Topic: Focus on goals, and that’s all you’ll get (if your goal is to become a billionaire, you risk becoming one — and nothing more)
Conclusion: Avoid goals. self-esteem, happiness, experiences and knowing yourself are paramount to second hander “success”
Child psychology for adults with the wrong priorities
The famous Danish child psychologist, Jesper Juul, has advocated witnessing your children’s upbringing, as well as being a true role model, rather than trying to shape and raise them with praise and bans.
Juul builds on observations of children’s willingness to mimic and assist; being helpful. Children try to do the same things you do, and they try to assist you in whatever you’re doing — regardless of what you’re trying to teach them. Children are very competent in this regard, i.e., in doing what you do, rather than what you say.
Juul also discusses self esteem vs. confidence. Self-esteem comes from being seen, loved and cared for, which produces a sense of intrinsic human value. Confidence on the other hand is associated with actual ability, such as being good at running, building things or doing math.
According to Juul, or at least what I remember from his book “Your Competent Child”, you should refrain from overly praising your child, telling them they are “good at drawing”, “good at running” etc., or for that matter issue orders like “get down from there!”, “you are not allowed to…” and so on. Instead, by saying things like “that’s look fun!”, or “do you like to paint?”, a parent encourages children to do things for themselves, to find their own center.
In addition, expressing love unconditionally builds long term self-esteem and a sense of inner worth, whereas praise tends to lead to “only” confidence, which can be ruined by a single poor execution. Nothing can ruin a solid self-esteem, while if your worth is based on ability, any little accident or setback can ruin you.
If you cheer on and praise competence and ability, you risk creating a feedback loop of: achievement = > praise => confidence => good feeling => search for more praise => achievement … => => tangible success
It might sound good being a catalyst for your children’s success, but what’s missing is self-esteem, being happy in oneself without the need for other people’s appreciation. When you’re constantly trying to prove yourself in the eyes of others, it’s difficult to find yourself and attain true happiness. You risk creating materialistic and successful but ultimately unhappy second handers.
In short, if you instill target-seeking in your children (or pursue targets yourself), they risk merely reaching those goals, and missing life altogether.
“If you do not change direction,
you might end up where you’re heading”
— Lao Tzu
(read that quote, and fifteen more of my favorite, important and useful quotes here)
You want to become rich? What if that’s all you do? (realizing at the age of 87 that you have no friends, are unhappy, lack memorable experiences, have health problems and so on). Imagine you could trade places with Warren Buffett right now. You’d get 100bn dollars, give or take, and you’d be transferred to his 87-year old body. I trust you would say no (as I wrote about here regarding Time and Money)
You want fame? What if that’s all you get? (no real friends, no riches, harassed by stalkers, never left alone)
You want to go to Mars? What if that’s all you get to do; all alone on a space ship, than all alone on an empty planet?
You want to be the world’s strongest man? You want to be the biggest bodybuilder? The fastest 100m dash sprinter?
All of those things may very well lead to interesting experiences, but if the specific goal is all you attain, your life will most likely be a meaningless one. Even worse so if you miss your one goal as well.
A final word: Be very careful in choosing your goals; update and amend them often according to who you have become in the meantime. Prioritize mid-term goals (months to years) over long-term ones (decades to life-time), and mark and celebrate your short and mid term accomplishments.
Don’t ever feel the need to adhere to a plan or goal that your younger self set up, if present you wouldn’t go back and set it up. Present you is all there is (but you might want to do some investing on behalf of your future you, just not too far off into the future)
Do you want to constantly learn new things, experience new things, get to know new people, hang out with friends and so on, then you can start right away and enjoy the entire journey.
It may be too late for you, but please avoid passing on your misguided goal orientation to your children by constant praise or threats and bans, rather than participatory witnessing as a role model.
My next post will be about the difference in longevity between men and women, and what that implies for your lifestyle if you want to live a long and meaningful life. Bookmark this page and subscribe to my newsletter to stay tuned.