When you want to do something, you first need to make sure you have all that is required to complete the task. If you want to build a piece of furniture, then you need to acquire the lumber and tools. If you want to bake a cake, you need to have flour, eggs, and other ingredients. But what about achieving your goals and dreams? What are the prerequisites needed to complete such grand accomplishments.
Helen Keller, the famous American author and activist, who lost both her sight and hearing at a young age, argued that one of the requirements to any achievements was optimism. She said, "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." Often times, we describe optimism as just being happy or looking on the bright side of things. But Keller uses different words to describe optimism, specifically "hope" and "confidence".
Hope and confidence are the expectation that something will happen. Without these beliefs, then our hard work and practice become meaningless. After all, what is the point of studying if we don't believe we can pass the test? No, we require optimism, that is, the expectation that we can succeed, if we have any chance at actually doing so.
Cut the Negativity
So how do we consistently develop an attitude of optimism? The first thing we can do is guard our minds. When we find ourselves reacting to a situation in a negative light, we must quickly redirect our thoughts to a more optimistic outlook.
Ask yourself: where can I find hope in this situation? Once you've identified that, focus on it. Drive yourself towards that goal with confidence. Like Keller said, faith leads to achievement, so have faith that you'll have the outcome you desire. If you control your thoughts in that way, your actions, mood, and efforts will follow.
Think about the most successful people you know. Do you think they found their greatest joys by doubting themselves and being pessimistic? Probably not. Cut that out of your life. Or when you see it in your child's life, try and gently redirect them. Children are sponges. They absorb what's around them. So when you see an opportunity to demonstrate optimism, let them soak that in.
Optimistic But Not Ignorant
They say ignorance is bliss. However, we don't want our students to be blindly hopeful. If a family member has a serious illness, then you have to accept that reality. You cannot just hope that it will magically go away.
But optimism doesn't just mean being ignorant and naive. If a family member is sick, be hopeful about the possibilities. What treatments did the doctor offer? What can you do to help? Focus on these glimmers of hope and reach for them. Believe that they will succeed. That's what optimism is about. Focus on hopeful possibilities instead of negative prospects.
Now, when we teach this to children we must remind that they things may still go wrong. Just because we are optimistic doesn't mean everything will turn out OK. But even when things don't go our way, there is another opportunity for optimism. As you walk through life, be confident that whatever is on the other side is a good thing. And if not, there is always a chance to turn a corner. And another, and another.
What are some popular slogans you can think of? You may immediately think of something like "America Runs on Dunkin" or "Got Milk?", but perhaps one of the most famous marketing campaigns comes from Nike with their "Just Do It" slogan.
The campaign's hit slogan has an interesting origin. It's creator, Dan Wieden, who came up with the slogan in the late 80's, was inspired by the story of Gary Gilmore. Gilmore was a convicted murderer who was executed by firing squad in 1977. If you read about his trial and time in prison, you'll find that he was the first person to be executed in the United States in nearly a decade, so he was well known in the news. Before his death, he was asked if he had any last words, to which he replied, "Let's do it."
When Wieden pitched his campaign slogan of "Just Do It" to Nike, it wasn't that he was inspired by Gilmore's life, but rather the definitive intention in his final statement. For a up and coming sports and fashion brand, this idea of laying out all your cards on the table and committing to your goals was something the brand wanted to capture and capitalize on. And thus, one of the most famous slogans came to be and is still in use over thirty years later.
Why We Wait
Now obviously neither I or Wieden are trying to glorify Gilmore's life or say that justice wasn't served, but there is an interesting parallel to be drawn from his story. When faced with death (even deserved death), Gilmore did not flinch. He didn't beg or plea, he didn't stall or try to run away, he simply committed to the task laid before him, though unpleasant and terrifying.
A lot of times, the reason we put something off is because it is difficult or scary. Instead of acting in the present, we push off tough tasks, hoping that we will be better equipped to deal with them in the future. But what if we followed Nike's slogan and instead of thinking about the unpleasantries, we just focused on the "now". What if we "just do it" and continue putting one foot in front of the other.
A lot of the time, we put too much focus on the future. We talk about how difficult an exam will be so that studying seems useless. We concentrate on how tough the competition will be so we become too scared to enter the contest. But if we commit to the task at hand and just dive right in, we can grow and learn. And who knows...we may even succeed.
Changing Our Mindset
There is a great quote from Theodore Roosevelt in which he said, "The only man who makes no mistakes is a man who never does anything." The former president presents two mindsets. A person who focuses on their fear of making mistakes and the person who focuses on taking action. You may be one or the other, but you will never be both.
We should teach our children that it is better to take action and fail than it is to procrastinate out of fear or difficulty and never have the opportunity to succeed. It is great to have big goals, but sometimes we must step back and focus on just moving one foot forward, one step at a time. Instead of saying, "You can do 100 push ups," you can instead say, "Wow, you did five push ups today! I bet tomorrow you can do six!" If we can support our children in their small accomplishments, then the large ones won't seem so impossible.
So what about in our own lives? Ask yourself, "What am I achieving by putting it off another day?" The answer you'll find (most likely) is that your not achieving anything. Once you realize that, ask yourself the opposite: "What can I achieve if I was to start right now?" You may not be about to reach some gigantic, magnificent achievement, but you'll be moving in the right direction, and that is a success.
This week, students have been hearing and discussing the subject of loyalty and what it means to be a loyal person. This is a subject that has a fine line. On one hand, loyalty is a great character trait. Being loyal shows a commitment to a person, to support them in good times and bad times. For example, we see this displayed in friendships and marriages when people support one another and stick together through thick and thin.
But on the other hand, we don't want to teach our students to be loyal blindly. You shouldn't be loyal to a person who is abusive or constantly treats you harshly. Loyalty is a two way street. It must be given in order to be received.
My wife makes fun of me (jokingly) because I am a very loyal person. For example, there is a sushi restaurant that we go to. They have great food and the service is always friendly. Every now and then my wife will suggest a different sushi restaurant we should try, but I am always vehemently against it. It's not there is anything wrong with trying out a new restaurant. It's just the our usual restaurant is consistently good, I enjoy them, and honestly, I feel their dependable service deserves my loyalty. In this example, my loyalty was earned, but that's not the only type of loyalty.
Let me expand the analogy. A few months ago we got takeout from our favorite sushi restaurant and when I got home, I realized they had forgotten to give me an appetizer we had ordered. Was this a reason to never go back? Absolutely not! Maybe they were having a very busy night, or perhaps their chef was new and got confused. Either way, being loyal means that when a mistake happens or a situation takes a turn for the worse, you stick with the person you are loyal to. Loyalty can be earned and reciprocated, but at the end of the day, it should extend past a simple transaction and become a foundational part of a relationship.
Now, I should mention that I calmly called the restaurant to let them know they had forgotten my appetizer and they were super apologetic and gave me a free credit for the next time I came in. Why? Because they valued my business and their loyalty to me was just as important as my loyalty to them.
Now this may seem like a silly example. Obviously, if I order from this restaurant and the next ten times I go to pick up my food and its disgusting and incorrect, then I will take my business elsewhere. But loyalty means I at least give them a chance. And though this may not be applicable to this particular analogy, if there was anything I could do to help out my friend or family who I am loyal to, then I would gladly do it. Loyalty is the hand that extends a ladder to pick a friend up out of the pit of despair rather than running away to find a new friend.
Let's extend the example just a bit further. Let's say that just down the road, a new sushi place opened up. This new joint is (maybe) just as good food-wise, but its got bells and whistles. They have a koi pond in the lobby and neon lighting above each table. They even have one of those inflatable wavy hand guys outside. Do I abandon my current restaurant and go to the one that has all the buzz? Probably not. I mean, again, this is an extreme example, but my point is that loyalty is faith in a person, place, or idea, and true loyalty means a commitment to the well being of such.
Trinity Martial Arts is so thankful for the loyalty of our students. It is their commitment to our school, instructors, and art that makes this a school that transcends simply being a martial arts facility, and make us a positive relational family. And our commitment is to be loyal to our students, always doing what is best for them and promoting their growth and success inside and outside of our training space. Thank you and Tang Soo!
Do you or your child want to develop positive character traits such as loyalty? Contact Trinity Martial Arts to find out more about our martial arts program, focusing on traditional martial arts, self-defense, and life skills needed to succeed in whatever it is they do!
When I was a teacher, I would often be frustrated when teaching multiplication facts. We would spend weeks teaching children to memorize 3 x 3 = 9. Eventually, they got it and when given a speed test, they could calculate their times tables in record speed. The frustrating part was when we got to the word problems. A student could easily know their multiplication facts, but it is a completely different skill to understand when to use that knowledge and how to apply it to the real world. You may know that 3 x 4 = 12, but when I give you a scenario with three baskets, each holding four balls, you have to have an understanding of how that piece of information will help you calculate the total.
This illustrates the difference between simply knowing something and having knowledge about a given topic. True knowledge comes not through memorization of facts, statistics, or talking points, but through practice and becoming familiar with the application of a given subject matter. When we educate our children, either in school or at home, it is so, so important that we teach our children not only information, but application.
This skill can be practical. For example, in martial arts we practice hyungs, which is Korean for "forms". These are a pattern of movements and techniques. While they are beautiful to watch and an important part of our art form, their purpose does not only lie in the beauty of the movements. A black belt may know many forms, but unless they know the application of the techniques, they will not be able to defend themselves.
Teaching application can also be more abstract. It is very easy to tell our children rhetoric like "treat others the way you want to be treated" but to actually dive into a conversation about why empathy is important takes a lot more work. Teaching martial artists a pattern of movement or telling children morals they should live by are simple facts that can be retained by anyone. But having knowledge about how to use those facts requires a deeper understanding. And that is the goal of our instruction: to help kids understand more deeply, to gain not just information, but knowledge.
Teaching a Deeper Understanding of Knowledge
When you go to college for education, you learn about something called "Bloom's Taxonomy". It is a simple framework that outlines different levels of understanding for how a student's understanding and application of knowledge progresses. But there is a much simpler way of understanding how to teach our children to know more deeply, and it uses interrogative words.
That may sound complex, but you already know these words. They are who, what, where, when, why, and how. The first four words (who, what, where, when) are simple. If you ask a question beginning with one of these words, the answer will usually be a few words. It requires you to state a simple fact. For example, if I ask, "Who should you be kind to?", the answer would be simple: my siblings, friends, parents, etc. But the last two words (why and how) require a deeper understanding. If I ask "Why should I be kind to others?" or "How can I show kindness to others?", that requires more thought of how to apply the concept of kindness.
When we teach children (or even adults) to have a greater understanding of knowledge, we should shift our questioning to use those higher level interrogative words. If you do this, you may find that what you know is a lot less than what you thought you knew. I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, but our goal is to not just know facts or rhetoric, but to have true knowledge, that is, a deep understanding, of the world around us.
What's interesting about this discussion is that when we talk about how to teach knowledge, it begins with questions. Using words like "how" or "why" show that we don't have a full grasp on a topic. Perhaps the first bit of knowledge we should acquire is the fact that we don't know much. Assuming this posture of humility, combined with the desire to grow and improve, will set you and your children on a path to success. I mentioned Bloom's Taxonomy before. Do you know what the highest level of the framework is? It is not the ability to analyze or evaluate, but the ability to use our knowledge to create. If we gain true knowledge, we can use it to create wonderful things, perhaps even a better world for generations to come.
The Friday after Thanksgiving is traditionally when my family decorates for Christmas. So as usual, we pulled out the giant Rubbermaid containers which held our plethora of decorations, ornaments, and garland. My oldest two children are at an age where they can appreciate the holidays. They love pulling out each decoration, looking at it, and reminiscing about the memories each one holds. You can feel the joy as their excitement builds towards the end of December.
Then there is my youngest son. He is only two, but he managed to find joy as well. No, not in helping decorate the tree or listening to Christmas music. He enjoyed playing in the now empty containers which once held holiday trinkets. At first, he would crawl into the plastic tubs and sit there, happy as could be. Later, he discovered he could put the bin on top of himself like a turtle shell and curl himself up into a ball underneath it. We had been worried about trying to decorate with a two year old running around, but he was as happy as he could be for the entire hour we spent setting up the house.
This isn't something new. There is a continuous joke around the holidays that you'll spend a fortune on buying children Christmas gifts and then they'll enjoy the box more than the toy itself. But it is a principle that we should focus more on. Our joy should not come from tangible things like jewelry, video games, or fancy clothes. It should come from within us, and our ability to make any situation, even an empty box, into an occasion worth celebrating. This may seem like a cliche message. How many times have we heard something like, "Look on the bright side," or "The glass is half full, not empty". But it's true. Pure joy is not circumstantial, but can be found in any circumstance.
This holiday, when our children open up a new doll or video game, they will feel happiness. But happiness is not the same as joy. They will feel joy by reminding them that whether the gift they receive is $5 or $500, it was given to them by a person that loves them. They will feel joy when they remember that the roof over their head (no matter how fancy) or the meal at their table (no matter how extravagant) is shared with people who care deeply for one another.
We must work with our children (and on ourselves) to reset the barometer for happiness and success. It is not about what we physically have or what we can achieve. Those are good things and not to be taken for granted. But sometimes we need to refocus and look at less tangible things. It doesn't matter if a person is a world champion if they aren't able to see these great little joys. But a person who can see them, who can focus on them, will absolutely feel like a champion.
You may have heard of a scientific theory called "The Butterfly Effect". The idea, which comes from chaos theory, is the idea that small changes or instances can result in large differences at a later point in time. The theory's name comes from the metaphorical example of a small butterfly flapping its wings in a certain way leading to the formation and path of a tornado at some point in the future.
Even if this example seems a bit silly, it is certainly true that small acts can have a big impact. Just like a tiny pebble thrown in a pond can have big ripples, our actions, no matter how small, can influence people in many different ways. The question we must ask ourselves is are our actions having an impact on people in a positive or negative way?
In a world where Instagram and YouTube have created entire platforms for famed "influencers", it is easy to feel like our tiny actions don't impact other people. But, every single person in the world has influence. It doesn't matter if you're small or big, rich or poor, old or young. We all have the ability to change the world. A small act of kindness to a stranger could change the course of their entire day. Making a stranger smile may not seem like you're making a big impact on the world, but for that person, you might have made all the difference.
We must teach our children to "brace for impact". By this, I mean that we must teach them to always prepare and be aware of how they can influence the world and people around them. There are two positives to this. First, it helps boost their confidence. It helps them to realize that they are not insignificant, but that their words and actions matter. This can be empowering to a young child who may not feel like they have a voice. They do and it is a powerful one.
Secondly, by pointing this out, it helps children take ownership of their actions. By pointing out how a child's actions impacted another person, it helps them realize the weight of their choices. However, we must be careful not to only point out the negative. If we only point out how Johnny is teaching his brother to climb on the counters and not the moments when he is a good role model for his sibling, then Johnny is not going to learn to feel the joy of his influence and will develop a negative view of himself.
Don't get me wrong, we absolutely have to point out to our children when they make mistakes and offer correction. I just want to note that it is also important to put a spotlight on their victories and successes.
As we go into the holiday season this week, let's remember that we have the power to change people's lives in a positive way. We need to prepare ourselves to have an impact on the world. We must remember that there is always someone watching us and learning from our choices, positive or negative. Let's use our platform for good. And remember that everyone has a platform to use. Even if it only impacts the life of one person, to that one person, you've impacted their entire life.
Let's play a game. Envision you and all your friends standing in a room together. Picture that group of people, all different from one another in their own unique ways. Now ask yourself, if you were to rank those people from the best overall person in the group to the worst, where would you rank yourself?
It's an interesting conundrum. If you rank yourself as #1, then another person could claim that your are cocky because you placed yourself above everyone else. On the other hand, if you ranked yourself low, then someone could ask you why you don't have more confidence in yourself. For young children, this can be a fine line to walk. We want our children to believe in themselves, be proud of who they are, and know that they can do great things if they put their mind to it. But at the same time, we want them to know that it is not all about them and, quite often, there will be someone out there who is bigger, better, stronger, or smarter than them.
The problem comes to be when the needle leans too far in either direction. Too much confidence leads to ego and pride, while too little leads to anxiety and worry. But the perfect blend of the two results in a character trait that all children (and adults) should aim for: humility.
Confidence and humility are not mutually exclusive of one another. In fact, I would argue that only people who are truly confident in themselves are able to be humble. A lot of the time, bragging and prideful ego stems from a desire to prove a person's worth. But if you are satisfied with who you are as a person and the path you are on, then you have no problem letting others go ahead of you. As C.S. Lewis said, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less." Humility is not about doubting your own abilities, it's about recognizing your strengths and being confident enough in them to recognize your own need for improvement and the positive qualities of other people (which you may able to learn from).
When I teach our school's leadership team to work with children, something I try to drill home is how important it is for student's to hear not only what they did wrong, but what they did correctly. Student's who hear positive and appropriate praise form an image of themselves that empowers them to continue trying harder. Please don't misunderstand me. We don't praise children even when they do a "bad job." Rather, we make sure to highlight success, no matter how small it may be.
It is not only important for students to hear praise about themselves. Children need to be taught to praise one another. For example, in our martial arts classes, I will often ask a student to demonstrate a technique or stance. I will then ask the other students what the first student did correctly. This normalizes not only me praising the student, but them hearing positive feedback from their peers. It also gives the other children an opportunity to acknowledge the strengths of their classmates, knowing fully that it doesn't negatively impact their own performance and strength. Remember, humility is not putting yourself down, but rather lifting others up before yourself because, in the end, you are already confident in your own abilities.
When you combine these two aspects of praising children, in addition to having them practice praising others, it creates confidence while still underscoring that there are others out there who are just as good, if not better. This stops students from getting cocky.
Humility Pays Off
People who have to boast about how good they are are often compensating for something. I don't know about you, but whenever I hear someone continuously praise themself, I usually end up rolling my eyes instead of staring in adoration. But when a person is humble and places themself low on the totem pole, then there is only opportunity to be raised up. When we line up by seniority in our martial arts classes, it is better to line up at the end and be told to move up rather than taking the senior position and be told you don't belong there. Bragging earns little to no respect, but being humble shows you respect yourself and others.
Do you or your child want to develop the life skills to be both confident and humble? Contact Trinity Martial Arts to find out more about our martial arts program, focusing on traditional martial arts, self-defense, and positive character traits needed to succeed in life!
As martial art instructors, we not only teach self-defense, but positive character traits. And one that we often work to counteract within our students, especially the younger ones, is selfishness and greed. These are easy qualities to acquire and perhaps they are even somewhat innate. Look no further than the toddler who wants the last cookie for themselves or young siblings who are fighting over who gets to play with their favorite toy. You'll quickly see how easy it is to fall into the habit of looking out for yourself as opposed to sharing with others.
Two Reasons We Learn
Before we talk more about this, let me point out something I learned as a teacher. When children learn a skill, they learn it for one of two reasons. Either it is a skill that is somewhat expected, such as learning how to walk or speak. Or they learn it because it is something they enjoy doing, such as learning how to beat a video game. There is some overlap, such as some children learning how to read because that is what school requires of them, while other children read simply because they enjoy it, but for the most part a learned skill or trait falls into one of these two categories.
The reason I bring this up is because "generosity" is a skill that we have to teach to our children (though some adults need to learn it too). If our default setting is to be selfish, then learning how to share and care for others is something that we must continually learn and improve upon. But I want to take a moment to look at the reasoning behind why we want to learn this skill. Do we want people to learn how to be generous out of necessity or because they enjoy it?
One thing I caught myself doing when my children started getting older is that when they questioned the morality of decisions and asked my why they had to do something, my response was simply, "Because it is the right thing to do." And that is a perfectly acceptable response. No one would argue that being generous is ever the "wrong" thing to do. However, as I continually used this response, I discovered that my kids did not feel a sense of pride in their compassion, but rather the burden of necessity. It bothered me that when I told my daughters to share their toys, they did so with a sigh of frustration. They didn't argue, they weren't rude, and they absolutely listened to my directions, but I could tell that they got no happiness from showing one another kindness and generosity.
That bothered me.
So I propose to you that we should be generous and, by extension, teach our children to be generous, out of our own happiness and joy. Our generosity shouldn't be a burden, but rather something we freely give. We should be generous with our generosity! If we want our children to be generous when we aren't watching them out of the corner of our eye, then we must show them that generosity is the right thing to do not because their parents and teachers told them it was, but because we have empathy for others.
Change Your Language
Next time you want your child to share or be kind, try saying these phrases instead:
It may seem like this change in language could baby our children and demand less of them, but that is simply not true. It is still very demanding language. The only difference is it puts the responsibility of being generous on the individual instead of an external source like a parent or teacher. I am no longer telling them to be generous, but simply pointing out a circumstance where they could practice their generosity. This causes them to really think about how their actions affect other people, teaching them to be empathetic to other people's situations. This is the first step in teaching students how generosity is important.
Reward from Within
If you took a basic psychology class in college, you probably learned about Pavlov and his dogs. Pavlov conditioned his dogs to to drool when they heard a bell by associating the bell with food. Soon, he didn't need the food to make them drool...the bell was enough. Though it may seem silly, we use this principle with children. They eat their dinner, they get dessert. If they do their chores, they get their allowance. We reward them in hopes that they will learn good habits and one day they will do the task without the reward.
But when teaching generosity to young people, rewards can backfire. Remember, we said that we should teach kids compassion through empathy. When you give them a reward for sharing a toy, they learn that they are sharing simply to better themselves. So how do we positively reinforce generosity?
I said earlier that students learn skills either out of necessity or out of joy. So if we want children to learn generosity through empathy, then their reward must also be empathetic. They should feel joy in the fact they brought joy to others. Point out to your children how they have been a light to others, even if it is insignificant. Even if your kid shares a single M&M with another child, that is generosity! Make sure to say, "Wow, I bet that made Chris really happy!" This way they learn the internal reward of helping others. It's not a tangible reward, but perhaps that is the best type.
Yes, you shouldn't need a reward to do the right thing. But perhaps this internal satisfaction is less of a reward and more of a remind of our moral obligation to help our brothers and sisters.
Not Just For Kids
We've talked a lot about how we can create generosity in our children, but generosity isn't a skill that only children need to learn. As adults, we often get caught up in our own needs and don't focus on what would help other people. As martial artists, we are always looking to better ourselves. One way we can improve our character is by improving the lives of others. If you want to be more generous, you will have to start being more intentional. After doing it for awhile, you will start to feel the rewards and eventually it will create a habit of being empathetic and compassionate. Those connections to other people are priceless and will only better your character. And that's what martial arts is all about: improvement-- not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
Do you or your child want to develop the life skills necessary for dealing with failure? Contact Trinity Martial Arts to find out more about our martial arts program, focusing on traditional martial arts, self-defense, and positive character traits needed to succeed in life!
No one likes to fail. No one enjoys losing. Yet, there is not a person out there who hasn't experienced the emotions that come with discovering our imperfections. Children seem to take failure especially hard and not being able to reach a goal often leads to tears and meltdowns.
Failure is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be cyclical. So as children (and adults) grow up and encounter failure, they must learn how to fail "well", that is, how to take failure and change it from a death sentence into a breath of new life. Whether you are struggling with failure yourself, or are looking to teach your child how to handle the difficulties of life, here are some tips for how you can deal with the obstacle of failure.
Here are 3 Tips for How to Fail Well:
There are a lot of emotions that come rushing over a person when they fail. There is a sense of disappointment, a feeling of dismay, and a lot of questions about what you could have done differently. And don't get me wrong, I am not telling you that you (or your child) shouldn't be feeling these emotions. In fact, those are healthy emotions to feel...as long as they don't control you. Once you have gotten over the initial disappointment of your failure, take that emotional energy and invest it into something else.
The biggest thing you will have to avoid is letting your failure define you. Failing does not mean you are a failure. This is a lesson many children AND adults have to learn. So when you fail, redirect your negative thoughts into positive ones. Take statements like "I messed up" and change them into "How can I do better in the future?" Shift the mindset of, "Man, I really stink at this" and instead say, "I can't wait to get better!" It will be hard at first to do this, especially for children, but by staying vigilant and practicing redirecting our thoughts, it can turn a failure into an opportunity.
A lot of times your thoughts will manifest into reality. This isn't magic. You won't say, "I'm good at this" and then miraculously become amazing. What I mean is that when you direct your energy into positive thinking, it mitigates the negativity that comes with messing up. A negative thought will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but a positive outlook gives new life to your ambitions and pushes you forward, making it more likely that you'll avoid failure in the future. This is why we need to watch how we speak to ourself--and our children--and make sure that we redirect our language towards positive motivation rather than negative deprecation.
When we fail, it means that we couldn't reach a goal. Whether it be winning a game, passing a test, or achieving a promotion, failure means that we couldn't measure up to the level at which the bar was set. A lot of times when this happens to people, they spend their time staring up at their unobtainable goal, dreaming about how nice it would be if things worked out. Instead, when we fail to reach a goal, we have to renew our ambitions. There are a couple ways to do this.
First, we may have to reevaluate our goal and set it at a more reasonable level. For example, if I can't do 100 push ups, maybe it would be more reasonable to set a goal of doing 10 push ups. There is no shame in lowering the bar to a realistic level, as long as you are willing to raise it up again as you continue to grow. In fact, by setting more reasonable goals for yourself, it will help you take more notice of the progress you are making, thus motivating you to keep going, one step at a time. Renewing your goal may just mean breaking it down into more manageable pieces.
Another way to breath new life into your failure is to use it as an opportunity to come up with a plan. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then when we fail, it would be insane to just keep doing the same old thing. Pull out your thinking cap and come up with some ideas. If you failed a test in school, there are solutions to keep it from happening again! Ask yourself, could you study more? Maybe get a tutor? Ask the teacher for extra help? Don't get discouraged when you fail. Instead, take it as a reminder of the things you need to work on, and then come up with a plan to help you do just that. There is no shame in asking for help, so we should normalize this for our children, as well as ourselves.
By continuously reevaluating our goals and then figuring out a strategy to meet those goals, it will make us overly prepared. Does this mean you will never fail again? Absolutely not! But when you do, you will have the tools to keep pushing forward.
One of the big problems people have in today's day and age is the idea that you cannot be happy unless you win. Let me tell you that this is a ridiculous thought that we need to actively work against. When you fail, there are opportunities for rejoicing!
First, a lot of our failures mean success for someone else. If you got the silver medal, then be happy and cheer on the person who got the gold. Additionally, you can learn something from that person. You should rejoice in the fact that someone else succeeded and be happy you got to witness it. Glean what you can from that other person and be positive about your ability to grow from your loss.
Now, this is not going to be applicable to every situation. If you scored a 50% on your final exam, I am not going to tell you that you should be super happy about it. But at the same time, you have to remember that failure is NOT the end of the world. In the example of the final exam, there will always be more tests to take, more classes to pass, and more things to learn. Instead of drowning in your sorrows, rejoice that you have an opportunity to continue to learn and grow. The only way that opportunity could ever be taken away from you is if you choose to wallow in misery.
Putting It Into Practice:
These three actions of redirecting our thoughts, reevaluating our goals, and rejoicing about future opportunities help us to not only deal with the sadness of failing, but give us a plan for how to move forward. To put these ideas into practice, it is going to take active effort and even after doing this for decades, failure may still sting. What's important is that we remember that the fruit of our efforts does not define us. What defines us is the effort we put into producing that fruit and the constant desire to better the process along the way.
Do you or your child want to develop the life skills necessary for dealing with failure? Contact Trinity Martial Arts to find out more about our martial arts program, focusing on traditional martial arts, self-defense, and positive character traits needed to succeed in life!
About the Author
Master Matthew Eyler is a 5th degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Tang Soo Do and a New York State certified general and special education teacher. He has over 20 years experience practicing self-defense and teaching students of all ages and abilities.