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What Toddlers and Basketball Can Teach Us About Love

What are the odds that your one-year-old self knew more about how to build a lasting love than present you does?

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We’ll get into the details of this later, but first, let’s take a moment to talk about basketball. 

Every night during basketball season, millions of people tune in to watch the best players on earth battle it out back and forth for the chance to lead their team to victory. You’ll see stolen passes, amazing dunks, and of course the classic fan favorite: deep downtown shots from behind the three point line. 

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If you’re a healthy adult who doesn’t consider yourself very athletic, or if you just haven’t played much basketball before, it might seem reasonable for you to believe there’s no way you’d ever be able to hit a three pointer. After all, a three point shot has to be taken from at least 22 feet (6.7 meters) away from the basket. If you tried to do it, it might be reasonable for you to assume that you would certainly miss every time, and so it’d be pointless to even try.

And you’d be wrong. Here’s why:

Did you know that the world’s greatest three point shooters of all-time are only successful on 40-45% of their attempts? Think about that: after years upon years of mastering their craft, the legends of this extremely difficult skill still fail more often than they succeed.

Every time a professional basketball player takes a shot, statistically the odds state that they are likely to miss. And yet, they must continue to do it anyway. If no one on the team ever tried to shoot the ball, they would never score any points, and could never win a game. So taking shots even though the odds are always against them is necessary for the survival of their teams and their careers.

At this point, you might be thinking: “It’s great that superhuman athletes and other exceptional people are able to have this type of ultra-optimistic mindset and rock-solid faith in themselves, but I could never be like them.”

And once again, you’d be wrong.

In fact, you already did possess this mindset at one point long ago — when you were just a toddler.

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As a toddler, through countless periods of trial and error, you taught yourself how to walk. You saw other people walking, and thought: “If they can do it, I believe I can do it too.” You slipped, tripped, and fell flat on your face hundreds of times. And yet you kept going. Never once did you say: “I give up, this walking thing is too hard, maybe I should just crawl everywhere for the rest of my life.” In fact, no one ever says this. We were all born confidently believing in our abilities.

So, what happened along the way? It’s likely that at some point, we began taking ourselves way too seriously. We began caring too much about not looking like a fool in front of other people — and began taking failures too personally. Rather than viewing each failure as a simple (and often necessary) step on the road to success, we take it as a sign that we should not be doing something. This is why we may think we’re incapable of hitting a three pointer, or doing something creative, or even why we may think we’re incapable of ever building a happy, healthy, loving relationship.

It’s not about our abilities, it’s more about our internal mindset.

Want proof? Go get a basketball and find a basketball court nearby. Stand at the three point line. Make a commitment to yourself that sounds like this: “I am going to make a three pointer, and I am not going to leave this court until I do. It doesn’t matter if I miss three in a row, 10 in a row, or 75 in a row. If I keep trying, eventually I will get one in the basket. The only way I can be stopped is by allowing negative thoughts to convince me to quit before I succeed. Otherwise, success is mine for the taking.”

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In many areas of life, our blockages are primarily internal — self-limiting beliefs, excuses, fears of judgment, and on and on. It works this way with learning how to walk, it works this way with shooting a basketball, and it also works this way with finding love.

You are much more resilient than you give yourself credit for. Far too often, people decide that because they were lied to, cheated on, or abandoned by a partner once or twice, that this means they are unlovable and incapable of having a great romantic relationship. Once again, this is also false.

When someone mistreats you in a relationship, this says a lot more about their character than your own. If you’ve been betrayed in a similar fashion many times, this does not mean that you are unlovable — not at all. What it does mean, however, is that you likely have a tendency to choose partners with glaring character flaws who are not right for you. This is a completely different scenario, and an issue that can absolutely be fixed by thoroughly analyzing your own behavior, understanding why you’re doing this, and correcting course.

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Perhaps you are new to dating and just haven’t had enough experience yet to discover who you are, what you need, and what doesn’t work for you. Or, perhaps you grew up modeling dysfunctional behavior that you saw around you as a child, and so you tend to seek this same type of dysfunction because it feels most familiar to you.

Just remember that if what you’ve done hasn’t worked, and you believe that there is a much deeper, more authentic element to love and romance than what you’ve seen so far, that it definitely is possible for you to experience. Don’t fear; don’t lose hope. Keep learning, keep questioning yourself, and keep summoning the courage to put yourself out there when it feels right.

Just like the toddlers learning how to walk, and the basketball players who fight the odds to score points every day, you are capable of having true love. Making a conscious decision to break the patterns of the past and begin anew can make all of the difference.

The True Love Guide is a guided journal that helps you discover your ideal partner; it includes 100+ journal questions, insights, infographics, and more. Get your journal here.

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