One of my favorite parts of being a committed athlete is the social value that I get to pay forward. You might ask, “what is social value, as it applies to an athlete?” Let’s start with a colloquialism we all have heard.
“If at first you don’t success, try, try again.”
How often do we see our friends and family stop an activity when they fail in a grand way? For sure, the one place where I watch it play out in real time is the façade of dieting and exercise. Parents start fad diets and workout regimens, and they get results…but only for a time. The hands of time take their toll during the battle, and their willpower is replaced with the patterns of the past. Voila-they return to failure mode. Failed dieting and exercise regimens are the true unwanted occupants in our kitchens and on our neighborhood walking trails.
On the flip side, I read some news that seems intuitive while also helping the next generation avoid the abomination of obesity that my generation is trying to normalize. MIT published some research on Sept 21, 2017, in Science that demonstrated that parents who struggle and suffer in real time in front of their children are really doing a great service to those children. By struggling and fighting a battle in front of our children we teach them that hard work pays off.
“There’s some pressure on parents to make everything look easy and not get frustrated in front of their children,” says Laura Schulz, a professor of cognitive science at MIT. “There’s nothing you can learn from a laboratory study that directly applies to parenting, but this does at least suggest that it may not be a bad thing to show your children that you are working hard to achieve your goals.” Further, the study claims that “children’s persistence, or “grit,” can predict success above and beyond what IQ predicts. Other studies have found that children’s beliefs regarding effort also matter: Those who think putting in effort leads to better outcomes do better in school than those who believe success depends on a fixed level of intelligence.”
They designed an experiment in which 15-month-old babies first watched an adult perform two tasks: removing a toy frog from a container and removing a key chain from a carabiner. Half of the babies saw the adult quickly succeed at the task three times within 30 seconds, while the other half saw her struggle for 30 seconds before succeeding.
The experimenter then showed the baby a musical toy. This toy had a button that looked like it should turn the toy on but actually did not work; there was also a concealed, functional button on the bottom. Out of the baby’s sight, the researcher turned the toy on, to demonstrate that it played music, then turned it off and gave it to the baby.
Each baby was given two minutes to play with the toy, and the researchers recorded how many times the babies tried to press the button that seemed like it should turn the toy on. They found that babies who had seen the experimenter struggle before succeeding pressed the button nearly twice as many times overall as those who saw the adult easily succeed. They also pressed it nearly twice as many times before first asking for help or tossing the toy.
We must struggle in front of others if we want to teach the next generation about grit. Sure, there are feel-goods associated with showing off weight loss and body shape changes, and all those positive accolades can stroke an under stimulated ego. Just look at Instagram or Facebook for evidence. The real social value is not to you and your desire for attaboys. The social value comes from fighting the battle, recording your efforts, documenting your setbacks and fighting hard the next time, when those you love are watching.
I love competing with family and friends watching, even when I lose. The act of publicly going at 100% and preparing to go at 100%, teaches others other that hard work pays off.
Go fight. Go fail. Let your family and friends watch. Just don’t give up-then, they will grow up and do the same thing.