"Walking is Controlled Falling"

That’s what the physical therapist told my dad when he was learning to walk again.

Back when I was in middle school they found a tumor in his spine. After the surgery, he spent 5 weeks in bed before he was even able to make it to the bathroom. He had lost all feeling in his hands and feet.

Here are three things I learned from his recovery:

1. Falling Means Letting Go

You know that feeling when you think there is one more stair to go, and your leg kind of goes limp? Imagine that with every step.

My dad constantly felt like he was falling through the floor. He would have to look down to see if his foot had made contact with the ground. He (understandably) had trouble relaxing.

Walking is controlled falling because you need to let go in order to move forward.

If you never let your foot fall, your movements would be stilted and robotic. That’s called marching. It’s weird and awkward and people look at you funny when you do it.

It’s also not a very enjoyable way to live.

Sometimes it might seem like there is no ground under you to take the next step. Trust that it will be there. Let yourself fall.

2. Control Is Learned

Of course, walking is not all falling. You still need to be able to ground yourself between steps.

How?

By understanding where you are are in space. During his recovery, my dad became incredibly self-aware.

Self-awareness means knowing your beliefs, strengths, and values. It means knowing what you want. Most of all, it means knowing when to push back.

As a coach, the most important thing I do is help my clients develop a personal framework for making decisions. They learn when to surrender and when to resist. This requires a lot of practice.

Control doesn’t come from sitting in a room somewhere. It comes from conscious engagement. So engage.

3. Walking Involves Fear

Walking is second nature to us now, but there was a time when it wasn’t. Walking is actually pretty complex. We had to fall on our ass a lot before we got the hang of it.

My dad went through that whole learning process again. It was hard and painful, and he knew how vulnerable he looked in front of his son.

But when the alternative is going nowhere, suddenly it becomes much easier to try.

Last weekend, my dad ran a Spartan Race with me. It’s incredible how far he’s come. 

Look: None of us really knows what the hell we are doing (anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or marching). We are always falling just a little bit. And that’s fine, as long as it’s done deliberately.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to look stupid. Walk anyway.

(Photo credit: MRGT via cc)

Greg Faxon

Greg Faxon, 2829 Connecticut Avenue NW (Apt 513), Washington, DC 20008, United States