Our children today are, for the most part, travelling the same “path to success” that we followed years ago. They go to school to receive a good education, learn the importance of working hard and how to become responsible adults. The basics – Math, Science, English, History – are the core subjects that challenge their thinking. Test grades in these subjects are the primary metrics used to measure performance. At the end of a term, they take a test, receive a score and if all goes well, receive a “pass” to go on to the next round. The cycle continues. Everyone is hopeful that all the time invested will pay off and for the hard workers, it usually does.
So what’s the problem?
In my opinion, I don’t think children are encouraged enough to aim high, to go out of their comfort zone, to take risks and not worry so much about the outcome or what everyone else thinks about their effort to try. To go for whatever they want to go after – without fear. Unfortunately, the pressure to be successful stumps the “wild shot” kids are often willing to take to make their dreams come true. Risk taking is not viewed favourably if the odds of success are not in their favour. In his new book, the ICARUS DECEPTION, Seth Godin (one of may favorite authors) writes “in our industrial culture, we talk about “sink or swim” but there is not as much sinking going on as you might expect. There’s a fair amount of treading water, a whole lot of people unwilling to get into the pool at all. But not so much sinking. We’ve greatly exaggerated the risk of sinking without celebrating the value of swimming.” This really resonates with me. It isn’t easy to go outside of our own comfort zone let alone challenge our little ones to do the same. Are children encouraged enough to try out for the team? Enter the contest? Try out for the play? Run for the school council position- without the fear of failing? It certainly doesn’t mean not making children aware of the possibility of being disappointed. It does however mean, instilling a “so what” attitude at whatever the outcome – and kudos for trying. I can’t stress enough how important this is to success in the later years. If children aren’t encouraged to take risks along life’s journey, they grow up to become adults who aren’t willing to speak up, to challenge the status-quo, to offer an opinion or counter someone else’s position. Why? Fear. Fear in upsetting the momentum in the room or for possibly having the wrong answer. Instead, they choose to be silent, usually sit “safely” in the back of the meeting room and allow everyone else to drive the agenda. Comfortable.
Growing up in a family of seven children – we all encountered our big “try-out” moments. The run for the quarter-back spot or the position on the school’s newspaper editorial team. Every time any one of us considered “going for it”, my father always said with conviction, “every time you step up to the plate you have the chance to hit a home run. And if it doesn’t happen, you’ll always have another chance at bat.” That’s a great message to teach our children. Not to be afraid to pursue their dreams and aspirations. That it’s okay to go outside their own comfort zone and take risks. That is the message I wish our kids heard more often. To be applauded for attempting to defy the odds and just going for it. Without worry. Without fear. Just because they believed enough in his or her own ability to give it their best shot and feeling accomplished for having done so.