Welcome, Failure—I’ve Been Expecting You!
No one really appreciates the “drop-in” guest. I mean gimme some notice so I can at least make sure the kids have flushed the toilet! Talk about panic and stress being caught unawares. On the other hand, when we anticipate a guest’s arrival, we have time to run the vacuum, straighten the stacks of mail, spray some air freshener, or light a candle.
Welcome! Can I get you something to drink, a Perrier, perhaps?
Now that’s more like it, right?
“Drop-in” failure is just as annoying as that tone-deaf friend or in-law who shows up unannounced. Often, we react to the stressful situation of unexpected challenges by—shutting down emotionally, quitting, and losing sight of our goals. We feel shame. So, what’s the solution when we know setbacks aren’t about to politely call or text before they arrive? And let’s be real, they are undoubtedly coming…
It’s simple. We need to start planning for it. To build self-control, it’s helpful to anticipate imminent failures, setbacks, temptations, or challenges. We need to acknowledge our weaknesses and accept that challenges are a natural part of life. In practical terms, maybe you’re working on overcoming procrastination—instead of thinking, I’m on a roll! It’s been 3 days of amazing productivity. Woohoo!
Not to underestimate progress, but…
A better way to approach it would be—Failure is bound to make a visit eventually, so I should prep for the days when my motivation lags. What can I do on Friday afternoon when I’m particularly tempted to binge Netflix? Maybe I’ll schedule a 10-minute walk or pray/meditate for a few minutes at 1 pm to clear my brain fog. Thinking ahead in anticipation of a trigger means you’re ready for that hidden landmine. When Friday rolls around you’re empowered to meet the temptation.
Consider—how’s that New Years’ resolution of yours going? I’m guessing I already know the answer. Why? According to a 2019 study, a minuscule 7% of participants kept all of their resolutions. And only 19% kept some. So, the results for most of us are probably “meh” at best. Or if you’re like me, you’ve just given up on making resolutions altogether. Talk about a defeated mindset. But, what if the problem isn’t the goal, but a blindness or unrealistic approach that doesn’t allow for slip-ups?
One prominent psychologist and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverence, Angela Duckworth, has created a helpful acronym to keep failure in check. W.O.O.P.
Being intentional daily about the reality of setbacks and failures can have a big impact on not giving up. Give it a try concerning a particular goal for today or this week.
W My WISH for today is…
O What is the best OUTCOME…
O What OBSTACLES do I foresee?
P My PLAN is IF__________________, THEN _____________________________.
(obstacle time/ place) (action to overcome the obstacle)
Keep in mind, planning for potential failures doesn’t make you a Debbie Downer. It translates to better success by offering a healthy dose of self-awareness that comes from confronting struggles with courage & honesty. Newsflash: we all mess up. It’s ok.
The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it's not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.
~Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. (Author Mindset The New Psychology of Success)
Planning for failure means it doesn’t feel as scary or shameful when it happens. This allows us get to back on track more quickly without taking a major detour. Maybe it's worth revisiting all those resolutions...
Reflect on how your kids think about mistakes, disappointments, challenges, or failures? Do they roll up their sleeves and think— “This is when it gets fun!”? Or more likely, “I messed up again. What’s wrong with me?”
It’s never too late to make failure a welcome guest in your home.
Tonight at dinner, generate a fun discussion. Ask your kids about a mistake or difficulty they experienced that day or week. When they pipe in, congratulate them and say, WAY TO GO! If they haven’t had any, say—That’s too bad! Tomorrow’s another day…
Once they’ve picked up their bottom jaw from the table, explain how important challenges and obstacles are for learning and growing. Failure is an important part of life not to fear, but to face with determination and a little dose of preparation.
Together, let’s put an end to those awkward “drop-in” visits. Now if someone wouldn’t mind telling my mother-in-law. 😉
This blog contains excerpts from the Destination Self-Control Adult Journal from our Adventure into Character Subscription Box Experience. If you’re interested in tapping into more thought-provoking content that helps you and your family move the ball forward with ease, check out our free digital starter kit. You’re just a click away from a family adventure of a lifetime!
If you have an issue you’d like our help with, drop us a line at Hello@FamiliesofCharacter.com. If you’re experiencing a problem, chances are thousands of other families are in the same boat. We’re ALL in this parenting boat together!
Remember to tap into our Thrive Community on Facebook. It’s free and our team’s very own clinical counselor offers helpful tips and encouragement to parents who are adventuring together.