I recently had the pleasure of meeting Stedson Red Plastic Bag Wiltshire, and it was one of the most memorable occasions in my recent lifetime. As I stand at just under five feet tall without the assistance of heels, I was immediately impressed and at the same time almost intimidated by his height. What was more impressive however, was how easy going and pleasant this lyrical genius was. We discussed our children, life and his music and I left his company feeling inspired. One of the songs about which we spoke was his 2008 work, Excellence in Life. In this song he writes,
‘That you have to strive for excellence in life,
Don’t settle for lows go for the highs
Strive for excellence in life
It wouldn’t come without sacrifice
Strive for excellence in life’
I have discovered that there is a chasm between excellence and perfectionism but many persons confuse the two. As someone who has struggled with perfectionism this is definitely not the trait to pass on to our children. For the perfectionist as suggested by the name nothing is ever good enough unless it is perfect. This mentality leads to counterproductive traits such as procrastination, frustration, decreased self-worth, dissatisfaction and being critical of self and others just to name a few. It is a vicious cycle going around and around that eats away at the individual, and creates a tornado of broken relationships. Instead the focus should be on doing our individual best and striving for excellence.
To avoid inflicting upon our children such a burden perhaps from the time they are tots we can instill in them the value of striving for excellence. To instill means to gradually but firmly establish an attitude or idea (especially a desireable one) into the mind. I believe on the path to excellence children need to feel secure not only in a physical sense, but they need to have confidence in the love and support given by their parents, relatives/guardians, friends and teachers. These little ones come to us as vessels of clay to be moulded into the productive and valuable citizens they were born to be. Each of them has a destiny so great it cannot be fathomed by mortal reasoning, but sadly many of them never reach it because of some injustice meted out by another individual.
Do not for a moment think I am speaking only of the horrors of physical and sexual abuse. Some of the more subtle dream-stealers such as lack of support, little to no encouragement, comparing one child with other children, unfair punishment, no enforcement of discipline and a list that goes on almost to eternity, are just as detrimental. These ‘foxes that steal the grapes’ do a lifetime of damage to our children. In the end we churn out individuals who in school or the workplace are unable to take initiative, who are aggressive and every other word from their mouths cannot be published or spoken in good company!! These damaged ones exact the patience of Job from our teachers, and push their limits some to the point of resignation or early retirement. Unfortunately as adults they walk around with the mentality of the world being against them and move from job to job accompanied by a poor work ethic and little to no dependability.
This does not have to be the case. We as adults have the awesome responsibility and privilege, to pour positivity into the little ones within our spheres of influence and add value to their lives. We need to ensure that they can read, and read well so that the world becomes an open book. Whilst we want them to access a wealth of knowledge there needs to be guidance because ‘foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child’, and attaining knowledge without guidance is a recipe for disaster.
They need to understand that failing at a task does not make one a failure, but that failed attempt, followed by another attempt reinforced by a renewed sense of purpose and an unrelenting desire to succeed, can effect a change so powerful it blows the mind.
They need to understand that each child (or adult) is an individual created for a different task. We have different strengths and weaknesses all suited to whatever our purpose is in life. Whilst there must be the acquisition of different skill sets along the way, we excel at what we are inherently good at, because we enjoy it the most. There is no feeling like being where one is supposed to be, doing what one is called to do.
They need to understand that they must be kind and thoughtful and embrace the less fortunate especially when they become great successes. One of the greatest tragedies is the loss of a soul to pride and selfishness. Whilst we should not remain where we are, we should never forget from where we came.
Now that you have read my thoughts, find that little one or big one in your care, give them a massive bear hug and let him or her know that he or she is the best thing that ever crossed your path. You never know, the next Prime Minister, or the one who finds the cure for AIDS, or a solution for global warming may come from right in your living room!