I love Game of Thrones. It is hands down my favourite TV show. I love it so much, in fact, that my husband and I recently watched all 5 seasons from beginning to end. I was amazed at the amount of nuances I had failed to pick up on the first time around. One scene in particular struck a chord with me.
It is in season 5, episode 2. The Princess Shireen is teaching Gilly to read. They are sitting together, pouring over an old manuscript, concentrating on the letter s. Sam looks up from the book he is himself reading and asks Gilly “Did you know the youngest Lord Commander in history, Osric Stark, was elected at age ten?” to which Gilly replies “I know S.” To me, this seemed like a perfect example of focusing on the process, and not on the prize. Gilly had mastered one letter in the alphabet, only 25 more to go!
I have found myself thinking about this scene a lot in recent weeks. I was promoted at work, and as often happens, the transition from one role to the next has been anything but smooth. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, I found myself rather thrown in at the deep end. It came to month end and all I could think was “I can’t do this!” “I don’t know what I’m doing!” “nobody showed me!” etc. etc.
I didn’t really have the luxury to wallow in this for long, so before panic well and truly set in I asked myself, well Arwen, what can you do? Can you look at last months file and try to recreate it? Can you ask your colleagues for help? Can you apply your experience, education and good sense to the problem and try to work through it? Can you find your S and start from there?
Just like any task or problem that at first seems daunting and insurmountable, I was able to keep breaking it down, into smaller and smaller components until I found something I felt confident enough to attempt. I was able to focus on the process and not allow myself to be freaked out about an end point I felt sure I would never reach.
I think it’s important to do the very same thing when it comes to tackling anything that scares us. Be it trying to lose weight, trying to get fitter or even trying to learn a language or an instrument. Maybe the thought of making radical changes to your lifestyle is horribly off-putting, so break it down, and down again until you find the thing you can do. Maybe you’re terrified of joining the gym, okay, can you commit to taking a walk each day and build up from there? Perhaps you don’t have any cookery skills and have to eat out a lot, okay, can you find a cook book you like and even try one new thing each week? There are no hard and fast rules here. Remember, this is your process, you get to drive it.
I remember, years ago, my brother and I decided to take guitar lessons together. I was about 23 and my brother would have been about 12. We found a wonderful teacher, and both enjoyed the lessons immensely. For many reasons, my brother progressed a lot faster than I did. He was more committed and practiced a lot more. I was juggling a full time job, part time study and a whole host of other “stuff” and so didn’t put in the time it required. My brother, who is naturally gifted, I must add, is now a successful musician and the pride of the family. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t know how to play one song! He invested in the process, and so, he got the prize.
I think as we get older, we lose the skill of learning. I know one of the biggest barriers to me with the guitar was that I was painfully aware of just how awful I sounded. I was so self-conscious that I wouldn’t practice if anyone else was in the house. Ridiculous, I know, but this is what we do. We are so busy trying to hide our ignorance and look like we know it all, that we miss out on the opportunity to learn and to grow. As adults we forget just how long it took us to learn to read or to ride a bike. As children we fell dozens of times and got straight back on, as grown ups, one slight stumble deters us forever. We have forgotten what it means to try.
From now on, I am going to try to remember how to try. I will allow myself to fail, and to keep on trying. I will accept that there will always be someone who knows more than I do, and recognise that this is a good thing. I will endeavour to leverage the knowledge and experience of my friends and colleagues to further my own education. I will aim to never stop learning. But, most importantly, I will remember that although I may not have it all worked out, at least “I know S!”