The Key to Success: Persistance over Perfection

"If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning."  -Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

So what is failure?  Failure is not making mistakes.  Failure is not trying something new and crashing and burning.  Failure is quitting.  Period.

In our society we are brainwashed by this idea of natural ability or being born smart.  This accepted belief sets up life in such a way that we tend to give up...quickly...rather than be willing to put in the work.  Think about it.  When you get praise (especially in the formative years) it is almost always commending your talent or intelligence, and not as often applauding the processes you used: amount of effort, strategies you employed or choices you made. The latter sends the message that success is often a process laden with mistakes and revisions, whereas the former simply acknowledges and values the end product giving no weight to everything that came before.

Inspirational message brought by the 6th grade hallway in my school.
Every day I join students in the battle of "catching up."  In a situation where they are already far below grade level, it is easy for them to give up and mumble, "I'm stupid."  It feels hopeless to them because effort and growth are often not what is most praised and recognized by adults.  And the sad thing is, when I am in their spot (like during my grad statistics and algebra classes last year), I do the same thing!  When I don't get it quickly, I (more often than I'd like to admit) get frustrated, throw up my hands, and start making excuses.  "I just don't get math."  "Why do I need to know this anyway?"  "My teacher sucks."

I think it's important to reflect on these ingrained attitudes and beliefs when attempting any change in life.  When changing my diet in the past, I've so often done great for a few days, a week, maybe two...but, as soon as I fail and eat some sugar or drink a bottle of tequila...I throw up my hands and think, welp...guess I'm not strong enough.  Then, a small part of me dies.  Ok, maybe that's a little melodramatic, but it is the moment when a downward spiral starts until finally I'm entrenched in the very behaviors I was trying to eliminate.  Then a month down the line I start the cycle all over again.  Ben Franklin said, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."  Word, brutha man.  So, this is my year to get off the crazy train.

Change is not a question of will or determination or perfection.  Making change happen is a process of persistently going after your goal by revising behaviors and mental habits. 

 Judgement has no place in this process.  Mistakes do.  Take this example...you knock over a container of nails and immediately think to yourself, "crap-a-roni, I am so freakin' clumsy."  This thought that jumps into our heads is a nasty habit, and one that lays judgement and a label on us.  Labels are powerful things.  Often, when we label ourselves or are labeled by others, we will eventually fit that label.  Self-judgement and labels give us a reason to fail, a reason to think we are not strong/smart/good enough to make the changes we want to.  But, that's not true!!  Mistakes are not a reason to fail, but rather an opportunity to revise behaviors and strategize for the future.  Bring awareness to what your mind voices tell you and if you don't like what they say, make them zip it and put your own affirming words in their place.  Next time you knock over some nails, clobber the nasty, judgemental voice into submission and simply name what happened and what you're going to do about it: "The nails spilled.  I'll pick them up."  Maybe even become revisionary and strategize where to put them so it doesn't happen again.

That's the thing.  Have the first 24 "clean days" been perfect?  Heck, no!  I drank iced tea (that I found out later has a mountain of caffeine...maybe the name Tejava should've been a hint) a few times.  I found some trail mix in my cupboard that had M&M's in them and didn't have the will power to pick them out and throw them away, so instead threw them in my mouth.  And chewed.  And swallowed.  Here's the good news, these mistakes didn't derail me.  I shut those mean, judgemental voices in my head up with some acid and duct tape (don't ask) and simply said, "that just happened".  Next time, I'll give that trail mix to my roommate instead of putting candy in my hand and leaving it up to fate and willpower.  And you can bet your booty that the next 24 days are going to be better than the first.


B. said...

I love it and I totally agree. I think we are far too quick to minimize just how capable we are at achieving whatever it is we want to achieve. Goals are never easy to get to...that's why we set em high! Keep it up!

Tiffany said...

Thanks B, and p.s. congrats on getting your CF Kids program going! So exciting...I can't wait to hear about it.

Stacy said...

You have such great perspective, lady. I often think that I'm overpraising my kids, when what I think I'm actually doing is focusing, as you said, on the result instead of the efforts. So much more important. And - I've never done anything for 24 days in my life; I am so impressed with you. Keep going!!

Tiffany said...

Stacy - thanks for reading and for the comment. My cousin sent me this article which was a great read, I think you'll enjoy it!


Secondly, I'd like to remind you that you have embodied "AWESOME" for far longer than 24 days. ;) Keep on shining!

P.S. I LOVE reading your blog/website. It's beautiful.