Certain things are universally true when it comes to our children. They exasperate us. They enthrall us. They worry us. And with worry comes wonder. We wonder how to help our children achieve, or how to boost their self-confidence, and especially how to help them do better in school.

With so much to worry about in the here and now, ever wonder what makes for a child's happiness and success over the long haul? Twenty-four-year teacher, guidance counselor, and Ways to Well-Being author John Doran has. And he'll tell you that there are seeds you can plant right now to help enable this lofty goal.

His TEDx Talk is a true hidden gem in the mountainous treasure trove of video advice. As Doran describes it, he's passionate about helping students do all that they can, with all that they have, in the time they've got, in the space they are in. He pleads for us to ask, "Are we preparing our children for a life of tests, or for the tests of life?"

It's worth the watch.


Doran wants to give children the capacity to become something amazing in the future and to teach the importance of values over valuables, integrity over income, self-worth over net worth, and EQ over IQ. In other words, to fuel sustainable happiness and success during their school years and beyond. To do that, the lifelong educator and counselor shared three things that parents can instill in their children today:

1. Help them see they're already enough.

I believe the four most dangerous words in the English language are "I'll be enough
when ..."

We all have some level of defective inner monologue. Doran points out that the most important words you can say or think are the ones you say to yourself and believe. Children have fewer tools to combat this natural tendency, and the issue is exacerbated when you consider they're faced daily with the often unrealistic pressure of grades, peers, standardized tests, expectations, and on and on and on.

But you can help them see that they're already enough by role-modeling it, believing it about yourself, and making the case on their behalf. As Doran says:

Your enoughness is not something outside of you waiting to be discovered, it's inside of you waiting to be recovered. When you let it seep into your consciousness that you're already enough, and nothing outside of yourself will make you more than you already are, you're free to change your emotional state from one of fear and anxiety to one of effort and application. You're free to do the best you can in the time you've got. And then mistakes become learning experiences. So, what if you entertained the thought that what is wrong with you is nothing that can't be fixed by what is right with you?

What if your children, and you, believed you all were already enough?

2. Teach them to lower the threshold of what they're grateful for.

My wife and I constantly work at this with our daughter--I believe it's some of the most important and powerful parenting we do. Doran says we can encourage an attitude of gratitude by "tuning in to your internal appreciation station at least once a day to what's positive in your life that's sitting silently at the back of your awareness."

He believes that developing a habit of focusing on the good versus the bad is "the single biggest thing that can increase your happiness." I think he's right.

3. Encourage them to slow down.  

Doran cites that 75 percent of teens spend 75 percent of their time looking down. What are they missing by not looking up? Anyone reading this article knows how electronically connected and emotionally disconnected we're becoming. It's hard to see a scenario where potential distractions dwindle. And from my own experience, I can tell you that "heads up, screens down" is even harder to role-model than something as profound as believing you're already enough.

The only magic advice is to be intentional about things that aren't magic at all. As Doran told me via a LinkedIn interview: "It's about no screens at the dinner table or in the bedroom. Period. The sooner a parent has this conversation the better and the less blowback they'll receive. Face to face time beats FaceTime."  

Every time.

This lecturer on lifelong happiness provided the perfect way to end this article. A reminder we can share with our children: "Life is like a camera: Focus on what's important, capture the good, develop from the negatives, and if it doesn't work out, take another shot."