I Cringed When I Realised this
Last week as I scanned down the prompts that we've covered over the previous 28 weeks of this challenge, it struck me that almost all of them were things I remember my parents and teachers encouraging me with as a child.
Be brave, be kind, listen, stop procrastinating, clean your room, share, take a deep breath....
I can picture my parents saying each of these things to 'little Darren' and know that each of them is something I've said to my three boys.
When I had this realisation, I found myself cringing a little.
Has this year of prompts gone deep enough? Are my weekly prompts grown up enough? Am I wasting my time here (and yours)?
I've sat with these questions all week and have decided that while the ideas are the things we tell our children, we do that because they are powerful home truths that, deep down, we know are important.
And while we might see them as basic or simple lessons, many take a lifetime to learn (and relearn).
This week our prompt is no different.
This week's prompt is 'try'.
Some of the Best Parenting Advice I Received
When my eldest son started school and Vanessa and I went to our first ever parent and teacher conference, I remember sitting on some very tiny chairs in front of the teacher and hearing her say that the number one thing that they tried to get across to the children in the first year of school was to 'try'.
The year ahead would present children with many new learning experiences - each with its challenges. And at each one, the children had a choice as to whether they would take on the challenges or balk at them because they were too hard.
The phrase our teacher told us that she would say more than any other during the year was "give it a go", - and she encouraged us as parents to join her in it too.
Her point was that if we could get our children in the habit of trying, we'd set them up with a lifelong habit that would lead them to take the first step to master new skills.
Give it Another Go
The teacher then told us that the second most used phrase she used was "give it another go" - or "try again".
Her point was that if children who failed at a first attempt could see that failure as a normal part of learning and make another attempt, they'd be well served to push past the inevitable failed attempts that come and move towards success.
I'm so grateful for the advice of that teacher. There was real wisdom in those words.
As a parent, I've said "give it a go" and "give it another go" hundreds, if not thousands, of times since, and I can see how it has impacted my boys.
Every Success Starts with Try
I love reading biographies and autobiographies and learning about the lives of remarkable people and what makes them tick, and how they achieved what they achieved.
I've read many such autobiographies over the years but in every single one is a moment where the person tries.
Of course, there is more to their success than just trying... but it's a predictable part of every single story.
Behind every story of success, every challenge overcome, every achievement, every discovery and every breakthrough is someone who tried.
And in almost all of these stories is someone who failed and tried again.
― J.R.R. Tolkien
Barriers to Trying
We all know the power of trying - so why do so many people give up doing the one thing we know we need to do?
Some of us are natural triers of new things.
Perhaps we had parents and teachers who drummed these lessons in, or perhaps we have a personality type or 'strength' profile that makes it come more naturally - but if you're anything like me, you perhaps have found trying harder at different times in your life.
I'm sure there are many reasons for this - but here are a few that I've experienced.
Fear can be one barrier to trying.
Fear of failing, fear of how we may look, or fear of an unknown outcome can all lead to not trying.
It could even be fear of success that plays a part. Here in Australia, we have a crazy cultural phenomenon called 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' where we tend to cut down those who have success (the Tall Poppies) - and as a result, some don't even try for fear of being seen as too successful!
Past Failures and Unmet Expectations
The memory of previous failures and the pain that came with them can also be a barrier to trying.
Similarly, previous unmet expectations can be crippling for some also. Why try when we've got our hopes up in the past only to have that hope lost?
The Influence of Others
While hearing a constant barrage of 'give it a go' can have a positive impact on us - conversely, perhaps we've had the experience of hearing the opposite kinds of messages from others.
I remember one young person (I'll call him Brett) I counselled many years ago when I did youth work whose parents had always told him that he was a disappointment and a failure and that he would never amount to anything.
While some would use this as motivation for success - to prove others wrong - in his case, Brett's sense of self-worth had led him to give up in many areas of his life.
A few years back, I had a conversation with an older woman (I'll call her Samantha) who felt like the whole of society was telling her to stop trying new things.
Samantha told me that as she had gotten older, she felt like she became more and more invisible and that people expected less and less of her because of her age and gender.
Samantha felt that it wasn't 'normal' for an older woman to start new things and, as a result, felt her world "shrinking" - she said her life stopped expanding and began to turn in on itself.
Try and Try Again
I'm sure there are many other reasons why people stop trying.
Some of these reasons are external to ourselves - perhaps imposed on us - while others are internal (things we impose on ourselves) - but this week, I hope that our prompt will be something that we each find empowering - whatever our circumstances.
― Rachel Hollis
My hope this week is that you'll try. I know you can do it - you've got a long history of trying.
You walk because you tried. You read because you tried. You have friends because you tried. Every success and every challenge you've overcome is a result of you trying.
You've got this!
What will you Try?
As with each prompt - this one is a choose-your-own-adventure.
You might try something again - something that you have tried but had mixed results with.
Or you might choose to try something for the very first time.
It might be trying something for fun:
- trying knitting
- trying skydiving
- trying Korean BBQ
- trying stand-up comedy
It might be trying something in your career:
- trying for a new job
- trying for a promotion
- trying a new field of study
- trying to start a new business
It might be trying something relationally:
- trying dating again
- trying to talk to that work colleague again
- trying to address an issue in a friendship
You could try something personal:
- trying to read a book
- trying to get up earlier to go to the gym
- trying a new podcast
It could be anything - big or small.
The key is doing something this week that may move you a little outside your comfort zone when you attempt something.
Make "Give it a Go" a Habit
I hope this week that we all might try (or try again) somehow. That we'd take action - but perhaps an even more powerful thing that could come out of this week is to embrace the 'give it a go' mantra.
"Give it a go" and "give it another go" is great advice for children - but it's also great phrase for us to build into our self-talk.
Perhaps you can relate to what Samantha said about her "world shrinking" as she tried less and less.
Samantha's 52 Weeks of Trying:
Thankfully Samantha decided to take a stand against her shrinking world.
She decided to do a "52 weeks of trying challenge", where every week for a year, she would try something she'd never done before.
Over the month, she did all kinds of things, including:
- shopping for a new style of clothes in a new store
- trying a new hairstyle (and a new hairdresser)
- returning to the workforce for the first time in 10 years with a new part-time job
- trying online dating (she'd been a widow for ten years)
- trying new restaurants
- taking up photography
- travelling overseas alone for the first time ever
The year was a year of stepping outside her comfort zone and was filled with her confronting fear and pushing past the expectations of others (she had a few interesting conversations with her children).
It wasn't easy, and there were a few stories of failed attempts, but alongside them was an increase in self-confidence and a new expanding world!
― Roy T. Bennett
Give it a Go!
A 52-week challenge might not be for everyone (although sometimes challenges like these are what we need) - perhaps the whole point of this week is to give yourself permission to try again and to build the habit of telling yourself to "give it a go".
One more quote for you before I wrap this up:
"That's stupid talk, Maya. Every try will not succeed.
But if you're going to live, live at all, your business is trying.
And if you fail once, so what? Old folks say, Every shuteye ain't sleep, and every goodbye ain't gone. You fail; you get up and try again."
Maya Angelou - The Heart of a Woman
Give it a Go!
I hope this prompt is a good one for you.
As I said at the top of this article - the lesson is a 'simple' one - but it's one that I think most of us need to learn and relearn several times over a lifetime!