How do you measure success?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what success means. Everyone has a different definition. To some, having a million pounds in their account means they are successful. To other’s it may be making a difference in people’s lives, learning a new language, taking up an instrument at 60, leaving a bad relationship, raising high achieving kids….the list goes on.

I think to me, being successful means to be happy. And that’s not to say that we’re walking around with big smiles on our faces, oblivious to the goings on in the world. But rather, to have a sense of contentment. To be able to ride the peaks and troughs of life and not be too affected by them. To strive to do better, earn more, be better but not to let that affect how you feel in general. To me, success is a constant work in progress.

I was talking to my cousin R a few days ago and she provided another answer. When discussing success, she said “Success is growth” and on that particular day, her comment hit the nail on the head for me. Success is growth! Look at where you were last year, she suggested, and look at where you are now. Have you grown? And by growth it encompasses all aspects of your life. Physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. I certainly believe I’ve grown a lot since last year.

I was chatting to another friend P and when talking about success, she talked about success being all about perspective. We live in a world where each person is unique, and yet we don’t act like they are. We expect people to fit into our model of the world, we expect our children to model behaviour that is acceptable to us. And yet who ever said our model was the right one? It’s right for us. She also went on to mention value. She does a lot of good work in an organisation close to her heart. It doesn’t give her any money but it gives her great internal satisfaction. Is she successful? In her opinion of success, she is.

Validation was something else we talked about. When you believe that what you’re doing is right and you’re truly happy with it, then how other’s feel about it and what other’s think and say to you, don’t affect you. You don’t need outside validation when you are content with who you are. I know, that’a a big one isn’t it? We live in a society that thrives on validation. I’m not immune to it. I was super excited when I hit 500 followers on Twitter and when I get lots of likes on Instagram and Facebook. But as I mentioned before about success, it’s a work in progress.

When you ask most new parents what they envisage for their children when they grow up, they may say things like “I want my child to be a doctor or a dentist. I want my child to play the piano or be an athlete.” But essentially, when it comes down to it, I think most parents just want their children to be happy. And yet most parents (myself included) also seek to impose their views on their children, their model of the world. And our views and models, while based on experience, are also based on our fears.

I think it’s so important to allow our children to BE who they want to be, even when we don’t particularly like it. That’s not to say we let them go off the rails and behave in unsociable ways but rather to act as guides and beacons of light. I love this quote by Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

What does success mean to you?

Modern Dad Pages

Do schools teach us to “stay in our boxes”?

I’m aware that the question “Do schools teach us to “stay in our boxes”?” is a highly debateable one. I have studied in several different streams of education and I can tell you that many of the generalisations do exist: From the age of 7-11 I went to an Indian School. It was English medium but the fashion in which we learnt was very much rote learning. I’d spend hours memorising lengthy answers to different questions. I could read Hindi but not understand what I was reading, purely because I was taught how to recognise the alphabets and not actually interpret the words. I then went on to study in India (at an international school) and it was pretty much the same. Mug it all up, parrot fashion. When I was in school in Dublin, things changed. We were taught in a different method. In math, for example, you got points for method and not just the answer. There was a transition year between what is equivalent to GCSEs and A Levels and during this year we were encouraged to participate in different projects, go on field trips and develop a broader view to learning, outside of the classroom. Other generalisations like American schools are creative but not academic, etc. often stand true for many people I know.

Essentially though, I don’t think it matters. Some of the smartest entrepreneurial people I know, didn’t go to university. And some very smart MBA people I know, are out of jobs at the moment. In the end, I don’t think “success” is defined necessarily by how well you did in school, unless your field is very specific (but that’s a post for another day).

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The reason I ask this question today is because of something that happened in the last week. At the start of the week, a friend asked me to vote for her niece who was taking part in a school project in Hong Kong. The project was about preserving the water system in Hong Kong. The school said that the winner would be the project that got the most likes on Facebook. So after looking at what she was proposing, I voted for her and then shared the status on my wall. Other people voted for her from that and shared the status. Anyway, a few days ago, my friend was over and she was on Face Time with her niece. So I asked her how she did and if she won and she told me she was disqualified. Why? Because she’d found an app that gave you free likes for every picture of theirs that you liked and so in the end she got over 2,000 likes (and obviously would have won!) Sounds ingenious doesn’t it? Except the school didn’t accept it and disqualified her.

In today’s cut throat world, thinking outside the box, like she did, would be seen as an asset but at school, she was disqualified. There are many educational institutes who recognise that classroom controlled learning isn’t exactly what children need to survive in the real world and are instead taking their children outside the box. Examples would be the Waldorf Steiner school and the Montessori system. The belief is that children will learn at their own pace and in their own ways and so the classrooms are child led rather than teacher led.

I’m not totally convinced of these schools, only because I do believe that some sort of structure is required in a classroom. But, I also believe traditional schools need to start allowing for more creativity and out of the box thinking. You only have to watch any of the big TV shows (Greys Anatomy, Suits, Scandal, etc.) to see how important out of the box thinking is, even for professionals. The simple fact is…books can only take us so far but it’s the way we think that can change our lives.

How do you choose to parent?

This evening I had the pleasure of speaking to Abby Bordner of Relationship Based Parenting. Some of you may remember the Relationship Based Parenting series I started a few months ago (more of that coming soon).

After a few minutes of chatting about this, that and the other, she asked me: What are the most important things you would like to give your son? I’ve asked myself this question many times. We all want to give our children the best but our idea of the best varies. There are many values I want to instill in S and of course I have dreams and aspirations for him but to me the most important things at present are love and stability. It’s been proven that a child’s first three years are when they have the most brain development, when their neural pathways are formed. And children who are exposed to adverse conditions such as poverty, abuse or alcoholism often go on to have failed relationships, drop out of school, grow up with physical ailments or even depression. Abby spoke to me about emotional resiliency and how it is important to teach children to manage their emotions and deal with them so that they grow into successful adults who are able to deal with struggle confidently.

One of the questions she asked on her blog recently was: How would you do things differently? You hear so many parents these days talk about how they would do things differently to the way their parents did. I believe there are two kinds of people. The first are those who say “Well I turned out okay so my parents obviously did a good enough job and I am going to raise my child in the same way” (I often hear/read this when there is a debate with regards to spanking and physical discipline). The second type of parent is one who says “Yes my parents did a great job (or they didn’t) but I am going to do a better one”. We’re in the 21st century now where access to information is at our fingertips. My mom has often told me how lucky we are these days. Parents of the last generation raised their kids the best they knew how. Parents of today have so much help and guidance online and in the form of books, classes and online information.

As S approaches 2, I find myself adopting a teacher role. He’s starting to learn right from wrong, testing boundaries and his personality is coming through. It’s really important at this age to understand your child and handle them in a way that suits their needs best. S loves to run around, drive his ride along motorbike around the house and listen to music (and dance) and so as long as it’s not raining, we spend a lot of time outdoors in the parks and playgrounds nearby and he gets music time everyday.

Personally I think it’s important to keep re-assessing the kind of parent you want to be and then making changes to work towards being that parent. Just remember, however you choose to parent is right for you.

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