Reframing Failure Can Help Us Grow

By Daniele Clarke

I learned an unconventional lesson recently that’s helped me become a better parent.  

My daughter (eight) recently competed in a regional gymnastics competition. She’s trained for several years in gymnastics and several months for this competition.  

On the day, she competed in freestyle and ribbon.  

I don’t know which of us was more anxious. Yes, she was the one performing, but I had so much emotionally invested in her success.  

Her first event was freestyle. Her name was called. She walked to the centre of the mat. My heart was racing, my hands shaky, struggling to hit the record button on my phone. The music started.  

“She’s got this.” I thought.  

Then, about halfway through, she completely forgot her routine. She froze. I looked over the frame of my phone and could visibly see her panic. My heart sank. I knew she’d be devastated. Finally, she faltered through the remainder of the routine and walked off, her coach consoling her.  

Her following routine was ribbon. She was strong at the ribbon. Her coach had awarded her numerous gifts over the semester for catching all her throws.  

As she walked out to the mat, she looked confident, as though she’d shrugged off the previous mishap.  

The music started. All was going well. She threw the ribbon vertically and spun. She reached up for the handle. But she ever so slightly mistimed it. The heavy grip slipped through her fingers and landed on the corner of her left eye. She placed one palm over her eye and tried to continue. But the pain and embarrassment overwhelmed her. She had to stop.  

She was devastated. I was devastated for her.  

At the start of the semester, she’d set herself the goal of placing in each routine. But, as it stood now, she hadn’t placed in any.  

As she’d stopped her ribbon routine due to injury, the officials offered her the opportunity of another attempt. With eyes welled up with tears, she nodded in the affirmative.  

On this attempt, she caught every throw. It was a flawless routine. She won first place. The Phoenix had risen.  

When I reflected on the day, I thought long and hard about what transpired. What I learned is that our greatest lessons are not found in winning. Instead, they’re found in growth. And growth requires adversity. We, therefore, shouldn’t optimise for “winning,” instead, we should embrace growth opportunities. And in seeking growth, we should develop a healthy relationship with our setbacks.  

The thing that impressed me most that day is not the blue ribbon. It was that having failed and facing the real prospect of failing again, my daughter chose to dust herself off, face her fears, and go again.  

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