My eight-year-old buddy has this poster on the wall of her bedroom.
It’s there to remind her not to get frustrated when she tries new things: that setbacks and temporary failures are part of the process.
Of course, on an intellectual level, we know this. We’ve heard the stories of the number of elections that Abraham Lincoln lost before becoming one of our greatest presidents. J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter was turned down a dozen times before being published. And every athlete has suffered the humiliation of going through a dry spell.
But it feels different when it’s happening to us. We look at those missed baskets, the harsh-sounding music coming out of the piano, the loss of an election, or the “F” on a paper and feel that we’re losers at this skill and we need to move on to something that won’t be so hard.
But the problem with that approach is that everything gets hard at some point. There are always setbacks. We forget how to play a chord that we thought we had mastered. An additional skill just won’t come. And we get burned out on trying.
And that’s when we have to remember my friend’s poster. These problems don’t mean that we’re failures. They simply mean we’re human and on the path. The path is just not a straight upward line.