We all want what’s best for our children – either it’s because of our genuine love or because of our inherent desire to see our genes survive and succeed. Our definition of success varies but essentially it means to be able to achieve a desired goal. I’ve always been fascinated with what makes successful people tick, what sets them apart from the general population? Why were they able to achieve their goals while countless others were not?
This topic came up recently when I went out for lunch with a group of my high school friends. While reminiscing about our high school days and where our peers ended up after completing their education (a.k.a Facebook stalking)- we tried to figure out why some students were undoubtedly more successful than others. ‘Successful’ meaning thriving in their career of choice, achieving higher education, ‘making it big’ or simply having life turn out as planned . The interesting thing was that we weren’t surprised at the successful students’ success; there was something about them that we recognized even back in high school. Some people just have ‘it’- there’s something about them that convinced us all that they were going to go somewhere. It was that they were confident. They weren’t necessarily the most popular, the most athletic or even on the honour roll. Yet, they are successful today.
Remember this quote from the inspirational posters on your guidance office walls?
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”– that’s a no brainer right? Well you would be surprised at the number of brilliant people who are not successful today just because they didn’t take the shots. Too many people underestimate themselves and don’t realize their potential. Like a self fulfilling prophecy they are as unsuccessful as they originally believed.
As I mentioned in my post about my Life goals; I want to do confidence building exercises with my children every day. They can learn about the planets and chemistry some other time-now is the time to focus on what I find most essential- confidence. A friend of mine asked me why I was so specific about confidence. It’s because talent, good looks,and high IQ, etc. are almost useless without confidence. A Ferrari without gas is a good analogy. I’m sure you can think of people who are blessed with many of God’s favour’s but don’t seem to be doing anything with them. The genius still living in his parents basement playing video games, the gorgeous girl with self esteem problems always hunched over and scowling. Or on the other end of the spectrum: that guy that every girl is attracted to but isn’t particularly good looking; let’s not forget the person who keeps getting promoted despite not being the most qualified. The common denominator in these illogical situations is the absence or excess of confidence.
My biggest fear in life (besides not making it to Jannah) is not being around for my children when they need me. I find nothing more gut wrenching than images on TV or in movies where children are in a panic searching for their dead mothers. I know I won’t always be around-that’s a fact( Actually I hope that it’s me that’s not around instead of them that are not around) so might as well prepare for it now. I invest hours on end going through research about how to raise confident children because I earnestly believe it’s one of the most essential necessities of life. It’s my way of silencing the anxiety I feel thinking about ‘what will happen to them if I die now?’ I’m assuming I’m not inherently morbid and that all mothers think about this from time to time-am I right? I believe instilling confidence will compensate –even if just a little-for the role I play.
Life is going to be full of tests-Allah has promised us that. As Muslims we need to face those tests with patience and gratitude. Whether it’s a math problem or marital issues-confidence in your ability to make it through, is the foundation of success.
Whether or not I am around to whisper words of encouragement when they are facing challenges, the confidence I hope to cultivate within them will be what they need to succeed.
Carol Dweck is a world renowned psychologist at Stanford University. Her book ‘Mindset: The new psychology of success’ outlines her two decades of research on mindsets in adults and children. She states that people fall into two categories ‘Fixed Mindset’ (FM) and ‘Growth Mindset’(GM). Like the name suggests, those with FM’s believe that intelligence, talents and abilities are fixed and can’t be changed in any meaningful way. FM’s are deeply concerned with attaining success or ‘being smart’ and avoid failure at all costs because they see it as a sign of un-intelligence. A GM on the other hand thrives on challenges, growth and expanding his/her skills.GM’s believe that they can achieve whatever they want as long as they’re willing to work hard enough.
The implications of these mindsets- which we manifest from a very early age- extend to our behaviour and our relationship with success and failure in both our personal and professional contexts. The most important implication of our mindsets is that it ultimately determines our capacity for happiness.
Many of us may have developed the Fixed Mindset from an early age, but the good news is that it can be changed! It’s never too late to alter our thought patterns about what we can achieve in our personal life, career, education, health, relationships and the many roles we play.
GM’s fare better in life because there are no such things as failures, only opportunities to learn and improve. They are resilient after hardship and believe that happiness is attainable. Though there are many virtues of being confident in ones abilities or having a GM- such as success and happiness- I am most concerned with resilience. I want my children to be able to pick up the pieces and move on from hardships even if I’m not there to comfort them and tell them so. As much as I love when my children succeed, I love more when they get right back up after falling. It fills me up with the wonderful feeling that ‘everything is going to be okay’.