Almost daily I’m reminded of the opportunities I have to learn and develop. Some of those opportunities are big, transformative events – painful perhaps, or inspirational and joyful. They happen rarely for me yet change my live in radical ways. I count meeting NVC as one turning point with huge impact on how I now choose to live.
Yet day to day there are many small events providing insights, lessons, new understandings or adjustments in what I do or how I perceive the world. Most of the time I’m certain I miss out by rushing from one task to another without stopping to reflect or even notice them.
Peeling an Egg
A perfect example of these easily missed opportunities happened a couple of days ago, with a wonderful lesson from my 2 year old daughter, Emma.
She had come to the apartment we use as an office, and, as is sadly often the case, I was keeping her occupied while thinking about the things I wanted to do once her grandmother came to pick her up. She discovered a hard boiled egg in the fridge and decided she wanted to peel it and eat it.
I patiently watched while she cracked the shell and started to remove the tiniest pieces bit by bit. After about 10 seconds (patience has a limit!) I felt a strong urge to take the shell and peel it for her. After all, she’d never opened an egg before so clearly could benefit from a helping hand and get it done in 20 seconds or so. I told myself it was my job to help her out, take over the shelling and we could both get on with whatever else it was we were going to do next. I have no doubt she would have been ok with watching me do this and then eat at her leisure – it was not as though I had any desire to eat it for as well.
But I stopped myself.
I almost had to sit on my hands to stop myself snatching the egg away. As she struggled to get further into the egg there were a couple of times when I reached out and through sheer will power brought my hand back and allowed her to carry on. It might sound like an exaggeration, but this urge to fix things was really very strong.
At one point she stopped and admired the smooth white egg gradually appearing and turned to me and said,
‘Look Daddy, how beautiful!’
My heart melted and all desire to solve the challenge for her disappeared. Instead I sat back and watched her total concentration as she delicately picked away small bits of eggshell. I felt so moved by her wonder and inspired by her dedication to this task that seemed to me such a practical thing.
And indeed it was beautiful. The soft, smooth white emerging from the thin protection of the shell.
When she finished after about 5 minutes she again turned to me with such a look of pride and triumph on her face and said,
… as though she had just discovered some unexpected treasure amid all that effort and exploration. Which indeed she had.
And if I had not resisted the urge to jump in and do it, she would have missed all this. Just as importantly I would have missed it too.
Enjoying each moment
Reminders such as this little story about the egg are important for me in my attempt learn how to slow down a little and, step by step, open to the possibilities for growth. I do this by noticing when I’m having a strong reaction or urge (see ‘Lost in Translation‘ for another example). By noticing what’s happening, noticing my internal reactions, I can discover the needs underneath and make adjustments to how I’ve been trying to meet these needs that are more effective.
When I’m busy ticking off things on my to do list I’m not savouring the beauty of the world. This rushing forward through life is an old habit I’m trying to break and most of the times I don’t notice it. There are times to hurry, for sure, but not at the expense of beauty, connection with my loved ones, care, growth, appreciation, wonder, discovery and a host of other joys this life has to offer if we choose to look for them.
Emma helped me experience a moment of unexpected joy – both for myself and through her eyes.
‘Connection before Education’
As a coach, trusting my clients have the answers and resources to succeed in whatever it is they are aiming for, is like a mantra. In my professional life, with my coaches ‘hat’ on, I believe I focus on connection. I don’t try to educate or teach but instead give my complete attention to them.
Outside that role of coach, I see I still have some learning to do.
Emma reminded me she is not only perfectly capable of learning by herself, but there is real pleasure in the process and joy in the achievement.
Welcome! I'm Ian Peatey and this site is one way I share Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by writing articles and sharing information about NVC materials, news and people. I hope you'll be a frequent visitor.
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