Learn Like A Toddler

Learning a new skill or set of skills can seem so daunting.  The thought of learning the piano or guitar as an adult can bring on a full-scale panic attack in the same way as the thought of learning to lead a division of a Fortune 100 Company. 

However, we can’t let that anxiety become a barrier to learning. 

We all need to learn to welcome that anxiety as FUEL for the fight as excitement for the challenge and harness its power to PROPEL us forward. 

We have to remember that we are ALL capable of learning.  In fact, we have been learning since our very earliest days on this planet.  If you are a parent, it is easy to remember all of the learning milestones your child reached.  Draw on your toddler’s capacity to learn when you feel stuck or incapable or paralyzed about learning a new skill, talent, or habit. 

Did your toddler fret and complain and wring her hands when she didn’t know how to walk? 


She stood, tentatively at first, holding onto a hand or a table.  Then, she reached her little foot out in front of her – undeterred by the risk of falling.  She fell.  She fell again.  She fell a MILLION TIMES.  And, she got back up and stuck that little foot out in front of her – willing to risk the fall to take the step.  Sometimes, she cries in frustration or reaches out for us to hold her, but she STILL TRIES OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  And, finally, after a million tries and a million falls, bruises and kisses, she is walking. 

And, then unfazed by risk or reason, she wants to RUN!

Believe it or not, at one point in our lives, we ALL had this mindset.  We were ALL undaunted by failure, unparalyzed by anxiety, undeterred by risk. 

What happened???? 

Life happened.  We got hurt.  We got humiliated.  We got embarrassed.  We got frustrated.  And, we stopped trying.  We gave up.  We shut down. 

It was too hard.  It was too painful. 

But, what if we went back to that toddler mindset??? 

What if we EXPECTED that it would take 100 repetitions before we gained competency – much less mastery?? 

What if we gave ourselves permission to take risks and fall down <over and over again> without shame or embarrassment? 

I wonder what we could learn.  I wonder who we could be. 

Remember, anything or anyone who doesn’t LIGHT YOU UP is too small for you,

Sarah-Nell Walsh

Career Coach + Strategist

[Inspired by Mary Beth O’Neill, Coaching with Backbone and Heart, p. 33.]