Both in business and in parenting, I pretty much want to give up about 50,000 times a day. I don’t much care for math, but I’m guessing that’s about multiple times per second.
When a client doesn’t call me back. When I can’t find the energy to do attack my long-as-hell to-do list. When my kids throw food on the floor after I just cleaned. When they scream in unison. When they beg me for things incessantly for three hours straight, I finally say no, and they inform me they’re just going to go ask Daddy…every time one of these things happens, I fight the mounting urge to scribble a note, jam a hat on my head (I don’t wear hats, so I’m not sure whose it would be. I also imagine it’s a fedora for some reason.), and march onto the next plane to Wherever.
I don’t go though. Because if I go, I don’t get to see how it all ends up. And I’m too nosy not to want to know.
Do I take over the world with my head-turning images? Do I become my area’s premier photographer? Or do I go broke, lose all respect of my family and peers, and become Portland’s #1 Prostitute because I cry the whole time? I won’t know if I don’t try. That’s the exciting part – or so they tell me.
It’s the same –but a little different – when it comes to my kids. One, I can’t leave because it turns out I kind of like them, and two, I can’t leave because my #1 rule in parenting is that I Will Not Raise Assholes, and if I left right now, that goal would be considered failed about ten times over.
I actually watched the other day as my daughter sat on my son’s head and farted. They were not playing at the time; in fact, my son wasn’t even fully awake. No, no…see, my daughter felt that flatulence was the best way to wake her older brother. Some people go with omelets or coffee. She went with ass gas.
I’ve also been lucky enough to witness them running off with each other’s clothing while the other is still naked, eating each other’s food, and taunting one another. My daughter was once beside herself because my son got ahold of the last of one of their favorite snacks. She was howling at a pitch reserved for those in only the most soul-wrenching pain. My husband was having to hold her to keep her from lunging forward. Tears were streaming uncontrollably down her little cheeks.
And my son calmly made sure their gazes were locked as he took a slow, purposeful bite. And he smiled. He let out a low, happy “MMMMMM. Mommy this is so good.”
And then he took another bite. And my daughter’s soul continued to die.
So yeah, my kids are dicks and I need to fix that before society gets a good look at them. I don’t want that bad juju on me.
So I stick around, both in business and in parenting. But dammit, it’s hard sometimes. When you’re growing up – at least when I was growing up – the world tried to focus on when you did well just as much as when you failed. If you got an A on a test, you got recognized for it, just as you had to have a failed test signed by a parent. When you’re an adult, though, it seems that the failures hit harder and affect things so much more than the triumphs do.
Am I alone here? I know I can’t be.
And man have I tried to change my mindset. After all, all the self-help books insist that it’s all in your head. If you just think that you’ll succeed, they say, you’ll do it. You’re getting in your own way. In the basest of ways, that’s true. I could quit my day job and I could pursue my business full time and I could just invest money willy-nilly in the hopes of seeing the return I need on that investment of time and money. I could. There’s nothing stopping me besides fear.
But I think the mistake these books tend to make is feeding into the assumption that all fear is bad.
You’re a parent, goddammit. You’re supposed to fear that your children won’t eat every night. You’re supposed to fear that you’ll fail them. You’re supposed to fear that they’ll grow up hating you for letting them down. If you’re not afraid of those things you won’t do everything within your power to make sure they don’t happen. Even if that means you have to sacrifice some things. Even if it means that some of the things you could do mean that you won’t.
So I’ve stopped trying to change my mindset to “manifest and I will.” Instead, I try to just think in terms of “I’m Trying, Man (heretofore known as ITM).”
Hear me out: ITM isn’t going to manifest good things into the universe for you, because your thoughts don’t work that way. What it does do, is it helps you control the one thing you have full say in – yourself and your success.
ITM means that some weekends you don’t hit that goal. Some days you don’t want to listen to your kids whining. Sometimes, you just want to eat a whole box of donuts and then try again tomorrow. And that’s okay. Because as long as you acknowledge it, shake it off, and actually try again tomorrow, you’re trying, man.
Maybe your kid is being a real dillhole and not really listening to you. You’ve had an awful day and you finally snap. You scream like a banshee and make them cry. You immediately feel like a heel and go to hug them and you apologize. Guess what? You’re Trying, Man.
Maybe you have a business meeting with a client and you sound like a total idiot. You forget answers, pricing, pitches, whatever. Maybe you comment on their glassy-eyed appearance and then find out that they do, in fact, have two glass eyes. Whatever. Go home, kick yourself a couple times, and then start planning on how you can improve your next client meeting. And there you have it: You’re Trying, Man.
Here’s the disclaimer on the ITM method: this mindset isn’t a participation trophy; you actually have to be trying. You can’t shrug at your to-do list for three weeks straight without any attempts to get it done and claim ITM. If you’re locking your children in the closet and pretending you can’t hear them, that is also not ITM. You can’t have ITM without that T. So T with all the might within your little heart.
I’ve found that when I give myself credit for trying as best I can considering my circumstances, I want more out of myself, but I don’t blame myself quite so harshly if things just aren’t working out as quickly as I’d like them to. I’m not searching the universe for “why” and “what’s wrong with me,” and I’m not seeing a failure when I look in the mirror every morning. In fact, I’m mentally high-fiving myself more often, because my kid ate an actual spoonful of rice when he wouldn’t two weeks ago; it isn’t a full meal, but I’m Trying, Man! And trying actually got me somewhere!
Fact is, as a friend just told me recently, change doesn’t come from denying failure, it comes from accepting it. Acknowledging that you didn’t get quite to where you wanted to be sort of automatically leads to you wanting to get there next time. Maybe this time, your kid pooped on the floor next to the toilet and not in the actual toilet, but tomorrow – TOMORROW will be your day, you’re sure of it.
So I guess what I’m saying is, whenever you want to quit, focus on the victories. If there are no clear-cut victories, focus on the little victories. If there are no little victories, you’re wrong – the fact that you tried in the first place is TOTALLY a small victory in itself.
Now go enjoy that box of donuts and get back out there. It may not feel like it right now, but you’ve got this.
Photo by Emily Rider, courtesy of Unsplash