How do we define Success? When do we feel that we are successful in life? How do we reach to that milestone of success? What do we do once we achieve that success?
When you want to have a meal, do you look forward to the end of the meal when you can feel satisfied? When you listen to music, do you wait for the end of the song when you will feel awesome? When you wake up in the morning do you want that by the end of the day you should feel good about yourself? Would you rather want every morsel of your meal, every note of the song, every moment of your day enjoyable?
Success is something many parents wish for their child. But success is a result, an end of a journey. Which is why parents want their children to invest their childhood into being a successful person later. Even schooling is designed and practiced in such a way so that children reach success later in life. You see, we normally do not talk about a successful childhood. Fortunately many talk about an enjoyable childhood.
Would you want your child to become a successful adult or would rather want every day of the childhood lived in joy?
A closer look to Success
Success is binary
Either you achieve it or you do not. Which is why it creates tension, almost all the time. When you play a game or sport, and if you are only interested in winning, which is binary again, every moment is stressful. But when you play for the joy of playing it, you may still win or lose (which anyway a natural outcome of a sport), but then you have relished every shot, every move, every play. Would you want your child to win a boring or stressful game or would you rather that he or she enjoys every moment of it, and at the end, some she wins and some he loses.
Success springs a constant fear of future
Realize success and goals are not same. Goals help give direction to our efforts. Now add, on goals, a shining layer of expectation called success and you have a problem. Many of us easily end up fearing not reaching it. Conversely observe small children, who also have a clear goal (eg: make a house in a sandpit). But they are not thinking whether their house will turn out good or bad, they just want to make it. Since they have no idea what is success or failure, they are simply and happily busy making it. If they do not like the outcome, they just move ahead and destroy it or cry about it for some time and then get back to work (or move ahead to do something else).
Contrast marriage with parenting
In marriage success is not defined as some end result, rather happily living (and fighting) together. Ups and downs are expected and are something to be worked upon by each partner. There is no end picture of a successful marriage; Each day is. We say a couple is happily married. But some parents end up thinking that they are successful only when their child is well settled in life, has a good career, has grown up to be a responsible individual etc. This way we end up giving children a relationship of expectations, and we end up living an ideal image of being a successful parent.
Schooling = Assembly line for creating successful people.
I presume, we as parents are to be blamed. We gloat when our child achieves some success in school, be it in academics or a trophy in calligraphy competition. Schools put boards outside and flood social media with images of successful children in their school. Surprising why we do not demand from schools that every day every child should feel happy, satisfied, at peace with themselves. No, we don’t because we want the success schools are selling. And since career is a little way off, schools have built smaller successes called tests, exams, grading homework, classwork or even behavior. ”Your child is an A+ student”. Now how does that make you feel? But wait what about all the other B, C and F children? What are we doing to them?
Success resembles The Best
Best is the enemy of good and good is the enemy of action. I asked an adult friend of mine to share her journey by writing a blog. She immediately said, “I am not good at writing”. So many of us (including so many children) are stopping ourselves from doing loads of rich stuff simply because we think we are not good at it. Will-not-be-successful is such a pervasive alibi for inaction. What would happen if there was no premium on turning out something good/best. What would happen if the premium was on exploring, on experimenting, on failing, on enjoying. I guess more children will swim, cook, paint, sing, write, do math, and speak their hearts in public.
Success unfortunately, is also short lived
You see, if I somehow get to the 1st rank in my class, I can be very happy. But soon the nightmare of losing the numero uno position sets in and just in case somebody topples me in the next round I am devastated. The cost of maintaining one’s success is too high. For me it was much more peaceful to be an average student, enjoying my beating the desk in the last row with some friends, while some others were grueling their childhood trying to be successful all the time. You decide if it is worth it?
Success creates jealousy, hatred, even enemies
Sometimes with others and many times with self. The funny part is that our child may not even realize it – thinking that it is normal to put down others or self if one is left little behind in this race. Some people say that this hatred fires them, helping them achieve. Quite plausible. But I think we need to seriously discuss this, rather understand that a similarly fierce fire called passion and love can, not only achieve a lot but also help light many other lamps, a Diwali of togetherness.
Success can easily be manipulated
Others could use this madness to benefit them at your cost. Advertisers, marketers, employers, politicians all use the carrot to make donkeys run. Innumerable tales of burning ambition have burned the ambitious only. Can we not be the wiser donkeys? Even if we want to run, can we not run for our own accord, own joy, not to reach somewhere, but just to run. For when I run of my own accord, I can stop also of my own accord.
If you have read this far, you might be thinking –
“Is there a thin line between wanting to be successful and wanting to do something with full passion for the joy that it gives? How does one get our children to recognize this?”
I hope you notice that a thin line is also a line. A thin line also clearly and quite vehemently divides. More importantly a thin line is visible when one is looking for it. I think success creates recognizable symptoms – tension, anxiety, fears, nervousness, greed, etc. If these symptoms only are not attractive, pleasurable and beneficial, how can the disease be?
All we have to do is help our children look for, discuss, explore and reflect on these symptoms. First, I will understand which side the child wants to be, success or passion? Success is wanting-to-be, while passion is living-it-daily. Then, together I would make my family’s own list of symptoms which tells the child (and us) which side he or she is. For both, we can look for signs, in stories, movies, media and people around us. We would keenly observe and understand the thoughts and feelings that could either gnaw one from inside or glow us with warmth and light.
Children do not need to be successful or let them understand the synonym of success is “DOING”
With children I will question school, society and the images we and media have created. On the other hand, I know children have their own aspirations. Which is why I am here to understand, nurture, support and evolve them. I would say,
“Fly, fly, for you have wings
Soar, soar, for there is sky
The stars are there, not to reach
They’re there just twinkling
With every kiss of effort you make
With every breath of fire you take
Fly, fly, for you have wings
Soar, soar, for there is joy