Growing the Family Pearls

Have you ever experienced failure? Whether large or small, we have all experienced failures. Know what I think is harder than failing myself? Watching one of my family members experience failure. I hate to watch wave of disappointment, sorrow, and discouragement wash across their face. Even more, it hurts to hear them talk as though they are a failure and will never experience success. What can we do to help our family cope with perceived failures? There are several ways to respond: offering support, teaching, helping distract, using denial, venting, blaming, disengaging, or even abusing substances. However, research suggests three strategies prove most effective in dealing successfully with perceived failures.
Before I tell you about these three strategies, let me offer a crucial reminder. You can best teach what you practice. You can teach these strategies to your family any time you like; however, your help will prove most effective if you practice these strategies yourself. So, as we describe these three strategies, think how you can implement them into your own life as well as into the climate of your family life.
     1.      Reframe the perceived failure in a positive light. Put the failure into perspective and keep the mole hill a mole hill…not a mountain. You can do this in a number of ways. Look for some positive aspect in the outcome. Make note of what has been achieved instead of ruminating on the failures and setbacks. Consider what this experience has taught you and how this can help move you toward your ultimate goal. This one “failure” has helped you learn and grow, become wiser and more knowledgeable, stronger and more persistent. Appreciate how your character grows through experiences of failure. Take note of how moments of failure produce more persistence, determination, integrity, and overall strength of character.
     2.      Accept yourself and your efforts as legitimate. Realize that this experience does not define you. It represents only one small moment of your life, one minute moment of your lifetime. This one failed experience can teach you what you need to know for future successful experiences. Either way, you are not defined by your successes or failures. You are defined by your response to those successes and failures—your character, your reputation, your integrity. Let everyday experiences, whether successes or failures, promote mature character…and let your character define you.
     3.      Use humor. Laughter tends to make things more bearable. Look for the humor in this experience. Do not take yourself too seriously; laugh at yourself from time to time. I realize that we cannot find humor in all experiences of failure. None the less, look for the humor when possible. Allow yourself to laugh.
Failure is like the grain of sand that the oyster fails to keep out of its shell. Once inside the shell, that grain of sand irritates the oyster. As a result of the constant irritation, the oyster begins to cover the irritant with the same substance used to make its shell. Eventually, the irritating grain of sand becomes a pearl. The oyster’s failure to keep an irritant out of its life ultimately results in a beautiful pearl. As we learn to reframe our failures in a positive light, to accept ourselves and our maturing character, and to enjoy the humor of our lives, we can change the life irritant of failure into a beautiful gem. And, we can help our family members do the same.

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