How to be successful: self-talk lessons from a two-year-old

I am fortunate to be involved in the lives of many small people. Though I've never had a baby, I have friends, clients, and family members at every stage of the child-rearing game and am intimately familiar with its details.

In particular, I am lucky to know many excellent mamas who treat their very young children with respect and dignity, allowing them to make age-appropriate decisions as often as possible.

A mama of a little girl who has recently turned two shared a story that we can all learn from as we strive to accomplish great things in life. Great things such as weaning and potty-training.

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Amanda Knox, appreciating freedom, and defeating the "shoulds"

"Free thyself from the fetters of this world, and loose thy soul from the prison of self. Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more." - Baha'u'llah

Vero Beach, Florida, July 2007.I'm thinking about Amanda Knox quite a bit - I guess I identify with her. After all, I was once a young and naive American woman. Assuming she is innocent of murder (and, considering that another person is already in prison having confessed to the crime she was accused of, that's not a big stretch), it could have been anyone. It could have been me.

And so I imagine what that must be like - to lose four years of your life to prison, having had to accept that you might have to spend your entire life there. And then - to be exonerated. To be released. To appreciate fresh air, green grass, your family. Freedom.

Of course, my very next thought is, I have that freedom. It is a gift I receive anew every morning, when I get to choose how I want to spend that day. So what am I going to do today to live it to the fullest?

It's amazing how easy it is to forget that freedom is there. That my choices created my circumstances, and that my choices can change them. And that even when I encounter obligations, I still get to choose my attitude.

One of my guitar students, who is a busy grad student in the sciences, came into his lesson this week positively glowing. He said, "I learned that when I feel like I'm doing better, I do better." He was thrilled with his progress because he had finally figured out how to let go of the idea that being hard on himself was going to make him learn faster.

Once we get out of our own way and lose the "shoulds" and "should haves," we are free. One aspect of the "prison of self" is ego. "I should have learned this by now!" "I'll be the slowest one in the race!" "I have what I always wanted, why am I so unhappy?"

Yuck. I've made some major life changes recently, and I have more discretionary time than I used to. Instead of enjoying it to the fullest, I've had moments of questioning my decisions, questioning my motives, and hours of spending a beautiful day inside because I couldn't figure out what I was "supposed" to be doing. How stupid. I might as well be working fourteen hours a day again if all I can do is whine.

Amanda Knox will certainly have a time of transition, and will probably encounter a lot of existential pain as she confronts anew the "what should I do with my life?" question that any twenty-four-year-old has to deal with. But she will never forget the overwhelming feeling of finally being released from prison, and she will never take it for granted.

I always think things like, "I should play my twelve-string more often," or "I should learn Portuguese," or "I should call so-and-so" or "I should make time to play piano today." I'd like to shift from "I should" to "I will." It's my life! I can do anything I want with it.