Staging a “Go Slow”

» Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 | 17 comments

Staging a “Go Slow”

go-slow (n) a period of time spent in an unusually slow fashion.

In my explorations so far this year, I’ve discovered one thing over and over – I can do things I thought I couldn’t. The reason I thought I couldn’t do them is because I couldn’t do them quickly. I don’t get things right the first time or even the 15th time. I fall over, I get lost, I drop things, I get tired. So I’m staging a go-slow.

A couple of years ago I did a weekend scuba diving course. Within 10 seconds of leaping into the deep end of the pool with a pile of strange equipment attached to me, the instructor said ‘let’s descend!”. Wait a minute – what??? That’s 8 feet down there and I don’t know how to breathe through this thing. But I descended along with everyone else, my breathing loud and ragged in my ears, my legs and arms seemingly no longer under my control.

We knelt on the bottom, the surface a long way above our heads, and were asked to complete a series of tasks, such as checking our air levels and taking our regulators out of our mouths and putting them back in. But then we had to fill our masks up with water so we could practice clearing them. I watched the others do it and obediently followed, but as soon as the water went up my nose, my brain announced that I was drowning and I had better get to the surface pronto.

This process was repeated several more times until I couldn’t face it anymore. The rest of the group had moved on without me and the more anxious I became about being left behind, the harder it was to work through my reflexive response to water up my nose. Because I was unable to complete this task, I wasn’t allowed to continue, and to be honest I didn’t want to by that point. The instructor who had been trying to encourage me said ‘well diving isn’t for everyone’.

Can you imagine if, when we fell over as we were learning to walk, the people around us said ‘oh well, it’s not for everyone’. Actually diving IS for me -  I can now fill my mask up with water and keep breathing, but only because some supportive and patient diving friends stood with me in the shallow end of the pool and talked me through it at MY pace. In fact once I was swimming around comfortably with just a snorkel and no mask, water filling my nose and sinuses, I decided I was ready to attempt mask clearing and my friend told me to slow down! By the time I got around to filling my mask, I was more than ready because I’d been encouraged to go slow.

A similar thing happened when I was at a friend’s house recently as we saddled up her horses. I swung the saddle up and almost missed, complaining about how heavy it was and how hard it was to do up. She told me there was no way I was ready yet to have my own horse. Stung, I started outlining my story of fatigue and muscle-stiffness…as if I needed to justify myself. In response, my friend suggested I try instead to go slower and do less. You know what happened, right? Suddenly I could do that saddle up by myself. I couldn’t go wrong, if I tried and failed, no big deal. But I didn’t. I did that saddle up, climbed up on my horse by standing on a milk crate, and off we went.

A story I developed about myself early on and have continued to believe in and reinforce over the years is that I’m incompetent when it comes to any sort of physical activity. The reason I felt incompetent when I was younger is because I learned you better get it right the first time and look like a pro in the process. With this belief in tow, I have little experience of being ‘successful’ in these areas. I haven’t avoided them totally though – I’ve tried:

  • Snow skiing
  • Water skiing
  • Ice skating
  • Roller blading
  • Horse riding
  • Scuba diving
  • Motorbike riding.

Do you know how much fun it is to snow plow for the first time while telling yourself you must not fall over and you must not look foolish?? Not much!

When I was doing my psychology degree, all the personality tests we practiced on each other in class said repeatedly that I was a thrill seeker. I had a good laugh at that, but now I look at all these activities I’ve tiptoed around – would I have even looked at those things if deep down I didn’t secretly long to do them? But as soon as I couldn’t keep up or fell over or wasn’t strong enough, I fitted that into ‘the story’ and it became evidence of my incompetence. I tried all these activities, but my beliefs always said ‘you’re failing, stop trying’.

This year, which I’ve devoted to exploring my truth, I see I will have step out of my comfort zone a lot more than I planned. Taking courses, writing and talking with likeminded souls is only the start of getting to the truth. Getting my power back and putting an end to that old story for good will involve doing things that are physically challenging, at MY pace. The truth is I love roller coasters, flying in small planes and helicopters, travelling to countries off the beaten track, patting big dogs and holding snakes. I’ve also noticed that I’m not really as introverted as I believed – while I like my own company, I actually need to be around people, that’s where I get my energy. I like being part of a noisy crowd, it makes me feel alive. Maybe I’m an extroverted introvert :)

Realising all this during my recent explorations, how is it that ‘the story’ still has a hold on me? My riding friend was telling me about a self-defence class she did recently. At the end of the class, the instructor attacked them and they had no choice but to fight back. My friend is fierce and fought back with energy and abandon. I knew I wouldn’t have. Yet that same week I read a horrifying article outlining details of the rape and murder of 8 year old Canadian girl Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford and I felt a surge of adrenalin through my body at the thought of what I would like to do to her murderers. It occurred to me that I have always fought on behalf of children and animals. Why wouldn’t I fight for me?

The answer is in ‘the story’. No-one fought on my behalf when I was a child, although I’ve since discovered they wanted to, they just didn’t know how. I concluded I wasn’t worth fighting for. That story needs to be thrown into the deepest darkest hole I can find, along with the version of me that I’ve been seeing in the mirror and projecting out to the world. The real story of me IS worth fighting for. So is yours.

I’m giving both of us permission to do the following, particularly when we’re learning something new in an area where we lack confidence:

  • Go slow – be the last one to finish or to ‘get it’
  • Look foolish – fall over, drop things, do it wrong
  • Ask silly questions
  • If you’re getting tired and frustrated, give up…for now (just don’t give up on you)
  • Come back and do it all again as many times over as you need to.

Most importantly, don’t make any of it mean anything about you - we all have things we’re naturally better or worse at than others. Remember:  If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly – so take your time, have fun, and I’d love to hear about it! Meanwhile I’ll be diving in Vanuatu…



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  1. Thanks for this wonderful and affirming post! I love the list of permissions at the end, those are great tips to remember and follow.

    • Thanks Gina – yes sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission :)

  2. For a long time I believed that if I couldn’t do something perfectly right away then I wasn’t going to do it! I think this is related to many embarrassing episodes related to being a klutzy kid. The older I get the more willing I am to apply myself until I get the hang of it so I really appreciate your list of permissions.

    • Good for you Loran. I bet you weren’t a klutzy kid though – just an inquisitive eager adventurous kid trying to figure it all out :)

      • Oh, I was a real klutz, believe me!

  3. Wonderful Leanne! Thank you for such a powerful and inspiring story :) It IS safe to be me…and a lot of fun too. Thanks for the reminder that it is perfectly okay to “go slow”. I tried the “Just Do It” energy…which is great sometimes but more often than not it isn’t for me and my expression in this world at this time and I honor that in me :)

    • Hi Jill – yes sometimes the ‘just do it’ is useful (for housework and filing, haha) but sometimes we just have to do things when we’re ready.

  4. I feel that these words were truly spoken just to me, Leanne! I am kind of a chicken sh** when it comes to trying new and (gasp!) scary things that I nonetheless seem to find an inkling of intrigue in as well, and am fascinated (and envious!) that others can do with no problem! I fear (personal) failure as well as danger or guilt of looking stupid if I mess it up, especially around those who CAN (and DO) do “it”. Thank you for reminding me that it is ok to NOT know how to do something, but to move past all those fears and just try…and if it does not “work” the first time (like your scuba diving experiences, which would TOTALLY beme…fear of the water getting up my nose, as well as having to keep my eyes open underwater is what keeps me from trying…even when I just spent 2 weeks in the beautiful scuba heavn of Maui! I wouldn’t even try snorkeling!), it is ok to say HEY, I NEED TO GO SLOWER! Thank you for oepning up and sharing such a useful personal revelation!

    • Thank YOU Laurie! It’s always great to hear when someone feels personally touched by what I write, and what you’ve shared here affirms ME as well. I can completely relate to what you’ve said. Let’s ease up on ourselves, the rest of the world can wait :)

  5. Leanne, this is the most divine ‘permission slip’.

    I’ve always avoided embaressment like the plague ~ rather ‘not doing’ than possibly look foolish.

    Sooooo many luscious experiences lost *sigh*
    But not any more!!

    I’m giving myself permission to go slow and flounder lol

    • Good for you Jacqueline, I’ll see you on the embarrassing luscious experience train, floundering along with you :)

  6. Lovely reminder – thank you Leanne.

    • Thanks Jo :)

  7. Great post, Leanne!

    I realised a while back (when I was trying to learn to ballroom dance for my wedding, believe it or not) that when it comes to learning ANYTHING physical, I have a specific way I need to learn it.

    Basically, I need to learn short little sequences of 4-6 individual moves (basically a small enough number that I can *say* what I’m doing verbally in a list, because my brain is primarily verbal), and drill those few moves over and over again, until they’re in my muscle memory and no longer have to say them to remember them. Then, and ONLY then can I move on to the next short sequence of 4-6 moves. Once I have 4-6 groups of short sequences, I can “chunk” them together into the steps of the dance.

    Trying to add any more individual moves onto the first sequence before it’s gone into muscle memory just doesn’t work for me, and I had a lot of frustration at the classes before I realised this. Meanwhile, my teacher just didn’t work that way (I only realised this was the case because it was how I’d learned martial arts kata in the past), so I ended up quitting the lessons because I just wasn’t enjoying them.



    • I totally get that Tanja – this is how I learn piano. I have to say the notes out loud and learn groups of them at a time. Once they’re in muscle memory I can leave it to my fingers and move my conscious mind out of the way – that’s the bit that messes everything up with the negative self-talk! I forgot to add karate to my list above, learning the kata overwhelmed me and I stopped – I see why now.

  8. Why is there only a *like* button? I want to press the *LOVE IT* button!!!

    • Awww thanks x