My one-year-old daughter is just learning to stand without holding onto anything.
She can even push herself up, straight from the floor without using furniture, someone’s legs, or the cat (!) to pull up on.
She’s so proud of herself.
Each time she stands on her own she looks around to see who sees her, with a giant, jack-o-lantern grin on her face.
She waits for applause before falling onto her mercifully well-padded bum.
I’m constantly amazed at how babies just seem to know what to do next. Like little seeds, they unfold and grow without any interference from us. If we provide suitable conditions, they know how to survive and thrive. Their little bodies somehow know the sequence for development, from head stability to rolling over to crawling, standing and walking.
So what important life lessons can we take from this everyday miracle?
What can watching a one-year-old have to do with our own growth, and with the nature of growth in general? Here’s what I’ve learned from watching her:
1. Growth hurts. She bumps her head, she falls over, and yes, one time she even crawled onto the first step and toppled down.
For us, it’s not always physical, but emotional, too.
As you push through new and more complex feats you will experience growing pains. This is not a sign to turn back, or is this pain necessarily a signal that something is wrong.
The pain associated with growth is important to discern from the pain associated with other things, such as staying stuck or making the wrong move.
So if you feel pain, ask it what it’s telling you instead of taking it as a sign that something is wrong. If you are growing, expect pain, and don’t let it fool you into giving up.
2. Things get easier: Just a few short weeks ago my daughter was completely frustrated that she couldn’t pull herself over the step out of our sunk-in living room.
I was could put her into this one ultra-baby-proofed space and safely run upstairs for something. Well, now, the living room no longer contains her.
She’s mastered the step that was so maddening to her just a short time ago.
When we do anything on our growing edge, it’s hard and it can really test us.
But if we keep at it, we’ll get it. What once seemed extremely difficult we may no longer even have to think about.
It’s important to remember this in the midst of working on something that is so hard that it tempts us to throw in the towel.
3. Growth is natural: It’s very much in our nature to grow and there’s no reason to think that this stops at a certain point in life.
Our physical bodies are always changing, but our emotional and social selves change and grow as well.
It’s the natural direction of things – like a fourth law of thermodynamics or something. So don’t try to resist it.
If you’ve been doing the same thing day in and day out for years – same breakfast, same job, same everything – with no challenges or progress, don’t wonder why you feel bored and off purpose.
You are meant to grow, change and challenge yourself.
Like my daughter, you have that same drive toward growth, the same inner understanding of the right next step for you, and the same ability to tolerate whatever pain you have to confront to get through it.
We are designed to be ever-evolving beings, here to grow, change, learn and challenge ourselves. And, like my little girl, when you do it, you can give yourself a round of applause and smile your biggest grin.
Hopefully, though, you have a few more teeth. 😉