I thought I’d talk about success this week.
What do you think success is?
What is a successful person?
What do your kids think success is?
In their formative years our children will be picking up the messages that form their core beliefs. And whilst they’re doing that we have the privileged position of informing those beliefs so they don’t end up with skewed beliefs.
I know it’s easy at this point to be worried that we are programming them by shaping their beliefs. And the answer to that is, we definitely are regardless of whether we are doing that intentionally or passively. The things that we say and do on a daily basis will majorly impact their perceptions about the world and about themselves. The question is, do we want to make sure that we’re not sending messages we never meant to send.
Here’s the thing. In this day and age, kids perceive fame as the height of success. Ask them over dinner what they think a successful person is. I doubt they’ll say something profound. They’re more likely to point to jobs, exam passes or famous people, the cars people drive; money. Ask them, let me know.
And where did they get that idea from?
Well it could be from peers or screens or us, but one way or another, unless we intentionally talk about success, they’ll pick up the world messages. And what messages are you picking up? What’s the world telling you?
Be the best
Get more followers
Expand your influence
Be your own boss (as though that's a clear marker for success)
It’s a lot to live up to. And kids these days live in a sea of it.
When I was speaking in schools before lockdown, I’d often notice what was on the hall walls. It wasn’t uncommon to have famous sports people and quotes next to them as motivators.
I’m not against motivational talk, but what’s the message there?
It’s all part of the dream-big culture. And dreaming big is great, don’t mis-hear me. But dreaming big about what?
I don’t have a problem with attaining and achieving. Of course, we should meet our potential. But where I think it gets a bit dangerous is the notion that there’s a huge end of line, top of the ladder experience to be had and that we’re aiming for that. But is that the prevailing definition of success that you want your children to be saddled with?
What do you think success is?
How would you define it?
The chances are if you don’t have an answer, that you’re not being intentional in the way that you’re imparting it to your kids.
I know that when I wrote my book people would often ask me, how’s it going? How many have you sold? And of course that’s one way of looking at success. It’s quantifiable and we all love a number. But, here’s the thing. If something in the book improves the connection between a parent and child that means more to me than being on the Times Best seller list.
Yes, it was fun to speak at the Cheltenham Lit Fest, but I get a far greater kick out of one parent coming and sharing a parent-win, with me.
The other day a mum said that she’d had a real win with a child that she had got used to nagging in order to help him to always be on time. She decided to let him be responsible for himself and by not nagging he was late for something that mattered to him. She meanwhile went off and had a cup of tea. She felt empowered, he learned whether he liked being late and they didn’t fall out with each other.
They’ll argue less If she keeps that up
It’ll improve their relationship
He’ll become more responsible
And he may well pass that on to his own kids.
That’s success. And legacy
What’s your metric for success?
Are you living it?
Before I went to publish I asked myself
What outcome do I hope for? What defines a successful book for me?
If we can help our children to define what they feel is successful, they won’t be as thrown by other people’s success. They’ll be able to celebrate it.
If we can help them to consider their definition of success they can count their victories on their own merits, not on what’s happening in the next lane.
When the world is loud. (And it is very loud on this topic!) it’s important for the quieter voices at home to have a steadfastness about them.
Have a think about success and what it means to you and what you’d like to impart.
It isn’t one thing
It can be character success- choosing to tell the truth when a lie would have been easier
Turning up to something you committed to when you’ve had a better offer.
It can be tenacity success- did you keep going
It can be wisdom success – did you know when to stop, when to put it down and say that’s enough.
Did you keep your promises?
Did you practice?
Were you kind?
Who are you competing against? Others or your own goals?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for winners on sports day. The whole ‘everyone’s a winner’ doesn’t wash with kids. There will be a fastest and there will be a maths genius, let them be. We all want to shine in our own way. Knowing our children’s strengths and weaknesses is helpful. But defining their success is a whole different thing.
In a world where over half of children are struggling with self-confidence, it’s good to ask ourselves what is defining their perception? Why are they feeling like failures? Lack of confidence is a chronic problem, but we do have a strong voice in the home.
Taking the time to think about how our children are being influenced and then being intentional in that space, having good conversations, helping them to develop their perceptions can be life giving for them.