On Defining Success

On Defining Success
Helen Rose
January 2, 2019

This piece was adapted into a Braver/Wiser reflection that was posted in April 2019.


Henry had OT this morning. After his appointment, we went to lunch at Panera. I asked him if he wanted mac and cheese and he excitedly agreed.

Henry has several sensory processing difficulties, one of which being extreme pickiness in eating. We’ve had a feeding evaluation and are awaiting placement with a feeding therapist.

I had high hopes that he would actually eat lunch today, and I was also unsurprised when the prophetic mac and cheese arrived and he refused to eat it.

After several moments of prompting, I managed to get him to taste a small bit of the sauce, but that was as much as he could handle. He gagged and coughed and I decided that was enough for today and got him a bagel instead.

I could choose to define failure by the uneaten $5 mac and cheese –

Or I could choose to define success by the fact that he tried it, and even though he gagged, he did not vomit.

Black and white thinking tricks us into believing there is only one right or wrong way to be. When we internalize cultural messages about the definitions of success or failure, we undermine our own inherent worth and dignity by allowing our culture to decide something that we should be free to decide for ourselves.

Am a salty that I wasted $5 on mac and cheese that didn’t get eaten? A little bit. And I’m also proud of Henry for trying it and thankful that I had $5 to invest in another small step toward him becoming a more prolific eater.

Everything we do is an investment in our future. Every moment is a building block for the next. Even the smallest things can have a huge impact in the long term – and things tend to work out exactly the way they are supposed to.

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