What 2-year-olds teach us about tools

This is the second post in the series Career Cornerstones for a Lit-Up Life. If you missed the first cornerstone (VALUES), read it here

Lately my two-year-old has been acquiring new skills with alarming speed. This week alone she mastered such critical life skills as climbing in and out of the tub, putting on pants, plugging in a nightlight, dragging a toy shopping cart up and down stairs (v. dangerous, not a life skill), climbing every public play structure within 1km of our home and putting a full garbage bag in the giant bin outside (not asking questions, going with it).

But more amazing than any of the skills she’s developing is the attitude a person needs to learn that much that quickly. It’s an attitude of being in the moment, embracing the process, unencumbered by expectations and unconcerned with what others might think. It’s the ultimate winning belief system and we’re all born with it.

So where does it go?

Over in the corporate world we looove talking about our toolkits – what’s in there and what we want to put in there next. The general practice is to equate “tools” with “skills”. We identify skills gaps and then gather said skills – think courses like coding-for-beginners and speaking-with-confidence. But often after we’ve checked off the skill we needed, we’re still experiencing our work – satisfaction, motivation, all of it – in exactly the same way as before.

This is because skills only comprise some of our work tools. If our values are the “WHY” of what we do, our tools are the “HOW”. And that includes the skills, traits, habits and beliefs that we work with every single day.

The toolkit analogy reminds me of those plastic toy sets where it’s the whole construction site – workers, truck, road signs, crane, and tool boxes complete with tiny colourful tools. Everything in its little place.

Skills alone are basically inanimate objects like the tiny colourful plastic tools. It’s our mindset and beliefs that bring them to life, cause them to play, and allow them to shine.

The “it factor” behind my toddler’s outrageous development is not her gross motor skills or her cognition or even her inquisitiveness, it’s her sheer tenacity. This little creature believes in herself 100% and that enables her success.

We could learn a thing or two from that.

Next time someone asks you about your toolkit or career development goals, think beyond new skills and take stock of your beliefs. What new ways of thinking could bring your existing skills to life?

 

 

 

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