is for my 12 year-old son. He is always questioning the logic behind having to do more school work at home after an already long and grueling day of school. First, it's hard not to snicker at the "long and grueling" part. His school day begins 8:10 am and ends at 2:30 pm. Sure there's the core subjects, but there's also lunch and recess, P.E., art, and health science, (a.k.a. home economics). I'm sure it's grueling to him, but it sounds like heaven to me.

Anyway, back to homework. In my attempt to explain the need for extra practice I've realized a much bigger lesson to be learned: practice = mastery. That's not an earth-shattering revelation when it comes to algebra, but it's often not considered by adults when thinking about doing something new, or even about improving a shortcoming.

I've seen countless people give up dreams because they didn't have the skills needed to realize those dreams. Some thought it was much easier for them to sacrifice the potential joy of living the dream than it was to sacrifice the time and energy to learn the skill. Others, sadly, gave up on their dreams because they were too embarrassed to begin learning the skills. Everyone is bad at something when starting out, but the embarrassment of poor performance can be too much to bear. What's left is remaining stuck doing only the things you already know how to do. That box gets mighty small mighty quickly! Soon, the rub up against the sides of the box creates inner conflicts and leads to dissatisfaction and boredom. Life is too long to go through it bored and unhappy.

How about the people who refuse to do what it takes to improve a shortcoming? Is their refusal a result of unwillingness to admit they have a shortcoming? Or is it an unwillingness to learn skills? Maybe it's a bit of both, but the result is the same: a long life stuck in a box.

There is always room for improvement and growth―and, in fact, the need for it is part of what makes us human. Humans are programmed to seek; we are naturally curious and are instinctively on the lookout for more, bigger, better and faster. The minute you see more, bigger, better or faster, you're curious. But without the ability to learn something new, joy-steeling dissatisfaction sets in.

For my son, I explain the need for homework in three different ways, depending upon the type of his complaint:

  1. Homework is necessary practice to improve his abilities.
  2. Homework is a way to help him relax at school, knowing he is prepared.
  3. Homework is a method for understanding how the knowledge is applied to many seemingly unrelated parts of life. (I remember being positive that I would never need to use algebra ever in my life. Needless to say, I was wrong!)

Anyone facing the challenge of practicing a new skill would do well to apply these reasons also:

1.      Practice is necessary for mastery.

2.      The increase in skill/ability creates a confidence that brings peace.

3.      The newly acquired skill can be applied to many areas of life, making the whole thing more valuable.

The bottom line: Understand that you'll need to be bad at something new before you can be good at it. Acknowledge that everyone is faced with this challenge every time he or she seeks growth. Grant yourself permission to fail a few times; it's a small price to pay for a long and happy life.

"Skill to do comes of doing." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

What do you think? Are you short-changing yourself by avoiding a new skill? Have you ever taught a new skill to someone and found his or her learning curve acceptable? E-mail your thoughts to Lorraine @Peacemaker-Coach.com.
Warmest Regards,
Lorraine Esposito
Life and fitness coach and author Lorraine Esposito has been featured in broadcast, print and online media and is a public speaker regarding personal leadership and empowered parenting to community and school-based audiences. Find out more about Lorraine at www.Peacemaker-Coach.com and her latest book at http://www.morningpeacemaker.com  The Morning Peacemaker, How to get your kids out the door on time without saying(nagging) a word.
 If you have kids ages 2 to 12 you'll LOVE this book
Available through http://www.MorningPeacemaker.com and Amazon.com


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