What’s Your Monkey Bar?

“First tell yourself what you want to be, then do what you need to do.”
– Epictetus

Action Item:
Set a goal, back it with objectives, then support it with action, practice and positive reinforcement (and let others support you!).

by Cary Fyfe

by Cary Fyfe

The quote and action sound simple, right? At first glance — yes, then when we move forward with the goal in mind, we get tripped up. It’s so easy to dream big and set goals, but not so easy to accomplish them. Why is that? A million reasons like: “I ran out of time,” “I don’t have the resources,” “I don’t have the strength,” “my life is too scattered,” etc. All true, but only if we set our sights on the goal, then neglect to engage in the small steps that enable us to reach the goal. And what are those small steps? Find them in this story about CK, a 4 year-old preschool student of mine:

CK stands alone on the playground, nestled into a shady spot beside the monkey bars. She seems unaware of the gleeful sounds of play surrounding her; she ignores her friends’ requests for her to join. I look toward the object of her thoughtful gaze, and she is intently watching a playmate guide her seemingly effortless way across the monkey bars – back and forth, over and over – reach, grab, dangle, swing, reach again…a natural and unselfconscious dance for this four-year-old peer. She continues to watch, then sees me and slowly approaches, something clearly on her mind.

“I want to do that.” She points to her swinging friend. “…but I can’t” she adds.

I reach for her hand and we walk together to the monkey bars. Together, we survey the ladder — up to the launch, the length of the bars to the ladder on the other side, and the length between the bars. We talk about how the metal is hard on sweet, innocent palms, of how it’s hard to maintain a strong grip.

“What CAN you do on the monkey bars?” I ask. Without answering, she shows me as she climbs the short ladder, affirms her safe stance, reaches for the first bar with one hand, then the other, then turns to look at me again. Where moments before there had been a look aglow with possibilities there is now a cloud, casting a shadow of self-doubt across her face. I smile and urge her forward with a nod, she turns again to the bars, and with the twinkle returning to her now determined focus, she reaches one hand out, then the other, and drops her feet from the ladder. She swings – I will her to hold on. The earlier shadow crosses her face again – I tense every muscle in my body as if that would be the force that enables her to stay aloft. And with my smiles and the excited hurrays of her friends who are now cheering her on, she breaks her personal record for holding that first bar, then moves ahead by reaching out for the second. Does she make it the first time? No. And not the second or third either, but she is now clear about her goal: she is going to cross the monkey bars. She now knows her objectives: to hold on to one monkey bar and swing, to reach for the next bar and repeat, to continue this practice until her goal is reached. Her support when she loses faith? The encouragement of her friends and her teacher, the inspiration of her peers doing what she so badly wants to be able to do, her growing strength from practicing and experiencing small successes.

And she moves toward this goal by doing just that – she practices. And even in her four-year-old world, there are roadblocks. It rains the next day and we don’t make it to the playground. She chooses to play chase with friends over monkey bar practice every now and again. She gets a blister and has to rest for a few days. But in time, she makes it across, and when she does, there is cause for celebration like nothing has ever been celebrated before in her short life. And it is a golden moment, one that launches her towards her next goal: to cross back over again.

So, what’s your ‘monkey bar?’  In other words, what goal/goals are you striving toward? Whether physical, mental or spiritual, this week is our week to allow ourselves to revisit the simplicity of moving forward with our goals and desires, which will move us closer to living our legacy. Therefore, set a goal or goals. Back it up with specific, reasonable objectives that enable you to move towards accomplishing that desired behavior. Then actively practice those objectives in your daily life – again, even in the tiniest ways. Find support and encouragement by surrounding yourself with supportive people, or positive and inspiring readings or situations. You can also share your goal someone who is happy to nudge you gently forward, as you see fit.

“First tell yourself what you want to be, then do what you need to do,” and we will continually celebrate together and for each other like no one has ever celebrated before!

Point to Ponder:
What is something difficult you would like to accomplish this summer, but don’t know how you will make it happen?

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2 thoughts on “What’s Your Monkey Bar?

  1. Pingback: Do You Get in Your Own Way? | the iGnite Your Life blog

  2. Pingback: It’s Never Too Late | the iGnite blog

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