Messy: Practice required
That’s a picture of my freshly shoveled driveway. That messy effort is mine. Yep, I did that… with a shovel! As much as I would love to talk about how awesome that is, this article isn’t about the outcome. It’s about what I realized in the experience. As I shoveled snow for the second time in my life, it reminded me that life is messy and takes a lot of practice. With each new challenge, we often focus on perfection and opt out when it seems unattainable. The truth is perfection is an illusion. Rarely does anyone get it right on the first try or 100% of the time. But, with practice, we can learn to do our best and become comfortable with our efforts.
My first attempt at snow removal was in 2015 with a snow blower. I couldn’t figure out how to work the machine, so I made a mess of my front yard. After talking with my neighbor and looking at the yards around me, I decided to pay for snow removal service. The problem with hiring someone is that it is difficult to find consistent help and I don’t always have cash on hand for them. It was a random decision, but today I thought I’d give it a try. Once I got through the first 20 feet or so, I felt compelled to finish. It hurt, and I stopped a few times to regroup, but I got it done.
Life Lesson 1: Practice
Three things made this experience different from the last.
- Mindset: Before I bought my house, I knew that physical labor wasn’t my thing and planned to hire someone for the yard work. Whenever I thought about any physical work, I would think about how hard and exhausting it was. Today, I didn’t let myself think about it. I made the in-the-moment decision to shovel the snow myself after realizing that I could not getting out of the driveway. After clearing the first few feet, I subconsciously developed a strategy for how to tackle each area and committed to the process. How often in life do we determine the outcome before we experience the activity? We get caught up in what we can’t do and then fail to move because we are waiting for an opportunity that fits our skill set. The problem is if we stay in our comfort zone, we’ll never discover what we are capable of or can do with a little help.
- Compassion instead of Comparison: The first time I attempted to do this, I compared my efforts to my neighbors and scored poorly. It’s often done without accounting for all the facts and leaves us feeling poorly about ourselves. The first time I attempted to do this, I compared my efforts to my neighbors and came up short. Again, comparing yourself to others is a trap that will keep you stuck. I mean, think about it, how often do you compare yourself to someone whose exactly where you are in skill and history? Instead, we go for the top performer or only look at half the facts. In my case, I didn’t consider that this was my first attempt at snow removal while my neighbor had at least three years of experience. Judging my efforts by his was unfair to me and a set up for failure. I barely knew how to work the machine so, of course, his sidewalk looked better than mine. And he was faster because he already had a strategy in place from his years of practice. It’s like expecting your newborn to walk as fast as your toddler—totally unrealistic.
- Expectations: Why do you we always expect to master new things on our first attempt? My other neighbor, who is also more experienced than me at snow removal, had recently purchased a snow blower as well. And guess what he did with it? You won’t believe me when I tell you. But I am going to say it anyway. He practiced! Yep. He used in his yard, mine, and few others that winter to learn how to maneuver the machine and find his groove. Crazy, right?
A New Approach
Three tips for moving beyond your comfort zone and trying something new:
- Check your mindset. Instead of focusing on what happened before, treat this like a new experience and opportunity to learn. Shoveling snow was a way to make up for a workout I missed last week. No matter how things turned out, I’d burned some calories.
- Skip comparison and go straight for compassion. Remember that this is a new experience, expect to make mistakes, and you’ll get better with practice. Failure isn’t the opposite of Not trying is.
- Keep your expectations realistic. Let go of the idea that it’ll be perfect and concentrate on the experience. Keep your goals simple to avoid getting overwhelmed. I needed to be able to get out my driveway, so I focused on clearing a path instead of removing all the snow.
Each new challenge expands our capacity to achieve and creates new avenues for our dreams to come true. So when a problem arises, consider it practice for your next opportunity.