Have you ever wondered about the origins of the saying “waiting for the other shoe to drop?”
It began in the early 1900’s with poorly constructed buildings in the U.S. that had very thin floors and walls. At night, the tenants would often hear their neighbors above them getting ready for bed, which usually involved the sound of a shoe hitting the floor as those on the floor above them dropped it. They then waited for the next shoe to fall, which signaled that it would likely become quiet for the evening and they could get on with things.
Over time, this saying has been interpreted as waiting for an inevitable event to occur—-and usually one with negative consequences.
Both of us grew-up with parents who were children during the “Great Depression” (1929-1939), a decade of uncertainty and hardship for many. One of David’s parents was especially impacted by those early fears, which left them with the deeply ingrained mindset that, no matter how good things were, they waited for the next shoe to drop.
More recently, the “Great Recession” of a decade ago and ongoing violence in the world has had a similar impact on many people.
Waiting for the next shoe to drop—the next unexpected negative event—-is the essence of the problem-focused and anxiety/fear-based Victim Orientation. When this is your internal operating system, you scan the environment for “early warnings” that things are about to turn in a negative direction. Reacting with some combination of fight, flight, freeze or appease to that dreaded shoe dropping can become your default pattern.
Growing up in this anxiety/fear-based family environment naturally affected David in many ways. For years he described his anxiety as the “after the All Star break” because, when he played Little League baseball, he would do really well at the beginning of the season. For some reason, he would then falter and not play well after the mid-season All Star break. For David his “after the All Star break” slogan came to mean the same as waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Because of the experiences and messages David grew up with, he has developed more understanding and compassion for his parents. The Depression decade in which they grew up really was fraught with all kinds of Challengers and unpleasant surprises for his parents.
Thankfully, over time he came to realize that he need not adopt these early childhood anxieties as an inheritance from his parents. He saw that he had a choice about how he sees, and lives life, both personally and professionally.
Thanks to the insights that led to TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)™, we have come to embrace the fact that there is always another shoe that will drop. That is why the idea of Baby Steps is so helpful. Each step is a shoe that drops on the path toward what we want to create and how we choose to respond to life events.
Sometimes a Baby Step is a step back (i.e. a mistake or not what we expected) and sometimes it is not only a step forward, but a breakthrough or quantum leap in how we live from a Creator Orientation.
From that mindset, we can take the next “shoe” falling in stride and choose our response. And that next step may not be negative. In fact, there is also a real possibility that, perhaps, the best is yet to be!