I've always believed that everyone has lessons they can teach us about success, and that's just as true about kids as it is about adults. I recently spoke to Damali Elliott, the founder and Chief Dream Builder of Petals-n-Belles, an organization based in New York City that empowers disadvantaged girls through creative workshops, real-world experiences and academic coaching. I love something Damali said about her girls that I think is true for all of us--resilience is something they all have even if they don't know it.
So, how do we access that resilient part of ourselves and get rid of the learned helplessness that's holding us back? Damali does it by taking lessons from the girls around her and we can too.
Petals-n-Belles hand picks girls who need to be shown there's a better life out there waiting for them, then provides mentors, opportunities, and athletic events--(love that! I'm hoping to welcome some of them as Spartans)--to help reset their expectations and succeed in life. Right now Damali has 68 girls in various phases of the program, and they keep coming back, often to mentor the younger girls. You know you're a success when you see a girl who once didn't even have a place to call home coming back to visit from college.
So what can we learn from Damali's experience? There's a lot of great stuff here:
Tell a new story. In order to let go of the past you need to create a fresh way of seeing the world. It's what my friend Dr. Johnny Waite says: To change your behavior you first need to change your belief.
Try again. Damali has had tough days and plenty of setbacks where she wanted to quit--but the reason her organization is a success is that she got back up and kept trying. I've had plenty of days when I want to quit, too. Damali says when she has days like this she looks at how her girls keep on going and thinks, how could she do any less?
Model the energy you want to see in the world. The girls bring such positive, infectious energy with them, and that kind of attitude can transform a room. No matter what is going on at the time, when Damali walks into a meeting she leaves all the negatives behind and brings positive energy with her.
Battle resistance with gratitude. There's always going to be resistance in anything you want to do in life. Seeing how grateful the girls are for their opportunities reminds us that the best motivation is to ignore barriers and be grateful for everything we've been given to overcome obstacles.
Face your fears. The belles take a trapeze course to teach them how to seize their dreams. When they tell Damali how the challenge scares them, she asks, "What would you do if that trapeze bar was your dream? Go out there and grab it." The best way to empower yourself is to do the thing you think you can't do--then crush it!
Accept your losses. Like me, Damali has had participants leave the program for various reasons, often because they just weren't ready for it. And, like me, she's had them come back later and ask to return. By accepting your losses and moving on, you leave room for growth and reconnection.
Bounce back. Be inspired by Damali's kids and your own and watch how naturally children get up and try again when they fall. That inner resilience is still inside of you.
Dream big. Build a dream that gives you a reason to stretch outside of your comfort zone and push pass resistance. As Damali says, you can fill in the details later.