My alarm was blaring at 5:30 a.m. the morning after Christmas. It was 11 degrees outside with snow on the ground. My son had invited me to join him on the Frying Pan River near Aspen so that he could teach me to fly fish. He and I were headed out early to make sure we were the first people to claim the best spot at a legendary fishing hole called The Toilet Bowl. I'm not much of a winter person. I don't like to be cold, and I have never been one to fish. I had said yes to the invitation because I was honored that he'd invited me and that he was excited to teach me. And, I did catch my first fish! In the process, we also created a fun memory. I learned a lot about my son that day -- seeing him in his element, doing one of the things he loves most, and so excited to share it with me. I gained a new appreciation for his joy of being on the river in the early mornings. Recently hired by a local fly fishing shop as a guide, I now know how excellent he will be in that role.
It's so easy to say no to things that aren't on our radar of preferences. It would have been easy that morning, for me to choose to sleep in and stay warm instead of putting on long underwear and fishing waders. We often say no to things that we did years ago, clinging to that initial impression of it rather than try it again. If you experienced being afraid of heights or flying in the past, you now say no to anything that puts you at risk of re-experiencing that fear, yet you haven't tried it in decades.
What opportunity has been presented to you recently that you quickly turned down because it didn't fit with how you see yourself? If you continue to eliminate new things, can you imagine how small your world will be in another year, ten years or 25 years down the road? With time, the list of things you are no longer willing to try will become longer than the list of things you do.
I recently finished Elizabeth Gilbert's book "The Big Magic," which is a really good read about our relationship to creativity. In talking about creativity, she suggests that we focus less on finding a passion and more on paying attention to what ignites our curiosity. Where does our curiosity lead us if we are willing to follow it? Do you allow yourself to experience curiosity? Or, are you someone who shuts themselves off from anything that is unfamiliar?
When your partner suggests something new (whether that be a new restaurant, a vacation or new activity), resist the urge to be a buzz kill with old excuses and instead, say "that's a great idea!" Practice going with the flow. When my son was little, I often told my him that he needed to try a food at least two times before he made a decision about it. Our tastes can change, sometimes by the day, by our mood, and by the combination of what we are experiencing at any given time. Don't make the assumption that because you didn't have a good experience one time that it holds true forever.
When your child asks you to engage in an activity, take a deep breath and say yes, "that's a great idea!" rather than the familiar "I'm too busy," "I'm working," etc. Is what you are doing really more important than the opportunity to have a moment with your child?