Effin' First Times
If you’ve known me for any length in time, you’ve probably heard me mention Brené Brown in conversation. She is a researcher and storyteller who specializes in turning lives inside out. Her book Daring Greatly was a game changer for me. It’s about the power of vulnerability to transform the way we live, love and lead. Brené doesn’t sugar coat things. She may be a researcher – but she also shares her own stories and struggles in coming to terms with her findings that vulnerability is a requirement for connection. She recently started a podcast called “Unlocking Us” and the first episode is all about FFTs or as Brené calls them “effing first times.” It’s that uncomfortable feeling you have when you are knee deep in doing something that you’ve never done before. She says that we’ve gotten so used to avoiding that feeling that most of us have stopped doing things that we’re not already good at doing. Unfortunately, as Brené observes: “When we give up being new and awkward, we stop growing. When we stop growing, we stop living.”
Listening to Brené made me realize that over the past two years I’ve gone through a lot of FFTs without naming them. I got engaged, married, got a new roommate (my husband!), changed jobs at Disney and then left Disney after nine years to work with my husband and his brother. I chose the Ironman of FFTs. That’s a lot of a change in a very short period of time. There was a lot of times when I was knee deep in the discomfort of doing something new and I didn’t know how to name it. I thought I could solve it, but there are no solutions to FFTs. There is no way to make it any less uncomfortable. The discomfort is part of the process – and if you keep going, there is growth waiting for you on the other side.
I don’t like to be new at things. I want to be good from the start, but it’s normal to not be. We have to crawl before we can walk, and we have to walk before we can run.
I don’t want to keep coming back to the fact that we are in the middle of worldwide pandemic… but we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic! We are all knee deep in this FFT right now, and it can be scary and uncomfortable. When we lean into the process of learning something new, everything grows: our perspective, our heart, our relationships, our abilities - true growth touches every area of our lives. Although we can’t skip the discomfort of learning, we can bring tools to help us along the way. Brené shared three on her podcast that can help us get through:
Name the FFT – When we start feeling out of control, anxious or worried, we need to ask ourselves what’s going on right now? Why do I feel this way? It may just be an FFT.
Normalize It – We need to remind ourselves that it is normal to feel this way. It is part of the process.
Put It into Perspective – We can’t expect progress overnight. Experience is the product of time and practice. So, we’re just going to have to keep showing up and sitting with our discomfort until we become great friends.
I’ve been practicing these three steps over the past few weeks at home, at work and when anxious thoughts about the pandemic pop up. They’ve been helping me identifying when I’m overreacting to something that is new. I’m able to take a breath and realize:
I’m in the middle of an FFT.
The discomfort I’m feeling is normal.
It will take time to pass, but this too shall pass.
And, there will be growth on the other side.