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Paths in the Snow

Have you ever heard that learning something new can be compared to making a path in the snow?

Years ago I heard this concept when attending a professional development session. Since that time, I have been reminded of its truth, both as an educator and as a learner.

I grew up in Alberta and the concept of being the first to walk through an expanse of freshly fallen snow is a very easy image for me to create.

He compared such a walk to learning new math skills and the depth of the snow to the age at which you learn them.

For instance, a young child learning a new idea is like walking through ankle-deep snow. Easy peasy. Whereas, learning something new as an adult can be like trudging through hip-deep snow. It's still attainable, but it takes more effort to not give up.

This totally makes sense to me as I am constantly working hard to learn new things and the effort it takes is definitely more now than when I was younger.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This learning journey has been like pushing through shoulder-deep snow at times! The concepts deal with the very core of who I am as a person and how I interact with those around me. It has forced me to reconsider what I thought was true about myself and dig deep to discover a new and better version of myself.

Learning DBT has also added to the analogy of the pathway in the snow.

You see, the way I was before I learned these DBT skills had created a very deep, very well-worn path. This path was created from my habits or ways that I responded to people and situations around me. They were my automatic thoughts and reactions. It was a very easy “path’ to travel on.

When I started to learn DBT skills, it took a lot of effort to push off of that old familiar path to create a new one. I knew I wanted to take the effort to do this. I knew my familiar ways of reacting, often very impulsively, were not effective. I knew that change would be worth the effort. Even using the smallest skill demonstrated this to me. So, I’d push through the unfamiliar world of empathy, radical acceptance, validation, and so much more to create a new path of connection and effective communication.

Many times I found myself back on the old path and I was often discouraged wondering if being skillful was really worth all the effort it took to use these DBT skills. Then, an interaction with a student, parent, colleague or loved one would be so much better than it would have been before the skills.

I knew I needed to persevere.

So, I'd keep pushing through and keep practicing and eventually this so-called new path is now starting to look well-travelled and is starting to get easier to stay on. My old path is getting filled in and I rarely find myself on it anymore.

What has surprised me the most is when I overhear people who are still on a path similar to my old path.

I hear so much suffering in their words, so much judgement, and so much anger. Is that what I sounded like?

That is why I continue to share the message of SILA Skills. These skills work! They are transformational! It's it easy? Nope. Is it worth it? Absolutely!

Sign up for a workshop today and start your own new path in the snow.

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