Cultivating innocence

In recent months, I have been admiring my daughter, who is completing her first year as a high school teacher. She has embraced her new career with courage, passion and a great deal of innocence. I see innocence not as a detriment, but rather as a beautiful quality of her heart. Every day, every week seems fresh to her, with new opportunities to learn, collaborate and create new possibilities for her students and fellow teachers to be successful. In our conversations, I hear nothing of politics, expectations, or demands—only simply gratefulness for being given the trust to express her talents, her love, her calling.

I ask myself, “How long can this last?” The world of work is so embedded in a narrative of competition, entitlement and performance that it’s hard to imagine how one can resist the force of that gravity for too long. It’s a slippery slope. We begin by comparing ourselves with others: what they get and what we don’t, how good they are and what we lack in order to “make it.” We start to put a price on our own heads by counting our years of experience, our diplomas, our rights and privileges, and our status in the great order of things. Soon, we begin to feel that our value, our worth, depends on what others think of us and whether or not we are able to deliver bigger and better results year after year. We get busy and tense. We lose touch with our natural rhythms, the things what brought joy to our hearts, and that which we did when time wasn’t an issue. Our innocence slips away.

However, recovering this innocence doesn’t mean pretending everything will turn out if we gently let everyone walk all over us. It takes a great deal of courage to live into the quality of innocence: to be continuously impressed by others while discerning between ignorance and malice; to let others into our open, vulnerable hearts while staying mindful of its wounds; to “not know” for just a little while longer and yet knowing when speak our truth.

Cultivating innocence and keeping its fire alive seems like an important area of endeavor for us as humans and as coaches. Where in your life is this quality most present? Where could it find room to expand and grow?