Ask parents what they want for their kids, and almost all will say they want their children to be happy. But ask what traits they want their children to possess -- ask what traits they hope to instill in their kids -- and far and away the number one quality is "to be responsible." What comes next on the list? The ability to work hard.
Oddly enough, responsibility and hard work provide the perfect recipe for happiness: When you achieve your goals, when you feel fulfilled, when your life has meaning -- that's a wonderful definition of happiness.
We all want our kids to be successful, in whatever pursuit they choose.
But while the destination may be different, the actual path to success is very similar. Success starts with mindset: the right perspective, the right outlook, the right motivation, and a real sense of purpose.
That's why it is so important to help your kids remember what they need to do, every day, to stay on the path to reaching their individual dreams.
Want to help your kids be successful? Work to impart the following lessons. Not only will you help them today, but they will carry them through the rest of their lives, no matter where their hopes and dreams may take them.
1. Teach them that the unknown is never as scary as it seems.
The most paralyzing fear is fear of the unknown. (At least it is for me.)
Yet few things turn out to be as hard or scary as we think. Plus, it's incredibly exciting to overcome a fear. You get that "I can't believe I just did that!" rush, a thrill you may not have experienced for a long time.
Every day, do something a little scary, whether physically or emotionally. Then, trust that you will figure out how to overcome any problems that arise.
Because you will.
And if you don't, we'll help you.
2. Teach them to do what other people are not willing to do.
Often the easiest way to be different is to do the things other people don't want to.
Pick one thing other people won't do. It can be simple or small. Whatever it is, do it. You'll instantly be a little different from the rest of the pack.
Then keep going. Every day think of one thing to do that no one else is willing to do.
After a week you'll be uncommon. After a month you'll be special. After a year you'll be incredible, and you definitely won't be like anyone else.
3. Teach them to look below the surface to be a good friend.
Sometimes your friends are hesitant. Sometimes they're insecure. Sometimes they're shy. Whatever the reason, sometimes they'll ask a different question than the one they really want you to answer.
One friend might ask whether you think he is a good basketball player. What he really wants to know is whether you think he should try out for the team; he hopes you'll say he should, and he hopes you'll share the reasons why.
Another friend might ask if she should take AP Physics. What she really wants to know is if you think she's smart enough to go to a great college, or even work in science. She hopes you do, and she'll love when you share the reasons why.
Behind many questions is an unasked question.
Pay attention so you can answer that question too, because that is the answer the other person doesn't just want, but needs.
That's a great way to be a great friend.
4. Teach them that achieving a huge goal always starts with one small step.
You have ideas. You have plans. You have goals. That's great. But you don't actually have anything until you do something.
People let hesitation and uncertainty stop them from acting on their dreams. Pick one plan, one goal, or one idea. And get started. Just take one small step.
The first step is by far the hardest. Every successive step will be a lot easier.
5. Teach them to live the life they want to live.
Most of the time, it's healthy to worry about what other people think, but not if it stands in the way of living the life you really want to live.
If you really want to do something but you're worried that other people might say you're crazy, do it anyway. Pick one thing you haven't tried because you've been concerned about what other people think or say, and just go do it.
Your true friends will be proud of you.
Better yet, you will be proud of you. That's the best pride of all.
6. Teach them how fun it is to be the underdog.
I'm ashamed to admit it, but one of the best ways to motivate me is to insult me -- or for me to manufacture a way to feel insulted, regardless of whether I'm actually justified in feeling that way or not.
"Justified" is not the point. Finding motivation to prove that person wrong, and, more important, to achieve what I want to achieve, is all that matters.
Call it artificial competition or manufactured anger; call it childish and immature; call it creating perceived insults -- whatever you call it, it works for me. (Hey, it was good enough for Michael Jordan.)
And it can work for you. So embrace being an underdog. That will help you try harder.
7. Teach them that "good" is the best way to get to "great."
I know. You hear all the time how you only get one chance to make a first impression. You hear all the time how perfection is the only acceptable outcome.
Unfortunately, nothing is ever perfect. No one is ever perfect. The people who come close are the people who work hard, do the best they can, and let it go. The people who care about you will tell you how you can improve, and that means you'll get to make improvements that actually matter to people, and eventually overcome any shortcomings.
8. Teach them to own their failures.
Ask your friends why they got an A in a class. Their answers will be filled with personal pronouns: "I" and "me."
Ask your friends why they failed a class. Their answers will be filled with stories about other people: their teachers, the material, the schedule. They'll say it was because of someone or something else. It's always someone else
And that's a problem, because when you distance yourself, you can't learn from your failures.
Occasionally something completely outside your control will cause you to fail. Most of the time, though, it's you. And that's OK. In fact, that's great. Every successful person has failed numerous times. Most of them have failed a lot more often than you can imagine That's why they're successful now.
Embrace every failure: Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, you'll make sure things turn out differently.
9. Teach them to help other people feel good about themselves.
All around you are people who work hard with little or no recognition. Be the person who recognizes at least one of them, every day.
Not only will you give respect, you'll earn it -- the respect that comes from making a difference, however fleeting, in another person's life, which is the best kind of respect there is.
10. Teach them to trust the power of hard work.
Like Jimmy Spithill, skipper of America's Cup-winning Team Oracle USA, says, "Rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy."
Compared to other people you may not be as smart, as athletic, as outgoing, or as confident.... but you can always outthink, outhustle, and outwork everyone else.
Even when everything seems stacked against you, effort and persistence are on your side -- and often they are the only things you truly need.
You don't always have to be first. Sometimes all you have to do is be the last person still trying.