When I teach fitness at the elementary school, kids often tell me that they can’t jump rope. My teaching approach is that I expect everyone to try and do their best and that our fitness time is a great place to practice a new skill. Not everyone can jump rope like the champions in the jump rope club. But, I believe with practice everyone can learn to jump rope. I see kids try to jump super fast when they are just learning. Then when they get their feet tangled up, they say ‘I can’t do it’ and give up.
I always encourage them to slow down, break the process of jumping rope into smaller steps and practice it. So, we put the rope in front of our toes, jump over it with two feet, then flip the rope over our heads, slowly, but also figuring out how much force and speed is needed to get it over our heads without it flopping on our heads. Then, when the rope lands in front of our toes, we jump over and repeat the rest of the process. This is slow jump roping for sure, but you should see the smiles when a child, who has told me they cannot jump rope, is in fact jumping over the rope more times than not.
While we may not expect a child to just pick up a jump rope and be able to do it well, I think we adults believe if something does not come easily we just can’t do it. I cannot be more patient, I can’t lose weight, I can’t connect with others, I can’t stop eating sugar or stressing out over work… Well, I think you can, you just have to practice a new way of thinking and doing some things.
Why is it so hard to be in that place of practicing? I know I did not like practicing the piano or flute when I was younger. It took time and it was boring to repeat the same section over and over. We expect that we should just be able to do things without the effort of learning and we resist practicing. It can be hard to face the places where we make mistakes, and see that we are not doing it perfectly. It’s uncomfortable, it can make us vulnerable or lead us to think negatively about ourselves. But the only way to learn a new behavior such as reacting to others differently, or feeling more confident, or less depressed or stressed out is to practice new ways of thinking and doing.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is big on practice. As the Beck Institute of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy taught me, ‘people get better by making small changes every day’. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a safe, supportive place to figure out what needs to change, what behaviors you might benefit from starting or how to replace behaviors or thinking that is not beneficial with something new. Then, we break it down into small steps and set up situations when you will practice. These action steps are created to be doable, as we want you to have success. We experiment to see what might happen if for example, you just do the dishes even though you feel depressed, or get up to do yoga before work even though you have too much to do. We create new rational thoughts that you read daily to help you think differently about yourself and your situation. One step at a time.
Are you going to stay with what you know, what feels safe even though it’s holding you back or making you unhappy? Or are you ready to practice some new ways of thinking about yourself, new ways to respond to or connect with others, or new ways of thinking about your abilities? You have the power to create positive changes in your life.