Kaboom! How to Fall Forward

I know, I know. The expression is “spring forward, fall back.” But I’m not talking about adjusting the clock on your microwave; I’m talking about much more significant adjustments: the kind that change your life. And, on this first day of autumn, a season many of us associate with renewal, I find that a lot of people I talk to are pretty taken with idea of life having a “reboot” button.

falling, maggie mcreyolds blog

Photo courtesy Jamie Campbell

But here’s the thing: you are not a laptop. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t “reset to factory condition.” And if you could, you’d lose a hell of a lot of experience and hard-won growth in the process. So when I talk about changing your life, in big ways or small, I’m not talking about a clean slate, I’m talking about going through your baggage, discarding what doesn’t serve you, packing up the lessons learned, and moving on. Lighter. Invigorated. Not wiped blank, but renewed.

The biggest thing I know about moving forward is that it is almost guaranteed that you will fall. We all knew this the moment we tried our first, tentative steps, but many of us have forgotten that falling is an inherent part of taking risks and making progress, not a sign that we screwed up or have failed. We grow older, as our metaphorical joints grow seemingly less flexible and, in our heads, more fragile, we can become unwilling to risk a fall. We become stuck and complacently, resignedly so, even when we are stuck in a place that really, really isn’t working for us.

This autumn, I’m inviting you to—yes, fall. Take a risk. Take a leap. Take even a tiny step. And when you stumble—because you will—or when you land on your butt—because you’ll do that, too—know that this is part of trying something you’ve never ever done before. It’s no big deal, this thing I used to call a “kaboom!” whenever my son fell on his diapered behind. I started saying that whenever he fell because unless it was obviously a bad fall (and it almost never was), he looked to me first to see if he was okay. If I didn’t react as if it were a big tragedy, then he didn’t, either. I am rather proud that his first word was a very cheerful “Uh-oh!” something else I used to say in a bright voice if he dropped or spilled something.

It wasn’t a big deal when he fell or dropped a Cheerio, and it’s not a big deal when you do, either. Holding on for all you’re worth and staying very, very still may be a way to guarantee you don’t fall—but it’s also a pretty good guarantee that you won’t grow.

However old you are, at whatever stage of life in which you find yourself, are you really prepared to say you’re all done growing, evolving, learning and willing to take a chance on becoming the truest and most joyful expression of yourself?

I know quite a lot about this. I have fallen more times than I can count–sometimes in pretty spectacular skirt-flies-up-and-exposes-all sorts of ways. A few times, I’ve even broken a bone or two. But every single fall taught me something important, from “if you don’t try, you’ll never have a chance to succeed” to “hey, don’t carry boxes down a dark stairway without your glasses.”

Important lessons, both.

So here’s the deal: got some baby steps (or even big ones) you’re ready to take? I’m here. I can hold your hands, just as I used to do with my son when I taught him to walk (or roller skate, or ice skate). I can stand to one side and point out the broken concrete or the little rock on your path. I can help you hold yourself accountable for the steps you say you want to take to change your life.

And when you fall, I will joyfully and exuberantly shout, “Kaboom!” Because when you take that tumble, you will learn something big and important and life-changing. And I will be the very first person cheering you on, and extending a hand to get you back up and on your feet again.

Falling. It’s a cool thing. You should try it sometime.

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