Taking the Leap

I remember the day I rode a bike on my own for the first time.

I was 6 years old. My best friend was a girl called Danielle Richardson. We did everything together. She lived across the street from us and we would be in and out of each other's houses all the time. I remember us wearing T-shirt dresses and practicing the dance routine to Buck's Fizz' 'Making Your Mind Up'.

It was her mum, Janet, that tricked me. She promised to hold on to the seat of the bike and run behind me while I pedaled. And she did for a while, but then she let go.  Off I went, wobbling, the handlebars jerking as I tried to find my balance. I pedaled and pedaled, letting the forward momentum carry me, and then I realized she had let go.  I remember the absolute thrill of knowing I had done it. I felt so accomplished. I knew I had taken a huge leap in my growth as a child.  

I had that same sense of accomplishment last week. I ran my first workshop as a coach. I was teaching a small group about how much personal power we have within. How much agency we have in crafting our experience, in choosing how we respond to stress and pressure so we can stay in the high-performance zone for longer.

I spent the last few weeks preparing. I designed the program, I identified the key points I wanted to share. I wrote copious notes. I created visual slides in Canva. I put all of my attention on the creation of it. I knew deep down I was over-preparing. The prep was worry in disguise, and worry is really a reflection of not trusting ourselves to respond to whatever comes up in the moment. But I allowed myself to do all the prep. It was reassuring. I knew the intellectual part of me, my ego would feel comforted by me checking and triple checking the 'parachute', by the mapping out of where to jump and where I would land. It didn't get rid of the nerves, but it gave me a sense of control.  

That's what our egos need. They don't like ambiguity. They hate not knowing what to expect and so it responds to that uncertainty by compelling us to prepare, plan and rehearse. It wants to control all the elements it can in order to feel as safe and secure as possible.  But I have been questioning recently how helpful that approach is. I know overthinking things and spending a lot of time worrying about something gets in our way, but free-falling without a parachute seems a step too far for me.

I have been to a lot of workshops as a student and seen many coaches and teachers lead training programs. Most of them show up with a loose agenda, but very rarely do they have scripts or slides, they are comfortable sitting in the landscape of not knowing. They trust they will respond to whatever happens. There is an effortlessness to it. What they share is fresh, wise, and moving, it's impactful because of the energy it comes from. It's not being filtered through the intellect, it's pure wisdom.

So what is a good balance between preparation and trusting yourself to respond in the moment?

On Friday morning, as it got closer and closer to me launching the zoom meeting, I felt nervous. I just wanted to be on the other side of this thing. When I got into the workshop, I slowed down. I grounded myself. I enjoyed the moment immensely and between us, we created this really lovely, reflective space where we got to explore together. It was wonderful.  

This is what I noticed.

  • When I went to the three visuals I had created in Canva, I lost my train of thought. On reflection, the slides weren't that helpful. I became a little robotic as I was trying to remember the points I wanted to make.
  • The preparation I had done, the bullet points I had written, and the notes I wrote, I never referenced them. I didn't look at them. But because I had an idea of what I wanted to say in advance, I found myself trying to remember the words and the points I wanted to make. Again, it took me out of this heartfelt space and into my intellect. 

It was an amazing learning experience and I had this massive rush afterward. Relief, mixed with a sense I had taken a major step in my professional development. And it was in that moment, in that high, that I knew what a good balance was for me. Planning at a high level is helpful, having three or four points you want to highlight to the audience creates enough structure to make the training valuable. But for me, I think that's where the prep ends. Because going into any more detail, scripting everything out, can hamper your connection to the audience and lead you to focus on remembering the ‘right’ words and points.

What I also realized, is that all the prep I did, was a valuable and necessary step, because I learned something on Friday. Through my own experience, I learned that it wasn't helpful. People had said that to me before, but they were experienced coaches who have been doing this for years. For me, it was a necessary step to go through, an important lesson for me to learn through my own experience. 

I am glad I did all the prep. I wouldn't have approached it any differently because the real learning didn't come from delivering a perfectly worded, and constructed workshop, it came from the process of doing it, it came from the experience. 

You can't learn how to ride a bike by reading about it, drawing diagrams, and creating notes. You can watch others do it and you can do it with the training wheels on, but there is a point where you have to let go of all that and just trust yourself to respond, to rebalance if you wobble, to course correct.

That's what I learned. Friday's session was like having the training wheels on. But I instantly realized that I don't need them. So next Friday I am throwing caution to the wind, trusting my wisdom has a hold of the seat, and I am going to go for it. 

How about you? 

If you are learning a new skill, do you notice there comes a natural point where you shift from studying to applying all that you have learned? If you are nervous about making a mistake or getting it ‘wrong’, know that is completely normal. Our egos don’t like risk and doing something for the first time is risky. Our egos will make us believe that it’s only a win/lose scenario and if it’s not perfect, it’s considered a loss. Our egos will scream at us to hide and stay safe.

The process of mastery requires a small dose of courage. It comes from pushing through the nerves and fears and doing it anyway. Mastery comes from knowing it’s about the process, not the outcome. It’s in the process of trying things out, it’s in the steps you take, in the action, that creates the learning and ultimately the confidence.

Experience is the best teacher of all. Like a kid riding a bike for the first time, don’t expect to be perfect, just try not to fall over and if you do, it’s time to get back on the bike and try again.

Author: Melanie Hopwood

Melanie Hopwood is the Founder of The Restorative Coach. She is a certified professional coach, accredited through the ICF, and consultant. Connect with Melanie via email or LinkedIn. This article was first featured on the https://www.therestorativecoach.com/ blog.


Share Article