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Development Is A Continuum: Not Just For Babies

Example of a baby to-do list:

  • learn to walk
  • use thumb and index finger to pick up a single Cheerio

“Whew – I’m so glad I have gross and fine motor skills. I’m all finished developing!”

If it was only that easy.

Sure, developmental milestones have an ideal range for achievement. But are we ever finished developing?

For example, I do not have the motor skills to play golf well. (Ask anyone.) But I’ve played many other sports involving whacking something with an instrument in hand and, therefore, have many of the essential tools necessary to continue that area of development. Even with my baseline skills, I must practice the new variations to improve.

Sometimes, in our professional lives, we think we’re fully developed and don’t need to return and learn something basic (like motor planning for a better golf swing). But take a closer look and consider whether each new opportunity is different or additive to what you already know.

If we enter a lecture, course, event, or conversation assuming we can’t learn something new, chances are we won’t. If we enter any of those spaces seeking new insights or knowledge, chances are we’ll find something helpful or inspiring.

Viewing life as an ongoing developmental adventure relieves us from our attachment to achievement for achievement’s sake. (Which often ends up feeling hollow or disappointing.) If there’s a destination at the end of your pursuit – additional education, 30 years in practice, getting tenure, publishing your work – you may find that once you reach that place, you look around for something more. That’s because we seek the experience, not the destination.

Checking off milestones, whether for babies or adults, can be validating. Understanding that milestones are points along an individualized journey rather than a destination can be a continuous source of joy and fulfillment. The former is a temporary win. The latter is a powerful mindset and practice. Your journey isn’t over, regardless of age, job title, outward success, or perceived failure.

Be forever in pursuit of your own becoming. As neonatal therapists, isn’t that what we wish for every baby we see?