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Failing Better


Today, Freshly Pressed is this blog quoting Seth Godin. It’s a pretty good summary, and the information about failing is really useful.


Thanks, Beyond Lean for your post, and congratulations on being freshly pressed!

Failure is a great fear for many people, and it often stands in the way of happiness or success. Failure may mean that you didn’t succeed, but fear of failure or being certain that you will fail can prevent you from even trying- which guarantees you won’t succeed. Period.

Here are some additional tips, if you identify with fear of failure:

1) Learn a new activity (anything, honestly) that you do only to enjoy it.  You can do it poorly and have fun. You can do it well and have fun. Success is irrelevant. This is what the original definition of “hobby” was, before we as a society decided we must be the best at everything.

2) Remind yourself that if you are the “best,” others have to fail. Is it fair to take all the success? Sure, we’re competitive, but do you want everyone to fail? Talk about an economic crash…

3) Intentionally do something badly, particularly something that worries you. For example, if you are afraid that no one will find you attractive, go out dressed so that no one could possibly find you attractive.  If you are afraid of giving a poor musical performance, figure out how to do the worst performance anyone could possibly give.   (You had to change yourself to do it, didn’t you?) Moreover, if you intentionally fail, then you also succeeded.

Failure paralyzes us, just as fear does. If we learn how to fail well, or become comfortable with imperfections, we will unlock our potential, abilities, and creativity.


Children and Tragedy

As adults, we know that life is full of problems. The world we live in seems to get more frightening each day. We naturally want to protect children from the frightening details- after all, good parents don’t want their children to suffer.

There a lots of ideas of how to handle these situations. One is to tell children everything. Another is to tell them nothing. How do we best help children with difficult situations?

Naturally, we want to protect our children.

The answer depends greatly on the individual child and the specific situation. However, as a general rule, research suggests that explaining the actual truth to a child in language that the child can grasp, on a level they can understand is by far that best option.

Here’s why:

Children depend on adults for information about their world. Their brains are programmed to learn as much as possible and so are very adaptable. The nice thing about this is that children are surprisingly resilient. The not so nice thing is that children are very impressionable, and also retain all information, even what you may not intend to give them. They are also highly observant.

It is the observation we do not want to take lightly. If something is wrong, say if parents are having trouble getting along and may even be considering divorce or marriage counseling, they may say that they do not want to fight in front of the children, or do not want to give credence to the fact that there could be a problem. The marital trouble is between the couple, not the children. Or, if tragedy has hit the family, parents may want to shield their children from the truth of how and why their uncle really passed away or that there are quite horrific goings-on in the world, maybe even near their home communities.  The impulse: Protect the children.

This is an excellent and very natural impulse. However, that is not what the children will see. Children will see that Mom and Dad are upset. That the family is upset, maybe talking quietly to one another, asking them to leave the room, stopping discussions if they enter the room, or the children may overhear pieces of conversations. If the matter is relatively public, they will hear and see it on the news and/or at school. The message they get: Something bad is happening/has happened, but Mom and Dad aren’t talking about it. If Mom and Dad won’t even talk about it, it must be just too awful to talk about. They also cannot understand what the awfulness is, and an awfulness that is not specific can easily become generalized.

Moreover, this teaches children that the way to deal with awfulness is to simply ignore it, stifle it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. As mentioned in some early postings, this is not usually a healthy way to deal with problems, and the fact is, children will feel the effects of the “thing.” They’ll express themselves, too. If they can’t talk about something, they’ll act out.

To help children feel secure, they have to feel like they can understand things. Competence is a key development in childhood, so you can help them feel competent in the face of tragic or unpleasant circumstances:

Talk openly and simply. Use language the child can comprehend, and be gentle about it. Try to remain calm when you explain what’s going on.

Allow them to ask questions. Receive the questions, but if you don’t know the answer, that’s okay. Don’t give wrong information, but you can help the child find the answer, if you can. Some questions are not answerable, and that’s okay, too.

Explain that it’s okay for them to feel. You can tell them what your emotions are, too. If you feel sad or worried, you can tell them that, and then explain good ways to deal with those feelings. Help the child use those skills.

Let them know you are there for them. If children feel supported, they can handle a surprising amount. Knowing you are there for them is going to make them feel secure, even in an rocky situation.

Get extra help talking to your child if you need it, or counseling for either or both of you if you feel like it would help.

Talking to children about unpleasant subjects is a difficult thing to do, but it is actually the method that will make them feel more secure, not less. Bad situations make adults nervous, but having an adult talk to them makes children feel safer and supported.

If you’ve had a particular experience as a child or talking to a child in tragedy, what helped you? Comments are welcome and appreciated.



More Healing

Continuing from my not-exactly-last blog about Healing Through the Dark Emotions, today I thought I would talk about fear.  What are you afraid of? Don’t say of fear itself. It’s  a cop out. The fact is, everyone is afraid of something. We should be. There are a lot of things in this world that are a threat. Fearing something threatening is not only natural, it’s the healthy response. Fear is what prepares us to use a coping skill to deal with a problem. By denying fear, we “deal” with the problem by ignoring it. By not dealing with it at all. At that point, we become unhealthy.

When we ignore our fear, it simply grows. We may develop anxiety. We may have bad dreams. We may get angry or deny that we can fear anything. In fact, we may get to the point were everything has to be fine, even when they aren’t. That’s no way to live, is it?

Instead, let’s approach our fears. There must be a reason you fear it. For example, and let’s choose something interesting and maybe a little complicated, but common. Say, fear of failure. Okay. The idea of failing makes you afraid, so you stress, insist that you must not do something where you might fail, and push yourself to do things not just right, but perfectly. If it’s perfect, how can it be a failure? Or perhaps you plan constantly, overplanning the simplest task, or on the other hand, you never plan anything. You never do anything. Perhaps you may spend a lot of time talking about how other people have failed or what their flaws are. If you look at their flaws, you don’t have to look at your own, do you? You can feel more perfect, because you see their shortcomings. You are somehow more stable for it.

In each of these cases, your fear is avoided. You don’t have to feel it so much. But look at each option: None of them are terribly functional or helpful, are they? Has your fear dissipated? Has it vanished into nothing? No. It sits there, watching, waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity. In fact, you spend all this extra energy simply avoiding it, only to have it remain unchanged.

Instead, let’s look at the fear. So you feel failure. Okay. What will happen if you fail? You face criticism or judgment. People might look down on you. Maybe it shows that you weren’t good enough. Well, good enough for what? What standard is that? Is perfection a requirement for survival? For prosperity? If you look at history or even look at the news, it doesn’t appear to be. People that have “everything” by our standards have flaws. Lots of them. If you read their biographies, they’ve probably failed. In fact, if they don’t fail at something, there story is not interesting. The American dream requires failure.

What would failure mean? You aren’t worthy of money? Status? Family? Your friends? Love? Society? Existence? Does that make sense?

Really look at your fear- why do you feel that fear? Then ask yourself, does it help? Sometimes fears do. They compel us to act. Fear of fire gets us out of a burning building safely. Some fear of failure may help you work hard at school or in your career. Those are helpful fears, and they certainly shouldn’t be avoided. How can they help if you avoid them?

If you look at your fear, you’ll learn more about yourself. Don’t judge your fear. It doesn’t make you a bad person. More importantly, don’t fear your fears. If you do, you can never learn from them. They are perfectly natural, and there is no reason to fear natural emotions. They are simply there to help you.

So, this week, what are your fears? What purposes can they serve? What can you learn about yourself by analyzing them? Give them a little attention and let them teach you. Let them speak and then subside. Learn. Find a little peace.

Until next time,