Effort often worth more than result

By Anita Doberman: PNT Columnist

I try to focus on living in the moment and not get fixated on results. I attempt to do this with my children, my husband and in all areas of my life.

I often fall short of my good intentions and measure myself against others’ accomplishments and successes. And while it’s true that we all need a certain drive to achieve what we desire, being too focused on results takes away from enjoying the good things in life. So I tell my children to focus on what they love and on building character, rather than on winning.

This week, instead of me teaching my children a lesson, my oldest daughter taught me something I won’t easily forget.

She is part of a competitive cheer squad, and also takes recreational gymnastics. Her younger sister, only 4 years old, is on a competitive gymnastic team. I have been trying to encourage my oldest one to do the things she enjoys and not measure up against her sister, who takes to sports more naturally.

My oldest daughter’s gym held a recital/performance and she was scheduled to perform in it. The event was organized well and all of the children seemed to have fun. My daughter was one of the last ones to perform and there were only three little girls in her group, her and two competitive gymnasts who had been on team for over five years.

As soon as they started showing their stunts and routines I and the 300 parents watching the show could tell my daughter wasn’t even close to the level of these other girls. The coach came around to help her work on some stunts, simple exercises like cartwheels and handstands and my daughter made a good effort but kept falling over. I had a knot in my stomach, not only as a parent but as someone who performed in numerous dance shows and can remember the feeling of not doing well, going off the beat, being early or late, or worse, slipping on the floor. But my daughter kept going — I have to give it to her, she was determined.
At the end of the performance, I prepared for her disappointment but everyone got a medal and she was thrilled.

I thought maybe she just wasn’t aware of the gap between her and the other girls, I hugged her and told her how great she had done and how proud I was of her. But with more wisdom than her young age she told me, “Mommy I didn’t do that well. I kept falling and falling, the other girls were so much better. But it’s OK, it was so much fun. I want to do it again!” I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t have to say anything except to assure her that with that attitude and a little hard work, no matter what she chooses to do, she will be OK.

What a great lesson. My daughter had fun and didn’t care about the results or what the people watching her thought. She did it and she was proud of herself.

It would be great if we could all have this mentality even when it comes to other parents or children or spouses. Sometimes, competition is essential, but we let it creep too far into our lives. I’m glad my daughter has a good handle on it, and that she’s there to remind me of what’s really important.

Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. The family expects to be moving to Cannon Air Force Base in the next year. Contact her at: