Yesterday I was at the park. The day before that I was also at the park. And the day before that, and before that. Good, bad, or indifferent, one might not realize there is a global pandemic happening while at Wash Park in Denver.
There is a 2 mile plus paved loop around the park. It is essentially a road. It’s split in half – one side for ‘walkers’ and the other side for ‘bikers’ (or anything with wheels – homemade contraptions, razor scooters, roller skates, etc).
Yesterday I happened to be walking on the paved loop (as opposed to the peripheral dirt path). A little girl was on her little bike on the bike side. She had on a helmet, a dress, closed toe velcro shoes, and an expression reflecting both the confidence and focus of someone who recently learned how to ride a bike.
I noticed her as she was riding toward me. I heard her mom from behind yell to her that turning around was not an option. She needed to stick to one direction. The next time I notice her she is ahead of me on the ground, next to the curb, on the walking side. She is not crying but she obviously fell. Her brother is on the grass – full crash gear. He is a few years older and wearing the expression of the master. Not only does he know how to ride a bike. He knows how to ride a bike over the curb.
I keep walking. And then the whole episode repeats itself. She is on the ground again. Obviously having difficulty getting over the curb. What struck me about this was – well, the whole dynamic was funny because there is always the road cyclist who treats the paved loop like it’s a velodrome, and on this late morning there was a pack of at least eight who had whizzed by when this little girl attempted to ride back toward her mom who was obviously enjoying a conversation and walk with her friend as she directed her kid to go in the other direction…and of course the helmet is too big for the kid’s head.
What I had the opportunity to observe, was a kid having her own experience. She was 0 for 2 in getting over the curb. Yet she was undeterred. You could see it in her face. Both times she was on the ground, rubbing her knees, bike down – the look on her face more curious and inquisitive then anything else. She seemed genuinely surprised and a bit perplexed as to why she couldn’t get over the curb. She also appeared to be listening and engaged with her brother who was on the grass side as he had easily mastered the curb. In his confidence, he was validating his sister that she would figure it out. It’s hard at first.
For several weeks I have been thinking about outcomes.
As it relates to one’s own life, how important is it to be curious about your own desired outcomes?
The little girl had a desired outcome. To get over the curb. She fell down twice. It didn’t matter. She knew her end game.
My ‘School Sally’ observation (over the years) of kids who play videogames is that they will incessantly move toward their desired outcomes. Often they want to beat a level. They will watch gamers play videogames to learn how to beat the level. They will apply what they learn. They will have focused and engaging conversations with others about games.
I learned to do this thing with my emotions where I chip away at my own desired emotional outcomes. For example, if I hear about someone who takes a trip. At first I may compare, ‘I want to go on that trip.’ If I don’t catch myself here I will find myself in a losing game of Chutes and Ladders where I can be at the top and then I land on the chute that takes me back to the beginning. If I connect going on a trip, to what I get paid, to the school system, to what others get paid, I can spin into a diatribe of negative thoughts and feelings in an instant. But then what? Fortunately, I have learned how to mostly avoid the chute because I know when I engage in certain thinking it just doesn’t get me the emotional outcomes that I want.
Can you notice the difference between thoughts and feelings that resonate with desired outcomes, and thoughts and feelings that resonate only with real time, observable ‘reality’?
If we don’t take the time to consider desired outcomes, we may find ourselves stuck or spinning in the same outcomes because we haven’t taken time to consider another way.
Martin Seligman created a set of outcomes to measure happiness. PERMA. His research demonstrated happiness to be a measure of: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. I would interpret achievement as growth.
When we practice self-awareness we may notice observable outcomes that we can translate with our physical senses as what is perceived to be real time. We can also notice how we are responding to what we observe. Do we have a choice in how we respond? Do we have a choice in how we perceive what is happening in real time? Does having a desired outcome support the way we experience ‘real time’?
This concept is confusing to articulate in written expression. It is a felt experience. Life is an evolution. We are ‘coded’ to continually evolve. Conditions are impermanent. Life is fluid and everchanging.
As always, there is the sweet spot. Recognizing both the what is and the what can be, and our relationship to it. Allowing both. One creating opportunity for the other. Growth.