Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How do you measure success?

I don't put a lot of stock in academics.  Don't get me wrong, I love learning and strongly encourage it in my children and others as well, I just don't care about being graded on it. I have never enjoyed studying anything just for the sake of memorizing some facts for a test; it just seems ridiculous to me.  Ridiculous it may be, but it is also a necessary evil.  There has to be some way to measure a student's aptitude, so grades and standardized tests do have their place in life, I (begrudgingly) suppose.
 I certainly don't use test scores and grades to measure success, though.  I didn't when I was in school, and I don't use them to measure my children's success either.

Churning out straight A (inside-the-box-remember-it-for-a-test-and-never-really-learn-anything) kids has never been a parenting goal of mine. This is not to say I want my kids to shirk studying or fail in school.  I want them to do their personal best and learn work ethics, how to follow authoritative direction and follow through on assigned tasks - these are skills that everyone needs in the world.  I just don't believe the grade itself is the goal.  I have always wanted for my children to be well rounded people who know who they are, contribute to society in a positive way and get joy from whatever path they choose in life.

This desire, to me, is different than a mother's pipe-dream of - I just want them to be happy.  People can be happy doing a lot of things that aren't worthwhile.  Someone may be happy amassing a fortune, for instance, but where is the societal payback to his individual wealth?  Another person may be happy never working a day in his life, but rather, living off of handouts and government assistance.  Again, there is no worth for the greater good in that kind of life.  No, in both extremes there is a lack of connection to community and making the world a better place for all people, not just oneself.

What I mean by finding joy in whatever path they choose is so much more than just being happy.  Firstly, it means finding out what is special about ourselves and using those gifts in a positive way.  It means measuring success without any dollars and cents attached.  It means supporting ourselves, loving what we do and doing it with passion, while not forgetting that others might need our help sometimes.  It means opening ourselves up to friendships with all sorts of people and finding out where we fit into the chain of humanity that spans the globe; each person different, yet just as valuable as the next in keeping the chain strong.  We all have a part to play; none of us can exist in isolation.  We were made to be interactive and coexistent with others.  We are relational creatures.

So, how do I measure success?  I don't look at grades.  I don't look to bank balances or positions on the corporate ladder, as I have observed some focusing on.  I look at a person and see what other people say about him.  Who are his friends and how does he treat them?  Is he kind?  Is he generous?  What does he love to spend time doing?  The answers to these questions, among others, tells me so much more about a person's success than his class rank or company title ever could.

I have heard it said that no one gets to the end of his life and wishes he had closed one more deal or made one more sale, but he might just wish he had spent more time doing what he loved, with the people he loved.  I really want my children to live a life with that end in mind, so that they find the joy, make the relationships and contribute to the world every day.  I wish them a lifetime of triumph and success.  It is my job now to nurture and encourage them as the unique and wonderful individuals that they are so that they can find success in their lives.

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?~ Matthew 16:26