If at first you don’t succeed…

When I was growing up one of my family mottos was “if at first, you don’t succeed, give up”. It was always said in a sarcastic, jesty way but I think it stuck a little bit. On the one hand, I tried to get everything right the first time and on the other, if it felt too hard, I stopped and walked away.

By the time I was older, I had heard the real version of “if at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again”. It’s a proverb traced back to 1782 where teacher Thomas H. Palmer wrote down in the back of the teachers manual to encourage the kids to be persistent in learning and doing their homework.

As a result, I was able to question my version of the proverb and decide which one I’d rather use. I tend towards persistence although I can get caught up in giving up when it seems really hard to do something.

If at first, you don’t succeed, give up

I was reminded of this when I saw my friend recently. She had arranged an informal event and was waiting for the attendees but no-one came. As the minutes passed by I could see disappointment and frustration etched on her face. Like me, she wears her heart on her sleeve!

I called over to her “Give up waiting! Come and chat with me. You’ve waited longer than I would have done”

Reluctantly she agreed and we chatted about why people might not have been able to make it. Whilst I might have written it off as a waste of effort (if at first, you don’t succeed, give up) my friend took a few days and regrouped. She checked in with folks who couldn’t come, found out why and tried again. They’ve set another meet up for a different day and time.

What I learned from my friend

It was a fantastic lesson for me observing and challenging my own beliefs. I observed over a few days as my friend accepted and acknowledged her feelings of frustration and disappointment. She felt rejected. Then she reflected and challenged that assumption and asked people why they couldn’t come. Not a single reason was because of her (of course!). Safe in the knowledge it was nothing she’d done ‘wrong’ she tried again. This time, it will be more successful.

My friend didn’t just give up, she really wants this venture to work and so is full of stronger feelings of persistence and determination. You see it in children too. All my kids have learned to walk before they were one. All of them have fallen over, got frustrated at not being able to get somewhere/thing and have kept trying until, slowly and surely, they get it. That said, because they’re all my daughters they also rush to do things! But that’s another lesson and another blog post!

The importance of family mottos

Since becoming a parent myself I’ve made choices about how I want to parent and what family means to me personally, and to us as a family. One of these choices is how we speak to our children and how we speak to each other.

Whilst my family motto was always said in jest it still had an impact on my attitude and beliefs. It’s not to say it’s bad or wrong but as I’ve grown into myself I’d say it’s not a helpful saying for me.

Instead, our family motto is based on our values: “choose kindness”. My eldest daughter has chosen her own: “Coopers never give up”, which I love.

We are consciously choosing to reframe our own limiting beliefs, tweaking as we go. We are working towards giving our children the tools they need and the self belief and determination to succeed at whatever they choose to do.

What are/were your family mottos and how have they shaped you?

Leave a comment