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>>>> Learning from failure and not being afraid of taking risks.
27/09/2011

If you want your children to feel the joy of success in the activities they embrace, you should motivate them to accept failure. They have to learn that, generally, before reaching a certain goal there should be several attempts that ultimately end in failure. Therefore it is very important to learn how to accept failure, and in fact failing a lot of times, even if it is painful.

The important part of this exercise is to know the difference between failing in a certain task and being a failure as a person. We need to teach our children to distinguish what they are from the things they can do. Each person just by being a human being has a specific, untouchable and intrinsic value, and this does not depend upon anything else, not even of the acts or things he could do.

On the other hand, all of us, as active people undertake some tasks, acts, jobs… that frequently could be a failure by not reaching the standards demanded. It is not correct to confuse what we are and what we do, because if failure comes frequently, it could really damage our self esteem. That is why, when dealing with our children, we need to reinforce that we love them for who they are, because they are alive, regardless of whether they achieve great success or failure. We need to fight against this frequent tendency to put a tag on each person, not taking in consideration the intrinsic value each human being has. 

People who tend to fear failure begin to obsess about what they have achieved and this leads them to evaluate themselves only in terms of achievements. From failures we can learn the obstacles we should overcome in future endeavours. Through experience, we learn. Experience helps us anticipate what can happen in the future. And the only way we can gain personal experience is from previous mistakes. People who run away from failures will feel bad about it down the road, or even worse, they will miss the great experience mistakes can give them to acquire knowledge.
 
We should not make the mistake of focusing only on our children’s achievements without paying attention to their internal satisfaction, because we would be negating them a very healthy exercise: failing in some tasks or activities.

When a journalist asked Thomas Edison how he felt after failing to create an accumulative battery 25,000 times, his answer was: “I do not know why you call them failures. Now I know 25,000 different ways not to make a battery. How many do you know?”

If we teach our children to pursue the possible achievements, forgetting the internal satisfaction, we will be teaching them to focus more on somebody else’s opinion than in feeling good with themselves.
 
Our concept of confidence in our Occidental World gets confused many times with money, work and recognition… All of them are external factors and are not capable of providing anyone with confidence. External confidence is a myth, because it is based on certain elements we do not control. Therefore, our confidence cannot be built based on what other people say or think about us.

There is another kind of confidence. If you reach it and if you teach your children to do it, you will eliminate any kind of obsession with confidence itself. We are talking about internal confidence: a feeling that comes when you have faith to face any situation, the will of trusting yourself, knowing that the only possible confidence resides inside us. 
 
Henry Ford, who amassed a huge fortune, once said: “If money is your hope for independence, you will never be independent. The true lone confidence a man can have in this world is made of knowledge, experience and capacity.”
 
When we have promoted self-confidence in our children, they will be willing to take risks instead of being afraid of them. This will generate an internal confidence. Taking risks does not mean a life-or-death decision. It means to follow your internal instincts without jumping on somebody else’s bandwagon. The opposite of courage is not being afraid, it is resignation. We should not be limited to do what everybody else does, which means:

• Learn to avoid the easiest way. Reality generally is resistant to change. Developing our projects will mean to be in constant fight and will require perseverance until reaching the end.


• Do things that might look difficult, without being afraid of what other people might think. People around will normally ask us why we do this and complicate our lives in the process.


• Defend the ideas we believe in, instead of being afraid of others laughing about them, intimidating us. Andrew Jackson said: “You just need one courageous man to be a majority”.


• Try to avoid being tagged and tagging our own children. We can not assume someone is a certain way. Kierkegaard said: “Once you have tagged me, you have negated me.” We need to motivate each kid first to be a person, a leader and not a follower. We should teach them by example, making them learn that we cannot be slaves to external things such as fashion. We should help them in terms of being confident, so they do not pay attention to ephemeral tendencies. Talking about clothing for example, we should teach them to choose according to their true desire and needs, not according to somebody else’s taste.


• Make kids understand they should have a wide open mind in which a lot of perspectives can be listened to, and that it is worth giving analysis and thought to them. When children have an argument between themselves, they should learn that every situation has many faces.


• Have a positive reinforcement for the goals and dreams our children could have, without letting them know how improbable they could be for us. The child who wants to be a doctor, but does not get very high grades, does not need a speech telling him he should be getting better grades. Instead, encouragement phrases should be used, such as: “Make a harder effort. It is never too late for something like that. I am sure you could achieve anything you truly desire…”


• Do not discourage them for shooting high when it comes to their goals. Our task is not to cut anybody’s wings, but to teach them to fly. Learning to fly is tough for any bird, because it means leaving the nest. But imagine if it would not have difficulties to overcome? Children need to realize that the word “impossible” should not be in their vocabulary and that we will support them to pursue their dreams regardless of how tough they could be.


• Motivate children of all ages to also try things that are difficult to achieve. We should praise them for having the courage and enthusiasm to try difficult things, regardless of whether they achieve them or not. We should also let them know we are willing to try difficult things, and that we are not afraid of facing tough situations.


• Know that the parents’ responsibility should be to teach their children to be their own parents. Support them so they can be independent, knowing enough to think and make decisions by themselves.


• Teach them not to make an idol out of money. Promote internal values instead of reminding him how much the thing you bought him cost. People who are used to thinking about money and who value life only in economic terms hardly think about anything else. We all make mistakes. The difference is somebody who learns from them can be humble and not commit the same mistakes in the future, while others only feel pessimist about what happened. Once again, success relies on the capacity of overcoming failure. The biggest failure generally comes from not doing something because of a fear of failure.


• Acknowledge our mistakes. It is not easy to learn how to fail. What I mean is not to the fact of failing, that is easy, but to fail and to rise up immediately. It is important to acknowledge a mistake without feeling totally embarrassed by it. We need to learn that failing is not a tragedy, because human quality relies not on failing but in knowing how to overcome our mistakes.

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