There are countless things I loved about spending four months during winter in the Northwoods of Wisconsin with my family. We were house sitting a log cabin in the middle of a national forest, in the beautiful town of Clam Lake that has a population of 37 people.
The seasons are very distinct in the Northwoods. There was a moment when the hold of winter was released and the life of spring filled the air like New Year’s fireworks.
That day is etched in my memory as we went to our friend’s riverside cabin to sit in the early spring sun and waste time in conversation and coffee.
With the snow melted and the sun shining, our daughter Andy was enjoying the freedom of running outside. Something she had not done without snow gear since we departed Australia three months earlier.
Like any child, she was instantly drawn to the water’s edge. As we walked alongside the shallows, we could see the scurry of tadpoles back to the longer weeds.
Andy was in wonder, as she had never seen tadpoles before. And like any good grandfather, our friend Bill passed Andy a net.
Andy learnt that she needed to creep along the river’s edge quietly, as she reached out with the net to catch a tadpole. She would hold it in her hand and we would discuss how this little slug with a tail would grow into a bouncing frog. Andy released the tadpole, watched it swim away before she would go exploring for the next.
It was a beautiful moment with Andy. We were lost in such enjoyment and it gave me the opportunity to feel like I was a four year old again, catching tadpoles for the first time.
I also learnt three lessons as I was teaching Andy about the life of a tadpole and its journey to becoming a frog.
Be comfortable with the beginning
From the moment a tadpole hatches into this world, it is alone. It needs to learn how to survive. No one is there for help or guidance. All it has are its instincts on what to do now – in this moment.
The start of something new is always difficult, as we don’t know what we are doing. We stand at the bottom of the mountain of our dream, and all we can see are all the steps we need to climb to reach the peak in the clouds.
Our self-limiting beliefs set in and we question if we can even do it. We wonder if there is really any point in even beginning.
When a tadpole hatches, it isn’t worried that it can’t jump from one lily pad to the next. It knows that at the beginning stage, lily pad jumping is not a priority or a concern. A tadpole focuses on the immediate issues in front of it, the first steps - For a tadpole, to find food and protection.
The enormity of a task, a desire, a dream, a way of life, often prevents us from evening beginning. If we can be aware of, and comfortable with, the beginning phase, we can focus on that first step. We can create short-term actions with long-term vision.
A tadpole quickly learns that to survive it needs to grow and develop. It doesn’t know when things will happen, but it knows that they won’t happen if it doesn’t grow. For a tadpole, the process of growing is what leads to its development. A tadpole’s growth comes from its food. If it stops putting this energy and food into its body, it will never develop everything it needs to become the strongest frog it can potentially be. A tadpole is not focussed on having legs. It is focussed on growing, so it can have legs.
I always wanted things to have happened yesterday. I would set dated goals with ridiculous timeframes and be frustrated and disappointed with myself when I didn’t achieve them. I wanted to be the tadpole that grew his legs the fastest so he could be jumping now. I was focused on the goal and the outcome.
By shifting my view on goals, I have learnt to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. Instead of a particular outcome, I am more focused on the direction I am heading. Am I growing to allow myself to develop?
I have realised, that when I focus on growth, my legs eventually arrive.
Our future self may not resemble our current self
When Andy held the tadpole for the first time, she couldn’t believe that this slug with a tail would become a green bouncing frog.
A tadpole is not a smaller version of itself. Through continuous growth it metamorphoses into a frog – a creature that shows little resemblance to a tadpole, and is armed with new skills and tools to do so much more.
We limit ourselves by thinking we are just a smaller version of our future self. We find it internally challenging to change from a path, whether that is a career or the way we live our life - As it is something we have been doing for a long time. We identify our future self with our present self.
But what if the tadpole had that same mindset. We would live in a world with giant tadpoles and no frogs, and the tadpole would never find the joy of lily pad jumping.
We don’t need to be swimming in the safety of the long weeds forever. We can grow and develop, change paths and direction, and evolve into someone with new skillsets and interests from the person we are now.
I caught so much more than tadpole that day with Andy.
Allow yourself time to grow so you can find the joy in lily pad jumping: Live immediately