Last fall, I came across an article in the New York Times by Paul Tough called, What if the secret to success is failure? It was about rethinking how students should be taught and evaluated. Especially as a parent, I find this idea of allowing space for our children to fail along the journey as essential. It's challenging for many of us to do because we don't want to see our children suffer or struggle. However, if we can step back, encourage, and let our kids figure life out with some guidance and minimal hovering, amazing growth will occur.
This was an unusual week for us. We watched as both of our daughters’ successfully navigated major transitions. We were there to provide emotional and minimal hands-on support, but they orchestrated all of the decisions, even when they weren’t 100% sure.
Our youngest daughter negotiated her first apartment lease for her and three roommates, organized and packed all her belongings, moved in, and set-up her new digs a few days before starting her fall semester of college.
Our oldest daughter, a recent college graduate, networked, explored many next step options from teaching English in South Korea to working on a farm in Oregon, was offered a job in her field (textiles) in New York, organized and packed her apartment, rented a truck, and moved back to New York all within three days.
We raised our kids to be independent and encouraged them to try even when they weren't sure. We invited them to make the best decisions possible based on the information and knowledge they had at that time. We also let them know that if the outcome wasn’t as they hoped, they could make changes. We always looked at failures, both theirs and ours, as learning opportunities.
We have all experienced our share of disappointments, failures, and mishaps. Whatever you call them, they are unavoidable. They are in fact, necessary. Our failures tell us as much about what we don’t want as they reveal about what we do want. If we allow them, our failures teach us how to tweak, to explore, and to be less fearful of making mistakes. We can then experience the joy of success.
The next time you feel the need to rescue someone, take a deep breath, and give them room to explore and fail their way to success. What are your thoughts? How have your failures influenced your success?