Planning the winter holiday in Japan with my family was great fun. What I hadn’t planned was the lesson I learnt about myself in the process…

My teenage daughters and I agreed to join my husband in mastering the art of snowboarding. With huge excitement and positivity we booked rooms overlooking the mountains of Hakuba and signed up for beginner’s lessons. With our bags packed, a comfortable flight and a few days in Tokyo beforehand, we finally arrived at the ski resort. Winter sun shinning on white glistening snow, we stepped comfortably into a gondola, helped by an assistant who gently placed our snowboards in the rack on the side of the carriage. We rode higher and higher and the scenery was more and more beautiful, trees kissed by a gentle breeze swayed and wisps of soft snow fell from branches to the footpaths below covering them with white carpet. A joyous atmosphere surrounded us. I felt happy, content and excited all at the same time.

How long was this going to last?

Our instructor, a young and fit, Australian, gathered our group together and started to demonstrate the first steps (slides!) one needs to take in order to befriend the snowboard. One by one we took turns, I was tentative but gave it my best shot. My girls loved it. We all toppled a few times and managed to laugh it off. However, on one occasion I fell hard onto my tail bone, the white carpet was not as soft as it looked, hard ice with no cushioning covered the ground. I felt a reverberation run through each vertebrae up my spine to my neck, it was extremely painful. My pride was in tatters and tears streamed down my face uninvited. I hobbled to lunch, hoping that warm soup and some sympathy would bring back the enthusiasm I had started with. Back on the slopes we learned new steps (slides) / techniques further up the hill – I would like to call it a mountain but the slope was not terribly steep. I tripped
and twisted. I smashed my knee and twisted my ankle. I grew tired, hot and hapless. I was not having fun. At the end of the lesson we got back on the gondola and headed down the mountainside. I was now unable to appreciate it’s beauty because my mind was consumed by my failure, my pain and my disappointment.

Back at the hotel I complained to my family about everything from the instructor, the weather and being too old. My girls had fallen heaps too but they were able/willing to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and start over again. My thinking went into such a negative spiral that by the end of that first day all I wanted to do was sit in the onset and have a pity party.

Then I asked myself, why? Why had I failed?

Why did I not want to continue? And the answer came to me loud and clear – because I was doing it to please others. We had created a family pact of snowboarding together and I wasn’t going to spoil the dream, but truth is actually –  I’m more of a skier. When I had the courage to say, I’m not enjoying this, I would rather ski, everyone was fine about it and in fact I realised that their expectation of me was minimal, it was my expectation of myself that caused most of the grief!

The next day, on the ski slopes I met half a dozen Aussie ladies who were in the same position as me – their husbands had gone on an adventure with their kids and us mums who wanted to take it easy, enjoyed the lower slopes with no pressure or competition. After all that’s what a holiday is supposed to be isn’t it? So rather than feeling a failure at snowboarding, I was a growing success at skiing.

Why? because…

I’m doing it because I want to, because I get a buzz and because I can.

Next time you feel like a failure ask yourself – why?

  • Why are you doing this task?
  • Why do you want to succeed at this task?
  • What will happen if you don’t succeed and does it really matter?
  • What will happen if you do succeed and does it really matter?

As soon as I took control of my own thinking and actions, I felt driven to do well and had fun in the process.

Posted in Choices, communication, Empowering and tagged , , .

Anne McKeown