I read a lot of Seth Godin’s writings, because they speak to me for a lot of reasons. This blog in particular that talked about failure is an important nugget of truth. But when it comes to your own child, and their personal goals, it can get difficult to manage.
Disappointed and disillusioned
Every year, my daughter and I set goals together. She lists her personal ones (they’ve ranged from “learn to tie my shoelaces” to “take home academic award” as she’s grown) and I outline mine. While we set those goals each year, it’s not a guarantee that we will achieve them.
Of course, I try very hard to temper her goals where they seem to be a little beyond actionable. One year, she stated that she’d “like to be the first child astronaut in space” and I had to remind her that it might not happen during that year because, well, NASA doesn't have a programme for kids just yet.
Living by example
This is the most difficult part of parenting – our children learn by example, and not by our word. Ultimately, the way I manage and overcome a perceived failure is how she will learn to. This is personally difficult for me, because I have a very deep desire to never be seen as a failure.
Reshaping my own sense of failure to not only bounce back from it, but also highlight the possibilities beyond it, has turned out to be one of the most critically important things I could do as a parent.
I work for myself, and a big part of that is taking responsibility for when you don’t score 100% in every part of your business. It’s not always possible to, even though I try incredibly hard to. But, opening up about the times where I’ve missed a deadline or had to let someone down has created opportunities for me to show her how I work beyond what I feel is a failure.
Failure is a feeling
Children have big emotions – they love without filter, speak their mind without concern and feel sad for things that adults wouldn’t even consider. But that’s why learning that failure is a feeling – and not a finish line – is so very important.
When my daughter didn’t scoop up the academic award she’d set her sights on, we talked it through. We tallied up her successes during an incredibly busy term, countering them with what she felt was a failure. Despite an array of interesting life wobbles, she had achieved every single other personal goal (and overcome some surprising obstacles) during that term.
By the end of our longwinded conversation, she felt confident to try again. Success and failure are, after all, just a mindset. We reset some goals, and took the opportunity to create new ones to focus on, together. Frankly, failure is an opportunity, not a finish line.