I read about this study once. Children were brought into a room and given a puzzle. Upon completion half the children were complimented for their effort, while the other half praised for their innate abilities, their smarts. They were then given a choice between a harder puzzle – assured that they’d learn a lot from the challenge – or an easy puzzle. The children who had received the smarts praise invariably refused to attempt the more challenging task, too afraid to stray from their perfect work of the past. The children applauded for their effort, were up for the challenge. They took it on, not looking for perfection, just aiming to give their best effort.
I remind myself of this when I feel like a pinball bouncing from mistake to mistake. When my cheeks flush from embarrassment over the imperfect adventuring. When I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong, if I should just play it safe, throw in the towel, give it all up.
During these times I remember I don’t want to be one of those kids that rides a single success for a lifetime. That allows fear to dictate my actions. That values perfection over trying and ends up unwilling to face the difficult, important things in life.
Instead, I want to be a kid who sees a challenge and goes after it. Who knows that mistakes will inevitably happen, it’s the learning from them that’s important. Who understands that it’s less about getting it all right the first time, more about giving it your all.
Effort-giving vision in mind, fresh tire gleaming, we load up. Wave a bittersweet goodbye to the motel comforts and hit the road.
Winding along the river, gray morning skies turn menacing. Cold air cutting, I pull over; add more layers, put Baylor in his raincoat and prepare for a chilly, wet ride.
The scenery is beautiful but between wanting to escape the cold rain and a desire to make up some distance, we hardly stop. Refill the tank, stretch the legs, keep rolling.
Despite this, we don’t make it as far as I’d planned before succumbing to the fall-shortened day. We’ve an offer of a warm, dry place to stay further down the road and I’m tempted to power on, but it’s just not worth driving in the cold, wet night. For though I may be an adventure seeking, mistake making pinball, I do my best to ping about with mindful intention.
Happy to be off the road, thankful for the cover of the tent as rain clatters down, I pull out my notebook. Flip it open and smile that the vision of the kid I wish to be was in my head from the very get go. For on the very first page I’d written:
Success ≠ Flawless Execution
Success = Trying
67 days down. Many to come.