It’s OK to Fall

When I was really little, my mom was teaching me how to write my letters: she would write the letter on the paper, and I would try to copy her.

Now, my mom has really nice, neat handwriting. And I remember quickly getting frustrated that my letters didn’t look exactly like hers. I got so upset, I threw down my pencil and refused to practice any more. If it couldn’t be perfect right away, I didn’t want to do it!

This trait was pretty core to my personality and approach to life growing up, and it persisted long into adulthood.

And even though he is less than a year old, I’m seeing some of the same tendencies in my son.

Artie’s at that age when he’s learning to walk. He can now easily pull himself to standing and can walk around, just as long as he’s holding on to something with both hands — the coffee table, the couch, even the wall.

But I’m trying to build up his confidence in finding his balance without holding onto something. I’m starting by getting him to practice walking while only holding on to something with one hand. 

At first, he downright refused to try and burst into tears at any suggestion that we should attempt a one-handed walk. Finally, this morning, I got him to take several steps while just holding on to me with one hand.

I applauded and congratulated him with every step. But, of course, he eventually lost his balance and fell on his butt. And then came the tears and the refusal to try again.

So, I picked him up, wiped the tears from his face, and told him: “It’s ok to fall. You’re going to fall. That’s part of learning. You just need to get up and try again.”

And in that moment, I realized: a lot of us adults need to take that advice, too.

We’re all so afraid of falling — of failing, really — as if it’s going to be some black mark on our record and bring us shame that we’ll never be able to live down.

We don’t appreciate falls for what they are:

Learning Experiences

For many of us, when we fall, unfortunately, the message we tend to get from that experience is: “Well, I guess this is proof that I’m not good enough to do this.”

But that’s not what we should be taking away from those falls! 

There’s so much more information we could be gleaning from a fall:

  • What caused the fall?
  • What could I do differently to prevent a fall next time?
  • What should I work on so I don’t fall again?

One of the best ways to know how to do something right is to experience doing something wrong.

Proof We’re Trying Something Hard

We can’t attempt difficult things — feats that really challenge us — and expect to do it perfectly the first time.

We need to work up to it! Train ourselves. Do the hard work to improve.

In this way, falls should be seen as badges of honor. They are proof that what we are pursuing is truly ambitious. They are the necessary stepping stones that take us to great heights. 

When we avoid falls, we resign ourselves to mediocre achievements.

A Test of Resiliency

You know that saying: “It’s not how many times you fall that matter, but how many times you get back up that counts.” It’s been quoted and re-phrased by so many people.

Really, it speaks to resiliency.

Ah, resiliency. It’s a term I heard a lot throughout my career. It was the subject of a lot of the feedback I received during my reviews.

And rightly so. Admittedly, I was the person that got overly upset when projects didn’t go perfectly to plan. It affected my attitude. It affected my relationships with my coworkers. And, ultimately, it affected my work.

But, it wasn’t until this sabbatical that I was able to truly understand and appreciate what it takes to be resilient.

It takes practice and a shift of perspective.

It takes falling enough times to know you can always get back up again. And appreciating everything you learn and gain from each fall.

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