Life lessons from a toddler.

When my son, Mason, was 12-months-old, one day, after barely ever acknowledging their presence, he decided to try climbing the stairs.  It only took him two days of practice before he attempted and succeeded in climbing the entire flight. When my mom (always a proponent for a gate) nervously asked, “what did he do when he got to the top?” I responded, “He just kept going. Kept on crawling. He didn’t even look back.” His gigantic feat reminded me where determination, tenacity, and goal-setting can get me in life: even farther than the top step.

Most parents can probably agree: we are often learning life lessons from our children.  These lessons are always disguised in everyday monotony so that our children have no idea they’re schooling us. But these lessons stick with us in ways we never thought we would be taught.

I don't know if it's the nice weather keeping people from wanting to set foot inside the gym, or if summer travel and BBQs are shoving way too much irresistible food in our faces, but there’s been something in the air with many of my clients lately.  Several of them have been lamenting to me about slipping from their exercise routine for a week or more. Or falling off track with their healthy eating habits, feeling like they completely destroyed the hard work they recently put in. This all-or-nothing mentality is getting a lot of people stressed out, and I just want to let you know that we all need to 1) take a deep breath, and 2) stop demanding 100% perfection from ourselves 100% of the time because it’s never going to happen.

Instead, what if we learned healthy habits the way that Mason is learning to sort his shapes.

What are you really good at? Let’s recognize it and celebrate it.  Mason’s got the square DOWN. He’s comfortable with it.  He knows that every time he deposits that yellow square block into the yellow square hole, it’s going to drop in with ease. I’m surprised he didn’t give himself a round of applause after that one, as he usually does when he’s proud of an accomplishment.  Why don’t you take a minute to recognize your square and give yourself a round of applause for being awesome at it?  Do you eat a healthy breakfast every morning?  Do you take the stairs instead of the elevator at work? Are you drinking 80 oz. of water every day? Whatever healthy habit you’ve worked into your days that has stuck for good, next time you perform it, take a second to say to yourself, “Hey, I rock!  Way to go, me!”

Now what about that part of your routine that’s sort of working but doesn’t feel quite right?  The blue circle block technically does fit into the yellow square hole, but it needs a little force. The job is getting done, just not the way you know it should be.  Maybe you’re exercising at home while your toddler naps, but she wakes up early, so you only fit in a 15-minute workout and no shower before she’s demanding your time. Or maybe you’re running your first 5K and around mile 2 your knee gives out and you have to walk the rest of the race. Or maybe you ate super healthy all day but then your boyfriend brings over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to share while you watch a movie and you don’t have the strength to turn it down. These are the instances we have to say “good enough.” It’s not going to feel perfect. But we are making small steps in the right direction toward something that we know someday will feel a lot better.  Eventually we will learn to put the blue circle block into the blue hole, but for now, we have to say, “good enough.”

And then there’s the red triangle block.  Oh that damn red triangle. No matter how much you try, it’s never going to fit into that yellow square hole. For now, you have to pull a Mason: just let it be and walk away. Know that you tried your best with all the knowledge you have, but it’s just not in the cards for you at the moment. It’s not that you’re giving up. It’s not that your intentions are in the wrong place, or your determination isn’t there. It’s just that you haven’t yet learned how it works. Maybe that number on the scale isn’t budging.  Maybe you still can’t do a pushup on your toes. Maybe an injury is preventing you from doing any form of exercise. Whatever it is, don’t get frustrated and give up.  Instead, over time, acquire knowledge that will help you get closer and closer to making that shape fit perfectly. Mason and I have been reading books about shapes and colors.  He watches me put the red triangle block into the red hole. All education on this topic will some day allow him to make the right move with that red triangle. But today is not his day.

So I want to hear from you.  Comment below and let me know: what are your yellow, blue, and red blocks in life?