As parents of children with special needs, we are all too familiar with the word “failure.” I heard it all the time. My son was failing at almost everything when he was measured by everyone else’s standards. That was the biggest obstacle that I had to overcome. Living up to everyone else’s standards and the world’s expectations for my son. When I began to look at at my son’s true potential, my expectations began to shift. I began to care less about everyone else and focused all of my attention on helping him to become the best HE could be. As is typical, I have learned more about failure from him than anyone else. Here is what my son has taught me.
Failure is Not About Outcome
People often measure success based upon outcomes. If we do not achieve the outcome we are looking for; we are failures. My son has taught me that failure is not about the magnitude of the outcome achieved. Lack of outcome is not failing, but failure to even try is.
When my son was in high school he wanted to play football on the high school team. I was supportive but I can’t pretend that I was not worried. How would he feel on a team with 80 boys who were competitive and determined to win? At the end of the season, the team had an awards ceremony. Jacob received the Coach’s Award as “The most Inspirational Player.” Of the year. I talked to the football players afterwards and asked them how did this happen. The boys immediately responded. Every day Jacob struggled to put on his uniform and helmet. Nothing was easy for him but he never quit trying. He came in consistently last with every exercise and drill the team ran on the field. He never complained and did his best. Coming in last never bothered him. For Jacob, he was grateful to be included and to be a part of the team. To him, success was giving the best HE could, not about coming in first place.
If You Aren’t Failing You Aren’t Growing!
My son is a risk taker. He has no fear. Every time I turn around he wants to try something new. He wants to be an electrical engineer, computer programmer, and truck driver. He may not be able to achieve any of them but he never quits trying or growing toward his dreams. One day he came up to me and wanted to go skydiving. I animately refused. Two years later, I jumped out of a plane at 14,500 feet with my son. He pushes everyone around him to dig deeper within and to become their best self. He has taught me that life is not about failing but about not growing to become bigger than your greatest fears and obstacles.
Failure is an Event
I tend to be very hard on myself. If I don’t reach a goal I can feel like a failure. My son Jacob is one of the most positive people I know. He often scripts or talks out loud. As a result, I get to hear what he is thinking. When he fails at something he tells himself, “That’s ok I tried hard and I will do better next time.” He sees failure as an event not that HE is a failure. He is always saying wonderful things to himself and affirming his greatness. He says to me often, “Everybody loves me Mom, but then again what’s not to love?.” He is continuously giving himself a genuine pep talk. He has taught me to become so much more aware of my self talk and light hearted about failure. Failure is simply an event that may happen to me, but it does not make me a failure.
How do you look at failure? Is it an event or something you take on as a part of your identity?Share below what failure has taught you!
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