I’ve got a bone to pick with “The Little Engine that Could.”
We all know the story. We read it as kids. The message clearly states, “If we try, and we try, we’ll eventually be able to achieve a goal.” Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s not always been my reality.
My experience is that sometimes we try and we try, and we end up falling on our face. Sometimes, even in front of our ex who dumped us six months earlier.
I’ve thought long and hard about the messages we’re teaching children, that ultimately maintain as our core beliefs as adults: that our efforts will result in consistent success. We’re setting kids up to have unrealistic expectations life should and will be perfect; that’s not the real world.
The message of persistence is a great one, but there’s something we still aren’t teaching children—how to rise from failure. Defeat happens to the best of us, so why not offer children the tools with which to accept, learn and grow from it?
The age-old adage practice makes perfect needed to be looked at. So I decided to write a book about it.
The book is called Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands. It’s a modern day story about the search for happiness, and one girl’s discovery that even in the face of failure, peace can be found.
This story was inspired by my own experience with failure. As an artist and entrepreneur, I’ve failed often in life—it kind of goes with the territory. But familiarity with failure doesn’t make it easy. One experience in particular was extraordinarily crushing.
Several years ago, I developed a children’s television series. I did the rounds at festivals, I flew across the country to meet with producers, I negotiated an option, and even developed the series with a few companies. But ultimately, it never came to fruition. I had a ton of almosts but no victory.
So after six years of investing all of my time, energy and personal savings into this one project, I walked away.
Defeat can be incredibly difficult to rise from. Because the project was a failure, it meant that I was a failure. This is what we learn: to equate achievement with self-worth.
Eventually, I gained perspective and found the strength in which to create again, and in that space, Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands evolved.
As adults, we have the power to nurture children’s growth. We can start by learning this lesson ourselves and teaching it to our kids.
The lesson is simple: just because you have a failure, it doesn’t mean you are a failure.
My sense has always been that if I had known some of what I know now, at a younger age, life could have been easier. Perhaps I would have been a little less afraid to fail, and a little more resilient when I did. Our thought patterns strengthen as we age, so let’s support children to create a healthy framework from the start. This was my goal in creating Happiness Doesn’t Come from Headstands.
That children will be loved regardless of what they can or cannot do is a message I want my nieces and nephews to know, one that I want your kids and your friends kids to know. My hope is to inspire you as you inspire the children in your life.
Tamara Levitt a writer, artist, teacher and founder of Begin Within Productions. At her company Begin Within, she creates and produces multimedia entertainment content designed to foster self-awareness, emotional intelligence and interpersonal development. Connect with Tamara on Twitter at @beginwithin, her personal Facebook account and her Begin Within FB Group page!
~ Editor: Lori Lothian