Creativity

Nancy Napier: Trust the process of human development

Executive director of Boise State's Centre for Creativity and InnovationMay 6, 2014 

Our two sons were adopted from Asia. The first arrived at age 1 from Korea; the second at age 5 (older than our first one) from Thailand.

The poor child left warm Thailand, where he’d never worn shoes (only flip flops), long pants or a coat, and arrived at his new home during one of the coldest winters on record. He had to learn a new language, a new family and new way of life. We had to assimilate a child we couldn’t communicate with who had established patterns and habits we didn’t understand. And, after the first blush of excitement about having a new brother, our younger son decided this wasn’t quite what he wanted and told us we could “send him back now.”

If it weren’t for a piece of advice from the adoption counselor, we all might have gone mad. It was a struggle, but we’re glad we did it. Our older son’s now a budding school psychologist working with kids who have problems of their own. I suspect he brings a special empathy to them.

The advice that helped? “Trust the process.” In this case, the counselor meant development.

For his own emotional development, she counseled, our older son still had to go through the various stages that any child would as a way to ensure good emotional well-being. That meant he would act completely dependent (like an infant), then he’d go through the separation and indignation of the Terrible Twos, the joys of the Terrific Threes, the frustration of the Fearsome Fours, and so on.

She was absolutely right. About every six weeks, he shifted to a new phase. We’d joke that this gawky 5-year-old was in the “Terrible Twos,” with tantrums on the floor and crayons smeared on the wall. I can only imagine how we’d have reacted if we had not been primed to understand and trust the process.

The same trust of the process happens in creative work, as I saw recently with a student who is doing a big research paper.

“I thought I was done with that part. Why do I have to go back to it? It’s boring. I want to move forward.”

Stops, starts, rewinds, restarts, leaps and fall-backs. All part of the developmental process.

I assured her that I was going through the same blasted process right now on my own project, getting stuck, leaping forward, having to rewind, hating that part of it. But I also assured her that it’s part of the development process that makes the end product stronger for the foundation she’s building now.

So when you’re next stuck on a problem or trying to learn something new, give yourself a break and try to trust the process.

It helps me to remember that a scrappy 5-year-old (and his parents) had to trust the process so he could come out a winner. Maybe the rest of us need to do remember to trust our own processes as well.

nnapier@boisestate.edu

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