If this so, what's your explanation?
The Little Red Engine That Could...
You learn about attributions in Psychology 101 - that we all look to attribute explanations for outcomes that we experience in our lives. Another way of saying this is that we all have our explanatory styles for making "sense" of the lives we live. Here's a very simplistic explanation of attribution theory - we believe that the successes and failures we "experience" are the results of luck (superstitions?), task difficulty (Oh, I succeeded because it was too easy - or I didn't because it was too hard), ability (I'm not good enough - or I am good enough), and effort (I didn't try hard enough - or I tried really hard at it). If you're wondering - "How about if I just don't care?" - well, this has to do with effort. Doesn't it? Although, it may be that some don't care because they don't think they have what it takes (ability) to care.
There's much to be said about how people assign reasons for what "happens" in their lives.
Think about it - failing at something because you believe you aren't good enough (ability) is different from failing because you didn't try hard enough (effort). In the latter case, you can do something about it - you can try harder. Often times, when we say we can't do something, what we really mean is that we won't. We adopt an excuse-a-tory mode for our explanatory style.
Struggle for Smarts: How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning
Trying harder (or smarter) - grit - has been the subject of much research lately, some of which has been published in a book written by Paul Touhg entitled How Children Succeed.
We've heard this phrase expressed repeatedly - "Forget it. I can't do that." Okay. Maybe not - yet. Yet, what if we added a three-letter word to the end of our judgments - yet? "Yet" can change
everything. It can empower us to keep on keepin' on in pursuit of those goals we're otherwise so quick to discard. "Yet" changes the perception of "failure" from a sense of permanence to one that is temporary. "Yet" extinguishes excuses. "Yet" connotes choice. "Yet" tells us that it's a
judgment in the moment and not one that is absolute. "I can't do that - yet." From an attributional standpoint, this is about effort. How do you explain a setback with this mindset? You explain it by saying you can't do it - yet!
If you're old enough, you may remember the three "Rs" as Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic. Each still has its place in learning, but so does another set of "Rs" - Relationships, Relevance, and
Resilience. It's this last one that deserves our attention in this piece. Resilience is about faith.
How Not to Let Mistakes Define You
The "power of yet" is so intimately linked to failure, that word in our culture with an undeserving reputation. Really, who has ever achieved any kind of authentic success without experiencing failure along the way? (Correct answer - nobody has). We should be paying more attention to those who are successful and how they've learned to befriend failure instead of turning our backs to it.
It's important to fail. And it's important to give children permission to fail. Only by risking failure can anything really ever be achieved. Failure can be our ally in other ways, too. Failure
gives us a unique opportunity to learn. And it gives us options, if we're paying attention. Failure, by the way, is no more permanent than is success.
You've heard it - the road to success is full of hurdles and potholes. You may have also heard the Japanese proverb - "Fall down seven times, get up eight." So, failure may simply mean "not yet successful".
In reality, sometimes the right choice to make when pursuing a goal is to say "Not now, and - you know what? - not ever". This isn't always an easy decision to make because one never knows how close s/he may be to achieving their desired goals. But here's another spin on it. "Stuff" happens and we have to learn how to deal with it. RESILIENCE. Framing setbacks in a way that provides constructive feedback is an immensely important skill to acquire in life. Sometimes stuff happens that seems devastating at the time but later on may evolve into a blessing. Take a
moment to read the SHORT story below;
There was an old man and is son who worked a small farm with only one horse to pull the plow. One day, the horse ran away. "How terrible," sympathized the neighbors, "What bad
luck."But the farmer replied, "Who knows whether it's bad luck or good luck."
A week later, out of nowhere, the horse returned from the mountains, leading five wild mares into the barn. The neighbors heard about this and exclaimed, "What wonderful luck!" "Good luck?
Bad luck? Who knows?" answered the old man.
A couple of days later, the son, trying to tame one of the wild horses, fell and broke his leg. "How terrible. What bad luck!" cried the neighbors. "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" said the farmer.
Ten days after, the army came to all the farms to take the young men for war. The farmer's son - with his broken leg - was of no use to them, so he was spared. Good luck? Bad luck?
Retrospect offers us what no moment, in the present, is capable of doing. Time will reveal the reason for the baffling or troubling situations that have dogged our paths along the way. Whenever the road feels rocky or we are confused, we need to trust. Our lives are not happenstances. There is a performance being staged.
(From Promise of a New Day).
In one sense, then, nothing really matters in and of itself because the importance of things lies in the ways we have learned to think about them. It's really all about framing your experiences, and this includes "setbacks" along the way. Experience isn't what happens to you so much as it is how you interpret what happens to you. It's how you choose to explain it.
Check out the one-minute video interview (posted below) with Bill Bradley, the former basketball player who starred at Princeton in the 1960s and later on with NY Knicks in the NBA, but not before taking two years to study at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar in between. Later on, he had a long career in politics as a US Senator from NJ and made an unsuccessful run (not yet - not ever) for the presidency.
How to Deal with Setbacks
Learning how to be resilient in the face of challenge is inarguably a skill critical for real-world success - a skill that just about every student can (and should) learn before reaching adulthood. Another word for resilience is grit. True grit can take you where you wish to go. Check this out for proof. And then include it in your explanation.