Written by Alisa Burpee, PhD.
The ongoing misadventures of my puppy Rey provide fodder for many a life lesson. This week while visiting the lake, our goal was to get her to jump off the dock to chase sticks into the water (just like those professional Labradors you see on TV). After succeeding at retrieving sticks from the shore line, the next step was to get her to leap from the swim step of the boat into the water (less than a foot drop). We deliberately brought enticing looking sticks along in the boat and fervently encouraged her from various angles. She hemmed and hawed and whined, racing up and down the length of the boat in her frustration at seeing the stick slowly float farther and farther away. She clearly wanted the stick but was too afraid to make the leap in order to be united with it. After about an hour we called it quits and began motoring back toward shore at a moderate speed. From the bow I heard my husband suddenly yell, “She jumped!” Sure enough I swiveled around to see her dark outline contrasted by her orange life jacket bobbing in the wake. We slowed and returned her safely to the stern of the boat where she rested after her courageous foray into the unfamiliar.
How often does our need to be ready first interfere with taking the leap itself? In our culture, we’re generally taught to “look before we leap.” This is a useful adage, though often it compels us to “look” in a way that leads to over-analysis. Rey modeled this in her hesitation, which interfered with making her foray in a less urgent, haphazard manner. She compensated by taking an infinitely more dangerous leap at a less opportune time. Also, how frequently in life does it really work this way (acting only once all duckies are neatly in a row)? We hide behind the need to collect more data, perform more due diligence, wait for a sign. These are useful and necessary to some extent, though I’ve heard many speak of waiting for the most opportune of the opportunities only to find that ship has sailed.
So how do we know when we are truly ready? And is it possible to not feel ready but still do the thing anyway? Think of a time in your life when you did not feel ready but did it anyway and reflect on how it turned out. Today, make your intention to take a small leap. Pick something you wouldn’t normally do that is in some way in the service of what matters to you in life and see what happens.