Jan 2nd 2014
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This is the latest post from Jeff Davidson, "The Work-Life Balance Expert®." Jeff believes that career professionals today in all industries have a responsibility to achieve their own sense of work-life balance, and he supports that quest through his website www.BreathingSpace.com. Read more of his articles here.
A new year beckons and I harken back to when my daughter was four years old. Her mother and I bought her an old, upright piano. It was a little beat up, a little banged up, and was missing a few keys, but hey, for a 4-year old, it was fine. To our amazement, she played well. At age six, she began piano lessons. The teacher encouraged us that our little girl had a special talent.
Two years later, the piano teacher told us it was time to buy a Grand Piano for Valerie. It would be quite expensive, but she was now winning awards, so it seemed like the right thing to do.
In with the New
We went to a large piano emporium and Valerie tried all of them! Finally we came to a piano that proved to be "the one." She loved it and we bought it. We told Valerie that the piano movers were going to take the other piano in trade, but it didn't register with her. Days before the new one arrived, we cleaned up the old one, and then talked to Valerie about how that piano would be leaving and the new one would be arriving.
The old had been her piano from the age of 4 and she was now 8. In other words, she had been with this piano for half of her life. She broke into a sob – not just a kid crying, but a deep mourning sob, as if she had experienced the death of a parent or a close friend.
"It's the only piano I have ever known, I have been playing with it since I was 4! Why do we have to get rid of it?" Seeking to be a good father, I started to explain to her that realistically we couldn't keep both pianos. The house is a good size, but two pianos are a bit much. Psychology tells us the older you get, the harder it is to let go of attachments. The way we do things and how we think start to become embedded into the brain in the form of neural pathways. These pathways serve as paths of least resistance that prompt us to take mental shortcuts in response to stimuli.
Out with the Old?
We took photos of the piano and we videotaped her playing – we made sure we had it covered. I explained to her that once the old piano departed, she would start to play on the new one and she wouldn't even think of the old one. But hey, this is not an argument for an 8 year old. For days she lamented, "Why do we have to get rid of the old one?"
Finally the day arrived. The piano movers came to deliver the new piano and take away the old one. Something in me, I don't know where it came from, finally got through to her. I was able to communicate with her in a way she could understand and accept. Or, maybe she got there on her own, I don't know.
After another tearful outbreak I said, "Val, when the piano goes back to the store, then some other parents will see it and maybe they’ll buy it for their little girl. She’ll learn how to play, and she’ll have that piano several years before she gets a bigger one."
Val’s expression started to change a little. She was still sobbing, but I knew that she was ready to forsake her attachment when she said to me, "Or maybe it will be a little boy."
Remarkable on a Small Scale
To me Valerie’s ability to adapt represented an extraordinary chain of events. Here was an 8-year old willing to give up her attachment to something she had for half of her life. In 2014, we can all get better at letting go of what we no longer need, and gravitate toward prosperity.