Do you see “vision” in the eyes of your child?
Some might say that the difference between a successful child and an unsuccessful child is brains. Others might say talent. Still others, might realize that it may just be the vision and belief that one can set goals, go after those goals, and succeed in achieving those goals.
When I was about 8-12 years old, I was convinced that I was stupid. My brothers had been in all the advanced classes- I hadn’t. My brothers got high marks on all their tests—I didn’t. My brothers were among those kids invited to their teacher’s home for a special celebration of “smartness” and I…played with the Barbie dream home.
It wasn’t like I was failing anything—I was pretty much just average. But boy—it was convenient to believe otherwise. “I’m not as smart as my brothers” and “I’m stupid” became my mantra. It was my answer to all things challenging at school—all bad grades, the reason I was more of a follower than a leader among my friends, my fallback mantra anytime I got stuck in a pickle– it provided my perfect excuse for mediocrity.
What’s funny about the repetition of a mantra is that not only do you begin to believe what you are saying—but so do others around you. My family just knew that they needed to help me out quite a bit since I could hardly do things myself. My mother barely would say anything about the Cs on my report card because they were clearly the best I could do. My father admitted later on in life that he began to thank God that I was cute since I didn’t get blessed with the brains in the family. It’s not their fault. I was VERY convincing.
So, when I entered 8th grade, I didn’t expect anything different than my typical average performance. Nobody did. But in meeting Mr. Hendrickson, who asked us all to call him “Hendi” since he was only 24 years old at the time, I had met my match. Still young enough to know what a cop out looked like and old enough to know the difference between poor self esteem and actual stupidity, he called me into his office.
“What do you need in order to ace this next math test?”
“I can’t ace any test. I’m a horrible test taker and I stink at math.”
“But what if you could?”
“Ace the test. What would you need to do it?”
“Someone else’s brain?”
(The parent/teacher look. You know the one. You probably give it to your children when they make such remarks.)
“OK. I guess I would need a lot of extra help (but I couldn’t resist)…but a brain transplant couldn’t hurt.”
“Fine. My door is open to you everyday during free periods and after school. As for the brain transplant, you don’t need it. But you need a thought transplant. You need a new definition of what your best is.”
“I try my best.”
“No, you try what you once believed was your best. You need a new definition. Your current definition is yesterday’s news. What do you want now? What can you do now? I don’t think you know what you are capable of.”
“You’re doing it again. I’m not buying it. I want you to wipe clean the slate and see what’s possible now. You’re going to ace this test.”
“If you say so.”
No , I want you to say so.”
“I’m not there yet.”
You see, I was basing my performance level, my attitude, and my belief in myself on who I believed I was—the stupid one—not on who I could be. Once this belief was exposed, I needed to either prove him wrong or prove him right.
So for the next 2 weeks I came in every day for extra help. An opportunity had opened up—not that it wasn’t always there but I hadn’t been willing to take it. After all, why bother when the results were bound to be the same? Perhaps even with extra help, I wasn’t going to be able to do it. But in the back of my head, a tiny voice asked meekly, but what if you could?
The day of the test came. I took it and didn’t feel half bad about it. Not that that would make a difference—since the results were bound to be the same. But what if they weren’t?
It was later on in the day that I bumped into Hendi. He stopped me in the hallway and said; “You did it.”
Not believing my ears I asked, “I did what?”
“You aced the test.”
Doubting these different results I questioned, “are you sure?”
To which he joked, “I’m not checking it again. See… you can do it. And now we all know. We all have a new definition of what your best is. So, now you’re really in for it!”
It’s a day that changed more than just my definition of my best. It told me what was possible. It changed my vision of the future and redefined what I was capable of NOW rather than going by what I thought I was capable of then. It infused me with confidence and the ability to push myself and to redefine what my best is every day.
Children must have the ability to dream if you want to see them rise to their potential . They must believe in what’s possible even if it hasn’t been done before. They must be willing to challenge themselves and others. And yes, they must redefine what is “their best” everyday and refuse to live by yesterday’s definition of one’s best.
As parents and teachers,we must give children the permission to succeed—dropping who they might have been and building on who they can be. Sometimes we all get stuck in believing their performance sabotaging mantras. It’s time to stop allowing it to happen.
So, how are you inspiring your children to redefine their definition of their best? Looking forward to hearing from you.