Recovery Skills: Preparing Us & Our Kids for Life's Loops

Recently, we saw famous people paying to get their kids into colleges. The appeal of a quick fix is understandable. As parents, we want to ease suffering and anxiety. If our kids can get X, Y or Z (into an ivy, a job, a car), our kids will be happy. We often think of success as a linear process, but it is very definitely not.

Success is loopy. Messy. A Disney fast pass is not going to work. Being privileged may mean you can jump to the front of the line. That won’t sustain your integrity or happiness, or create capacity for success.

This week, as a gesture against crazy, consider modeling powerful RECOVERY skills at home. They benefit us as leaders, as partners or spouses as parents, and as friends. Join us in battling fixed mindset craziness like buying our way into colleges. In our own corners of the world, let’s set an example of how to be more successful and happier.  

  1. Admitting responsibility for mistakes, for having been wrong or having missed something. “That was my mistake.” Or “My bad. Sorry.” “Let me try that again.”

  2. Acknowledging quickly, with empathy, when our impact is not in line with our intention. This means not defending ourselves or explaining what we meant to do. It does mean owning the negative impact on others sooner. I heard a General Counsel this in response to critical feedback about him arguing too aggressively: “I want to defend myself, but if I am honest with you and myself, I do that, and I can see how they would experience it that way. Damn. I will try really hard not to do that.” His skill in hearing that feedback with empathy enabled him to improve faster as a leader.

  3. Forgiving ourselves and others for being who we are and for not being perfect. We drop balls. We make mistakes. We all say stupid things. My daughter was a junior in high school before this sentence came out of my mouth: “I forgive you for not bringing your plates downstairs. I get you have a lot going on. Next time, please clean up after yourself.” That was so much simpler, and much more powerful than walking around in that martyr-ish, annoyed state that depletes all of our energy. It was hard to talk my brain into doing it, and so much more effective when I did.

  4. Asking for help when we need it. When we are forthcoming about being in trouble or needing some support, we invite our kids to lean on us when they need help.

Over the years, in coaching work, in research with clients and in positive psychology research, we have seen these behaviors make the most effective leaders stand out from the good ones. Leaders who do these things are seen as having high integrity and are trusted, and their risk profile is improved, which supports growth.

Last, they are better models on a people-development front. As they model learning, it’s easier for their colleagues and direct reports to do the same. And a mom of a daughter heading to college in the fall, these things will hopefully help her be braver, more persistent and more connected in the face of whatever stressors and inequities and joys that lay before her.

Kaitlin Hershey