Monday, May 7, 2012

Lessons Learned While Cooking

Last night I cooked dinner. I call it "Pasta Rustica" which is basically onions, garlic, capers, red pepper flakes and tomatoes thrown over linguine. For a change I threw in bacon.(It wasn't too bad) So what, you might say. Well a couple of years ago I would not have attempted any kind of cooking. Why? Because I had learned to be helpless in the kitchen. My concern is that our society is moving in the direction of helplessness in many ways. But a little more about my lesson.

I've had two incredible models for cooking in my life, my mother and my partner. Both of them in their own way can enter a kitchen and come out with some amazing food. The know the difference between turmeric and cumin seed while I just know how to spell the words. They put in a pinch of this and a dab of that. After a life of seeing this I was incredibly intimidated. I thought I'd never be able to cook like them so I didn't cook at all. I had given into learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is when you believe or have been told that someone else can do it better, quicker and more professionally than you. After a while it is easier and less intimidating to just let them do it. And that's just what I did. I didn't even try because I believed it would never be as good.

Recently in our society the temptations to fall into learned helplessness are greater. We have experts in almost everything that we can call on to do the work. We have "super nannies" to tell us how to raise children, we have "super chefs" who make a gourmet meal in 30 minutes and then get "chopped" because they forgot a garnish. We have life coaches and consultants because they supposedly help us make better decisions. Some of them make the decisions for us and we are weaker for it. We have party planners and designers because they have a "better eye" than we do. Really?

Sometimes it is convenient to hire others to do things around the house, or assist us in moving something along. But are we giving our lives away? There is something gratifying about seeing your own handiwork, or making your own decision and living with it. It might not be perfect, but it's yours. When I cook, sometimes I'm not sure what's gonna happen, but it just feels good to do it.

So pick some area you'd like to try. Maybe cooking, writing, wallpapering a room. Yep, educate yourself the best you can, but then be your own coach and walk through it. The feeling of accomplishment is amazing. And bring a sense of humor. Failure is not only an option, but it actually helps because you realize you can fail and the whole world does not fall apart.

Experts are fine and coaches help lots of people. However we have to find a balance where the life we live is ours and not some TV show version. Trying something and working through it creates a wonderful sense of ownership and helps us appreciate that we have the skills to success. (it's called self-efficacy). As for me, right now I'm gonna make breakfast.

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