Years ago, I attended a weeklong personal development course on a gorgeous tropical island. It was such a privilege to be there, and I was anxious yet enthusiastic about the seven days ahead. I was assigned a partner to complete tasks with throughout the week. Our first assignment was to rebound—otherwise known as jumping on a trampoline—every morning to get us moving and oxygenate our minds and bodies and prepare us for the day ahead.
The first day went off without a hitch. On day two, the organizers moved our rebounders (trampolines) close together so we were a bit more crowded as we bounced away. My partner didn’t like this change one bit, pursing her lips and furrowing her brow in anger while the rest of us laughed and tried to manage our new challenge.
On day three, the organizers threw us a curveball—beach balls, actually—that we were instructed to throw in the air while we rebounded. My partner was livid! She pulled her rebounder off to the side and bounced away by herself while complaining about how unsafe the exercise had become.
Sometimes those balls in the air can seem like too much to manage.
I was uncomfortable about her behavior toward the instructors. Yet she continued. And there I was, enjoying the company of my other fellow attendees as we figured out how to manage the tasks the organizers gave us. Why couldn’t my partner do the same?
By day six, I was ready to hide every time I saw my partner scowl. Was I letting her down or was she letting me down? How could we possibly get through the end of the week, much less offer support to each other?
Finally, on day seven, my partner arrived and began happily rebounding with the rest of us. I was amazed! How had this woman who had spent so much time complaining finally be smiling?
“I get it,” she admitted. “In life, we have a lot of balls to juggle and people invading our space and demanding our time. But it’s how we cope that defines our success. I’ve always pulled away and coped on my own, but I see now that this exercise is a metaphor for life. How we handle games is how we handle life.”
I think about that story often when I hear from members who feel as if they have been tasked with too much. Sometimes those balls in the air can seem like too much to manage when we’re already dealing with everyday life.
We don’t have to do it alone, however. We set and accomplish our goals together, and celebrate our successes, large and small. Eventually, we’ll look back at what we’ve done and realize our achievements have set us up beautifully for success. And how we actually managed it all. Together.
Margaret Page, DTM
The Gift of Character