Why is finishing strong so difficult for so many? What are we teaching our children? If we want our children to thrive, we should teach them how to run through the tape and not coast to the end. We need to set an expectation of excellence. All of us desire success for our children, but we tolerate mediocrity. The path of least resistance is the path most often chosen by most in society, but the way that leads to excellence is the path with the most resistance. Children are the future. Our responsibility is to teach them to be resilient, to develop grit and manage fear, to have stamina, perseverance, empathy, and emotional intelligence, and how to thrive. Instead, we teach them our bad habits.
Bad Habit #1 – Do whatever it takes to get back into your comfort zone.
Our desire to remove all discomfort from the lives of our children makes them vulnerable. The rest of the world isn’t raising their children to seek comfort at the cost of commitment.
Bad Habit #2 – Blame others for your lack of success.
The continuous pursuit of comfort and distraction eliminates nearly any chance of sustained success. All success requires discipline and is achieved through consistent action and effort. Instead of applying consistent effort toward the realization of our dreams, many seek a community of commiseration to cast stones. We blame schools for not properly teaching; we blame the government for not creating more opportunities; we blame our parents. We blame the boss, the company, our spouses, and anyone who has wronged us throughout our lives. The sad thing is that we teach our children to abdicate responsibility for their lives and then to validate their station in life by blaming others.
Bad Habit #3 – Coast through the finish.
The time to double your effort is at the end because that is when everyone else is coasting. Our society is so used to quitting, that it applauds finishers. But those that succeed over the long-term push through the pain and finish strong. I have run a few marathons (26.2 miles), and the desire to quit between miles 13 – 22 can be overwhelming. The joy of running across the finish line at mile 26.2 is indescribable. I am not saying have our children run marathons, but ensuring they experience the joy and pride of finishing strong is a gift that keeps on giving.
Bad Habit #4 – Image is more important than substance.
The social media trap is what I call it. We all know the images presented are but a snapshot, and the reality is not so glamorous. Yet the ego begins to compare the images it sees with the reality of our lives and starts to despair. The saying is, “compare and despair.” Despite knowing that most social media platforms can be distortions of reality, we become depressed about our own lives. Social media is not going away, so we must prepare our children by discussing the false reality it can create in their minds.
Bad Habit #5 – Not my job.
When it comes to raising children prepared to strive and thrive in the world, it is our job. As parents, we should hold ourselves accountable for sharing the lessons we have learned along the way. As teachers, we should have high standards of excellence, balanced with compassion and discipline. As community members, we should be an example for every child that graces our presence about living life with excellence. Unfortunately, the reality is that the four bad habits that preceded this one make it impossible to accept responsibility. It is our job to step up and take action.
In pontificating about this dilemma and the long-term consequences for our country, I thought, “Our schools aren’t preparing kids about life. They need life skills to go along with the reading, writing, and authentic”. Two weeks later, while driving, it occurred to me – it is my parenting responsibility to teach my kids these life skills. It is not enough to rely on them watching how I live and learning through observation. Excellence would be taking time each day to share a lesson about life on a topic that is important to master.