She almost wasn’t born … twice.

For most of my life, I was fairly certain I didn’t want children.  I grew up in a dysfunctional household and my father regularly told me I was the cause of his unhappy marriage.  It was a tough message to hear, but as a kid it’s hard not to take such messages to heart.

So when I fell in love with my husband, I was scared.  I told him I didn’t want kids.

Not only did I change my mind after witnessing the birth of my nephew, it turned out having kids wasn’t going to be easy.  Our daughter is a miracle.  After she was born I learned there was an 80% chance I’d miscarry.

To say she’s changed my life is an understatement.

So in honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share just a few of the things she’s taught me about the wonders of life.

Never say “I can’t.”  Say instead, “I haven’t yet.”

My daughter is the product of two over-achievers with perfectionist tendencies.  Watching her take on challenges like buttoning her jacket or learning to read is frustratingly familiar.  She’s bright, but she gives up too easily.  She says “I can’t do this” too often.

But watching my daughter helped me see I could choose to rise to the challenge (which is what catalyzed my Everyday Courage challenges).  Now when I try to pitch a media outlet for an interview and don’t hear back, I don’t think “I’m not good enough.”  I say, “There must be more I need to learn.”

Life is about learning, not just succeeding.

Know when to say “no”

When it comes to my daughter, if I say I’m going to do something or be somewhere, I deliver (unless I am the victim of some unfortunate, unforeseen event).  To do this successfully, I’m very careful about what I commit to.

When it comes to my work, however, I get easily excited and say yes far too often.  And that puts me in a lose-lose situation: either I deliver but am exhausted and stressed out, or I flake out and lose a lot of credibility and good will.

Obviously, this is a bit of wisdom I’m still learning.  Commitment is more about saying “no” than “yes.”

Be brave enough to tell the truth

As a career coach, this lesson is really embarassing.

You see, when we moved to London, my daughter started school instead of attending daycare, which meant  instead of having eight or nine hours to do my work, I only had five or six.  And sometimes, when I really wanted to finish a blog post or plan out my interview wish list, I’d plop her in front of a video and say, “Mommy has to work.”

One day, she called me on it.

She said (and I am not making this up): “Mommy, it’s important you love your work.”  Even at four, she understood the negative connotation of what one “has” to do.

And I realized exactly how wrong my behavior was–not for putting her in front of a video, but for not being honest enough to tell her the truth: right now, I’m choosing to work over spending time with you.

It’s not just possible to love your family and your work, I happen to think it’s healthy.  How else is she supposed to learn how to design an amazing career of her own?

Everyone has a superpower

One of our favorite topics on the walk to school is superpowers.  She claims her superpower is recognizing letters of the alphabet or counting backwards from ten (both things she’s very proud of at the moment).

The funny thing is, she’s blind to her real superpowers.

She takes for granted how she can start drawing a table, and mid-picture, turn it into a whale.  Or that she beats me by a landslide at the memory game (even when I’m trying to win).

It’s a blind spot that for most people never goes away–a big part of the reason people are so afraid to change or reach for a powerful goal.  The problem isn’t that we’re all burdened by a sense of humility, but we’re oblivious to how amazing we truly are.

Maybe we all need to see ourselves through the eyes of a four-year-old to remember.

Question: What life lessons are you thankful for this year?

The whale that used to be a table–can you tell?