Expand the Mind - Flying Airplanes, Deepening Connections
Talk about timing. I just had my own significant Expand the Mind moment worth sharing.
As I recounted the experience, I noticed how it followed the mindfulness process laid out in the first Expand the Mind blog.
We have a cheap, radio controlled plane that was, for years, a point of contention, frustration and tears for my son and me - “Dad crashed my plane again!” was a common refrain. Now, that same plane is not only flyable, but it has become an amazing bonding tool for me and my son.
One recent afternoon, as my son executed a perfect landing in the fresh cut grass of the school’s soccer field, he also managed to dispel my list of assumptions, assembled over the years after each dramatic crash and failure up to that point.
“The plane is unflyable…” “The field is too small….” “He’s too young...he’s not ready..." "he wont be able to handle failing here…” “I need to show him”
Step 1: Recognition of a fixed mindset
I try to foster a growth mindset everywhere in my life. I encourage my kids to be curious and turn frustration into a learning opportunity. They, in turn, teach me valuable lessons too. But this plane was different. I was stuck in a fixed mindset. In defending my made up rules, I crashed the plane time and time again moving my son to tears. My ADHD may have had some influence, but I see lots of parents, ADHD or not, get stuck in a way that they need to show up as a parent - in control, calm, master and commander, the ultimate teacher and that our kids are “not quite ready”.
As the plane shifted from a fun hobby to a sore reminder, I packed it away in a closet 2 years ago thinking it had flown for the last time.
Step 2: Challenge the limited thinking
Only after I challenged these limiting thoughts did a shift begin to happen for me. Asking a classic coaching question “What really matters, here?”, did I start to shift my thinking.
Before I could see the positives gained from a growth mindset, I had to let go of being attached to my old rules.
What really matters are healthy and growing relationships with all of my family members. My son and I love sports and all things technical - machines, science and technology. The plane could be something fun, but first, I had to shift my thinking.
Step 3: Benefit/Cost Analysis
That’s the cost of replacing the wing (actually 3 wings). And that turned out to be the only true cost. A small consequence. The benefits of learning to fly a plane and flying the plane far outweighed the costs, but I had to be willing to embrace new thinking.
Step 4: Make Space for New Beliefs
I breathed and handed the remote control to my son and said “Have fun”.
It was hard not to advise, comment or micro manage and just be quiet, but by the third flight and after 2 tree landings, he was flying the plane and I was quiet, admiring my son's cool competence. Guess what? He was flying it better than me! That's when my son executed the perfect landing, and we both wore big smiles the rest of the day.
It was a long time coming and quite a learning experience for both of us. Actually, more for me than him.
He stepped up and flew the plane better than I did. He, like his dad, crashed the plane and handled the failure amazingly.
I got a chance to develop new, more positive beliefs and reinforce other important ones.
My kid can teach me a lot. There is learning in failure. There is more than one way to look at a situation. Not crashing a plane is really cool.