As summer approaches and the school year comes to a close, many are taking time to recognize the achievements of the past year. Report cards, graduations, awards - all aiming to celebrate success. But do they? What is true success? Most of the time our world defines success outwardly, based on material, rather than spiritual, principles. We define our growth and achievement, and often our self-worth, by what can be seen and measured. How much money can you earn? How many goals can you score? In most schools there is premium placed on academic achievement. However, there is a dawning realization that there is more to success than one’s GPA. That there are other skills that are not only important, but essential to success in any field. When I ask parents to describe what success looks like their answers don’t reflect these usual definitions. They name values and qualities like happiness, self-awareness, inner strength, kindness, confidence, resilience as their measure of true success for themselves and their children. Are these parents naive about the need to earn a living or develop other key skills to survive and thrive in this world? Or are they perhaps seeing more clearly the real values and life skills behind those outer achievements? Success is more than an outer result, more than arriving at a destination. It is above all a process of inner growth and expansion. There are as many ways to define success as there are souls on this planet and for every individual there is a right next step. What is success for one may be a failure for another. However, there are universal truths that can guide our understanding of success both in life and in parenting. Here are just a few: Acceptance "The secret of success is working with things as they are, not with the way you wish they were or think they ought to be." Perhaps you feel our child really should be quicker getting ready in the morning but the reality is, they’re not. When you simply fight against this reality neither of you feels successful. Taking a step back to acknowledge and accept the reality of a situation you may be able to notice alternative solutions or missing skills. In this instance, perhaps starting to get ready earlier or creating a predictable routine can help to work with things as they are, rather than simply expecting them to be different. Expectations are often the enemy of success! Energy "The secret of success is being more energy-oriented than goal-oriented; seeing life in terms of constant progress, not of pre-established ends." It may seem contradictory to avoid being “goal-oriented” in the pursuit of success but it’s an idea worth experimenting with. Goals can too often turn into expectations and leave us feeling that we’ve fallen short. However, when we look for signs of progress, energy and effort we can almost always find ways to acknowledge success. Is the living room spotless and clean the way you might like? Maybe not. Did your child put out energy to help clean up or keep a positive attitude about their chores?
Then count that as success! Maybe you had pizza for dinner... again. But did it allowed you to be a little less stressed and a little more present with your child during a busy time? That's success! Remember it’s not so much WHAT you do but HOW you do it. The quality of your energy and presence has a much deeper impact on your child’s growth and development than any outward perfection.
Expansion "The secret of success is not limiting your self-identity to present realities, but expanding it to include your highest potentials." This last secret builds on the first two. We accept the current reality and we work with it by putting out energy. Yet we can’t stop there. True success is more than just progress. We must always hold in our hearts and minds the highest possible potential: the true joy that comes from expanding beyond a concern for ourselves to include the happiness of all.
"Greatness has always been associated with an expansion of consciousness. And an expansion of consciousness has always, in the long history of civilization, been associated with an expansion of such feelings as sympathy, empathy, and love."
J. Donald Walters, Education for Life
Are we kinder than we once were? Perhaps more patient even than yesterday? Did your child decide to share a favorite toy without asking? These seemingly small gestures are signs of that highest potential and of our gradual and yet inevitable expansion of consciousness.
These three "secrets" are just a small window into those universal truths that define true success taken from the book Secrets of Success and Leadership by Swami Kriyananda. Others phrases from this book focus on qualities like enthusiasm, concentration, truthfulness, and courage. Learning to develop these values and life-skills is at the core of the Education for Life approach. If you’d like to know more about how and why to share and develop these important values within your family and reflect more on what true success means, join our upcoming class on June 10th.