There is not a lot we actually know about the brain for sure. We have a lot of intelligent speculation but very little we can prove according to the double blind study, the gold standard of the scientific method. One of the challenges of studying the brain is that you can’t hold all of the variables constant minus the one you are testing, because no two brains are alike. So, we do the research anyway and make speculations that are supported but never really confirmed by scientific research.
One intelligent speculation that most psychologists and neurologists agree upon is that we learn from our mistakes. Failures or mistakes are neural fixatives. This kept us alive back in the evolutionary day when knowing that certain animals, people, and plants were dangerous. If we eat these berries we all get sick, so from now on we avoid these berries. Avoid these snakes because when this guy got bit, he died.
In modern society, we are sophisticated enough to know what to eat and avoid without trial and error (for the most part – teenagers like to test things despite their parents wise advice). We still however learn from our mistakes, and it serves us well. A student may realize that procrastinating studying an entire semester until the night before the exam might not result in the learning for which he had hoped.
Despite society’s message that we should be perfect, look perfect, and never make a mistake, we are human. Mistakes are our greatest teachers. Because somewhere along the way, mistakes and failure became a badge of shame (I am not sure exactly why), I like to reframe mistakes into “What did you learn?” moments. Mistakes inform our next step forward in life. The only real mistake we can make is to not move forward out of fear of doing the wrong thing. Gifted people by the way struggle with fear of failure more than most, especially gifted girls.
So, when your child has a tough life lesson pop up (which they will), help them to see the value in what they learned. One thing that I know for sure about the way the universe works is that if you do not learn your lesson from a particular situation, you will get endless chances to learn it, and, typically, those lessons get harder and more challenging. I prefer to learn the lesson and move on.
A friend recently said something which I felt worth repeating: Make sure you are running towards something rather than running away from something. How wise. When we decide to not do something anymore– end a relationship, leave a job, sell a house, stop going to school– we should always check in with ourselves to make sure that we are not blindly trying to get away from something, because I guarantee you if you are not looking forward as you are running, you will run into something probably more unpleasant than what you were running from in the first place. You might even find that you ran in a circle and are right back where you started. Very frustrating.
When you have your knowing that something is no longer serving you and it is time to move on, stop and consider all that you learned. Allow that to inform your next step in life. This will allow you to move forward with greater wisdom and possibly even enthusiasm that you are finding your way to a truly fulfilling life. Be grateful for what you have learned. Failure may not even seem like a failure anymore but a valuable life lesson. Let go of any shame that you are not perfect, none of us is perfect. It is the wise person who celebrates their mistakes and failures.
In reality, there are no failures or successes, only a collection of experiences to help us grow.