The Running Leap—Not Just for Kids

The Running Leap—Not Just for Kids

Instead of seeing your life as one step forward, two steps back, and feeling frustrated most of the time, what if you knew the two steps back were also moving you forward?

That's how a running leap works — you have to back up a few steps in order to succeed with the leap. 

Knowing that gives you a powerful tool — a new way to see and manage the actions you take after you hit what feels like a wall.

When you watch for it, you will see the Running Leap pattern in all kinds of challenging situations. You can recognize it by noticing what you do right after you hit your wall. Whatever it is that you do, check to see how it might be meeting one of your three basic needs: experience, connection, or power.

Doing something you are good at or that you find easy meets all three needs, and if you can avoid the trap of labeling your behavior as procrastination or avoidance, it will actually work to reduce your stress and build your confidence enough that you will be able to return to your challenge and successfully leap over that wall sooner and more easily than if you push or badger yourself with guilt.

The Running Leap pattern has been with you your whole life — from when you were a toddler figuring out a busy box, to a child learning to ride a bike, to a teen doing school work... and it's still active today, whether you know it or not. You can take a cue from the children in your life as to how to make it work FOR you.

Instead of pushing themselves, when children hit a wall, they back up to do something they are good at or can master more easily to prove to themselves they can succeed:

    • A toddler who finds the busy box switch too hard will back up and press an easier button over and over, then try the hard switch again.


    • A child who doesn't think he can ride a bike successfully will back up to a scooter or a tricycle to master balance and steering, then try the bike again.


    • A teen who is struggling with homework will start playing with a pencil, doodling, or doing something else they are good at to build their self-confidence, then return to tackle the problem that caused them to leave the page.


Watching the Running Leap in action helps you see backing up as forward motion. 

When you see a child moving forward by backing up, point out the STRENGTHs they are gaining so they can master their challenge sooner. Practicing helping a child see their actions in a positive light will help you do the same for yourself the next time you start backing up to move forward.

For example, your encouragement could sound like this:

SAY WHAT YOU SEE (SWYS) to a toddler: "You're pressing that button. You can make it work every time! Now you're looking at that switch..."


SWYS to a child: "You've mastered that scooter. You steered right around that rock and kept your balance the whole time."


STRENGTH: "Looks like you're getting the skills you need to feel safe riding your bike."


SWYS to a teen: "You're flipping that pencil around your fingers," or "You're making really tiny circles inside of other circles."


CAN DO: "Try a couple more to see how many flips/circles you need to do to feel ready to try that problem again."

At any age, children know what they need to succeed, and given a chance, they will back up to get it... so will you.

When you were a child you innately knew this and would NOT deliberately put yourself in a position where you thought you could fail (unless you felt pushed and wanted to prove your parent wrong). Resistance was right especially at that age because children decide who they are based on what they do, and they innately know that repeated failure could result in the belief that they ARE a failure.

As a child, you wouldn't willingly do something if you thought you wouldn't succeed, and you still won't today. That's your wall. You might push yourself to overcome a challenge that feels over your head, but you can feel the inner pressure build when you ignore your need to break away and do something else for a short (or long) time.

The interesting thing is that your return to any challenge will always be quicker and more wholehearted if you take a break and make yourself right about whatever you are doing to meet your needs. Beating yourself up with labels like quitter, procrastinator, etc., just causes you to back up farther because that increases your need for power and connection with yourself.

Self-love and a powerful or highly restful break activity will help you run forward most quickly.

Research has shown that taking a break to nap or do something completely different than the task at hand, even if it's looking at kittens online, improves your proficiency in creative problem-solving and ability to perform careful tasks. When you consider what you are doing during your breaks, you will probably see that you are doing more than you think. 

For example, I just took a break to go for a walk. Beyond just enjoying nature and gaining the physical benefits of exercise, I noticed that a big part of my experience was familiarity — knowing the types of trees, plants, birds, and clouds I was seeing, who lived in which house, and the stories of the people who live and have lived in my neighborhood. Knowing things is really important to me and builds my confidence in myself.

So does getting things done, which is why at other times, I might do a Sudoko puzzle. Folding laundry is another thing I do when I am facing a challenge. It meets my needs for experience, connection, and power really well because I'm very good at it and feel like I am getting something done — two STRENGTHs I need to get in touch with to be able to finish writing a challenging article. I know it works because I just folded some socks, too, and here I am, back writing again.

We use the Running Leap in our attempts to be better parents as well. Backing up to stay calm, listening instead of directing, or pointing out STRENGTHs instead of criticizing can help meet our need for connection and power.

For example, each time you get angry, you have things you do that help you express your anger and return to calm. Expressing your anger is another kind of backing up for a Running Leap. You have to back up a few steps before you can leap to calm.

Whether you like your particular expressions of anger or not, they are designed to meet your need for power and return you to calm. If you think about it, yelling and slamming doors do feel powerful, but since you don't like those expressions, you may feel powerless to stop, which has you back up even more and stay angry longer. The key to returning to calm quickly is meeting your need for power in a way that's okay with you.

For example, one thing I did when my children were small was give myself permission to throw things on the floor that I had set out specifically for that purpose. I did that after recognizing that my automatic tendency in anger was to throw things to meet my need for power. When I saw that as backing up, I was able to do it on purpose with things I chose ahead of time. And of course, in keeping with the fourth premise of Language of Listening®, "all growth is through acceptance," I only had to throw something on purpose once or twice before I never needed to throw anything again.

Recognizing the backing up step of a Running Leap is pure gold. It gives you access to leaps that you know are moving you forward in your growth. As always, your children have been showing you the way all along.

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