Resilient through Failure

Failure.  How do we deal with failure?

Learn Forward is currently considering how to cultivate change-ready schools.  This week, I was reminded about how change-readiness includes bouncing back from failure.  For those of us with responsibilities for children, it’s rough.  It can have consequences, even consequences for them, so it is an important topic.

My failure, this week, it’s a bit embarrassing.  My pumpkin pies failed.  I was trying to do a big batch for many pies.  Then, I forgot the eggs.  ::face-palm::

How do you forget the eggs?!

So, the pies overflowed in my oven, the pumpkin started on fire (or at least smoked like it did), and I spent the next two hours cleaning up.  Next, I had to order the very inferior pumpkin pies from the market for my family dinner.

Then, the next morning, I threw out all 3 pies.

To be honest, I struggled to recover.  Hosting the family dinner is a bit stressful for me.  I have big emotions and they sometimes spill all over. However, in truth, this was ‘small stuff.’

As a Mom, Teacher, and School Leader, I have faced failure many times and it is never easy, particularly when it impacts children in my care.  Although our work is noble, it is also weighty.

So, right now, possibly more than ever, we need to learn to be resilient, gracious, and self-compassionate.

Here are some ideas supporting me:

The Research

Dr. Kristin Neff authored the book Self-Compassion.  She advocates for a more kind approach to our own suffering.  Here are some of her ideas for your reference.

This isn’t an easy practice for me, so I rely on the voices of compassion around me, including my husband, The Builder. There’s a whole chapter in my book about his famous line.  You can check out the book here.

The Journey

I am constantly comforted by our process orientation and growth mindset.  These mindsets encourage progress.  The expectation is never perfection.  We are all allowed to make mistakes.  The blessing is to Learn Forward.  Although I may still occasionally forget essential ingredients in a recipe, here or there, I can smile with the joy in the journey.

Normalize

Everyone makes mistakes.  Everyone has flops or failures.  In fact, one of my favourite questions to ask during an interview is, “Describe a time when you taught a lesson that failed and what did you do?”  I want everyone on my team to have a relationship with taking risks and sometimes experiencing failure.  That’s the place of learning and growth.

Create Space

I failed to add the eggs; I’m not a failure.  There’s space between me and what happened.  I’m not even a failure in the kitchen, although it isn’t my greatest talent.  I am who I am and I am always worthy.  Even though I am not a wizard as a baker, I am successful at creating edible meals and desserts most of the time.  What’s most important is that I am not a failure.

Modelling

Possibly the most compelling reminder to practice coping with failure are my children who are watching.  Each one of them has a unique relationship with failure and each one of them responds to my imperfections differently.  But, what I want most, is to share with the them the hope of being gentle and kind with oneself as a pathway to progress.

Community

As with all of my personal journeys, I am always applying my individual experiences to our school community’s experience.  How can we help learners be gentle and self-compassionate with themselves amidst failure?  The mistakes during the younger years are lower stakes and help build a muscle of resiliency for during puberty.

An Action Plan

So, here I am, telling you the story of forgetting the eggs.  I’m hoping you will be inspired to shift your perspective on failure this week.

Here are 3 key actions you can take surrounding failure:

  • Write yourself a permission slip allowing yourself to fail or experience imperfection, even at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Write down three ways your experience of failure will support your child.
  • Tell the story of failure at your next family dinner.  How did you grow, change, and Learn Forward?

For the sake of the children,

Karine Veldhoen