During the years I spent as an elementary school teacher, I had to teach the scientific method to fifth graders who were terrified of – gasp! – being wrong in front of their classmates.
I probably spent the first half of each school year teaching the steps of the scientific method and explaining that a hypothesis was really just a prediction, our best guess; a science experiment was trial and error.
And what I really, really wanted my students to understand was that even if a hypothesis was totally incorrect, it was all okay because we still learned something by doing the experiment anyway.
When they realized they didn’t have to just go along with what their peers were saying to look cool. When they didn’t freeze at the notion of having to make a prediction when they weren’t 100% sure of what the outcome would be. When they realized that learning from their mistakes was the most valuable lesson I could be teaching them.
It’s like what Winston Churchill said. “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.”
We all experience setbacks in life. Getting passed over for a promotion. Not getting a job. Struggling financially. Businesses fail. Relationships break down. Friendships come to an end. We make poor choices. We make mistakes. It happens.
Even if it might not be the path you intended to take. Even when it might seem like it’s way easier to just give up. Even if it might not work out entirely like you had planned.
But… what if it does?
Like I always reminded my students, look at the possibilities and make your best guess. Go with your gut. If you’re right, that’s awesome. If you’re wrong, that’s still awesome, because now you know.
It can be scary to speak up and give your opinion when it’s different from everyone else’s. It can be terrifying to make a choice when it seems like everything is riding on one decision. But when you’re finally brave enough to do those things – to stand up for yourself and to stand on your own two feet… that, to me, is the definition of success.
Long after we leave the classrooms of our youth behind, there’s still so much to explore and take in. We have so many things to learn, so many new things to try, and yes, along the way, we’re bound to mess up a few times. It’s inevitable.
But I think the only time we really fail is when we’re afraid to try at all. Success comes when we’re open to learning… about the world around us… and about ourselves.
Jessica Goodwin lives near Washington, DC with her husband, son, and their two cats. She’s written four novels and her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Baby Gaga, Chocolate & Chaos, Tribe Magazine, Mamalode, and in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sleep when the baby sleeps? Nope, she’s writing. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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