From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Goals: Measuring and defining success
The Story of Howard Hughes, as portrayed in the
movie “The Aviator” depicts this legendary character at about the age of seven,
stating three goals: to make the biggest movies, build the fastest airplanes,
and become the richest man in the world. While not all of us aim as high as the
late Howard Hughes, this movie scene does suggest the value of identifying life
goals and keeping them firmly in mind. In a world where almost anything is
possible, most of us measure our success at various stages of life, by whether
or not we have met certain goals. For this reason, it is extremely helpful to
identify and clarify our goals ahead of time. Here are a few more thoughts on
- Visions versus Comparisons. Some people are
self-directed. They have a vision of where they are going on a road that
lies clearly ahead. In a race, these folks judge themselves on things like
time and strategy. Others, who are not sure of where they are going, may rely
on a comparison approach. In this approach, we compare ourselves
against others as a way to measure our success. Life becomes the kind of race
where compared to those who are ahead of us, we are failing; but compared to
those who are behind us, we are succeeding. Personally, I think it is
unfortunate when success and failure are based on our perceptions of others,
rather than on our own achievements.
- Self-esteem versus poor self-esteem. Self-esteem
is also negatively affected by interpersonal comparisons. Comparing ourselves
to others is an easy way to tap into negative feelings. At least when we judge
ourselves against ourselves, we have a fair shot at feeling good about
ourselves and our accomplishments. For those who wish to improve their
self-esteem, I recommend comparing yourself only to your self. Build
your self-esteem by learning new things and trying new challenges.
- Committed relationships versus isolation.
In committed relationships, we place value on teamwork. It’s all for one, and
one for all. Successful couples and partnerships realize that together, they
can accomplish more than either could accomplish alone. Within this
partnership, resources, finances, losses and victories are shared. On the
other hand, some couples and partnerships are really “isolation in disguise”.
There is no sharing of thoughts, plans or resources. Competition actually lies
within these relationships, and secrets are kept from each other. Here the
emphasis lies on separation and individuation. The problem is, as Abe Lincoln
so aptly stated, “A house divided cannot stand”.
- Meaning versus meandering. Much of what we pass
down to our children is our philosophy of life. We may place value on money or
education or possessions or relationships. We may attribute success to luck,
hard work, perseverance or superstition. We may become fortunate through
planning, goal achievement, happenstance or thievery. We may choose
simplicity, humbleness, eccentricity or lavish waste. The point is that
whether we are conscious or not about our approach, our children are always
watching and learning by our example.
As parents, our task is to prepare our children
for independence and a life of their own. We cannot take credit for their
success, and they should not base their success upon us. Our children have to
establish their own lives, set their own goals, and find their own sources of
happiness. All too soon, they will be on their own and we will no longer be
there to rescue them. However, we can prepare them for their futures by
encouraging them to be themselves. Perhaps the best first aid kit for our
children will be the one that helps them to establish, to remember, and to be
true to their own goals in life.
©Copyright, 2005, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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