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Tara Whitney discusess why Success isn’t always the point.
We all know that lessons can come in the strangest places. This past week my daughter’s primary school science homework taught me something. Firstly, that she is sooooo much like me it is scary, but I pretty much knew that already! The interesting lesson was that sometimes a focus on success can actually be counterproductive.

Her science work was on light refraction and they had done an experiment with ‘fish’ (playdough type fish shapes) in water and ‘spears’ (straws with a sharp bit on the end). They needed to try to spear the fish and, of course, the light would refract and make it harder to get your target. I reviewed my daughter’s answers to the questions and when I recovered from laughing, I was fascinated.

The teacher had asked whether she had been able to spear the fish first time and what she thought would have helped her to spear the fish. She was supposed to talk about refraction and that she couldn’t really see where the spear was pointing after the light refracted it in the water. Instead, her focus was completely on spearing those fish:

I can just see how it went down! My daughter had been told that she was supposed to spear the fish. Being a mini me, she would have been focussed on how to spear that fish as efficiently and as well as possible. Anything that got in the way would have been a distraction and faulty equipment would have been something that needed to be fixed. Experiments and observations can go jump – she wants to achieve what she was supposed to achieve, to tick it off the task list and see the result. She is me.

So it made me wonder, what learnings have I missed out on by being too task/outcomes focussed? I’m not unhappy about my innate desire to get things done – it means that I get things done! But knowing that is my strength, maybe I could have worked on my weaknesses a bit. If I had tried to let myself experiment and observe a bit more, what could the benefits have been? Well, it’s never too late so I will give it a try!