Success has been equated with fame and riches for the longest time. The focus has been on working to meet our career goals so we can afford for us the kind of life we want. A person with a penthouse in New York City is considered successful. Even if he is unhappy in life. How is that success? Isn't contentment and wellbeing the whole point of life? If you are materially successful but lack an enriching personal life, you will not be able to enjoy your success. What use is the success that you cannot enjoy and share with your near and dear ones.
Since we look upon success in terms of professional betterment, we tend to think of academic performance as a natural yardstick for how successful a person will turn out to be in their later life. Parents judge their kids on the grades they score on their assignments to examine their potential for success. If they get a poor grade on a class test, they are reprimanded and made to feel little for their inability to have scored higher. Academic success doesn't always translate into professional success. However, to bring any significant change to the popular mindset, the entire definition of success needs to be reexamined. Success needs to be redefined in terms of what it means to individuals. There cannot be a single definition of success, just as there cannot be a blanket definition of happiness. People experience different emotions differently.
Parents think of success materially. When it comes to their kids, they teach them that success for them must be academic brilliance. Scoring perfect A’s, winning in sports events and being able to secure entry into an Ivy League college in their eyes means that their children have been able to be successful. It’s because they believe these to be stepping stones to a high-paying job which will secure their finances.
We tend to blame the school system for this over-emphasis on grades and marks. It’s not entirely their fault. The students end up not quite interested in learning as they are in being able to obtain a perfect mark sheet. It’s detrimental to the education system. No real learning takes place. Learning is focused on performing well in the exams. So any knowledge gained is temporary, at best. Concepts aren't grasped. What results is superficial exam-oriented learning?
How This Understanding of Success Puts Stress on Kids
When a child is constantly expected to perform superiorly in all his/her classes, it takes a toll on their mental health. They keep stressing about failure and its repercussions. Being unable to score well becomes tied up to their self-esteem as they begin to see these as yardsticks to compare their own productivity. Suppose they score lesser than they’d expected on an exam, they feel extremely emotionally distressed and don’t know how to minimize this felt distress. All of this could tell on their sleep and diet practices. Older kids could take to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol and drugs.
Students today are prone to several anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, and other mental illnesses as they are made to chase unrealistic goals and expectations. Teen suicide is also on the upward climb all across the world.
Material success is important. Nobody is discrediting this. But at what cost? If a person is rich but does not have at least a couple of fulfilling interpersonal relationships in their life, they cannot be called successful. Yes, they will be able to afford themselves a 5-star meal but they won't have any company to share this meal with. Eating a humble meal by your family provides more strength and nourishment to your soul and body than eating alone by yourself with nobody to talk to in a luxurious mansion.
We’ve all heard the adage – Health is better than wealth. If we exhaust ourselves mentally and physically in our pursuit of monetary success, what will we be left with once we have this money? We may have the cash to fly us to an exotic vacation but not the strength or energy to go forward with this. It’s always necessary to be able to strike a balance between material and immaterial goals.
Success does not have to be narrow-minded and self-serving. It could be empathy, integrity, and wellbeing. A sore loser cannot be a successful human being. A person has to accept that life comes with its ups and downs. You win some and you lose some. You can't expect to keep winning every time even if you are accustomed to winning by then. That’d be foolish of you. A successful fellow will take things in their stride and be able to adjust to both their triumphs and losses.
Kids imitate their immediate adults. So if you want your child to grow up sensitive and empathetic, don’t treat the people catering to you rudely. Respect the people you interact with and they will learn to do the same for their peers and acquaintances.
Teach them that money, while necessary, isn’t everything. Show them how to enjoy the little things and not always bank on big wins to derive pleasure from. Experiences, not materials, last.
Make them recognize the value of teaching strong friendships with other people. Show them how these friendships ought to be maintained. A child that grows up lonely falls victim to many emotional difficulties in his/her later years. They need to know how to form relationships with people and network. Humans are social animals, and developing social skills go a long way in making a successful human being.
Growth and development are intrinsic to human existence. Success can be measured materially, but it should not only be judged on the basis of how well off you are financial. The definition of success as most of us understand it, needs to be opened up to include other things in life which provide more value than simply money.
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