I suppose it’s our fault — just because everything generational usually is. Too many of our kids expect life to be easy and give up too easily when it isn’t. Too many of them are quickly discouraged by setbacks and abandon a goal rather than change their approach. Why? I told you. It’s our fault. We wanted them to believe they could do anything. We wanted them to be happy.
Our resultant parenting style emphasized that trying hard was as good as achieving, that potential was worthy of praise, that stress was a bad thing, and that experiencing failure would damage self-esteem. I’m not blaming anyone here. I was party to all this too. Those of us who came of age in the 1970s and ’80s breathed the air of the human potential movement whether we were conscious of it or not. Self-esteem became a goal, rather than an outcome of living well. Self-actualization became more valued than self-sacrifice. Self-gratification sometimes became the measure of what one did instead of benefit for the whole.
The result of this thinking for at least some of the kids some of the time is that they either set happiness as a goal or are waiting for happiness to magically happen. Either stance is a setup for disappointment. As the athletes at the 2010 Winter Olympics showed us again and again, happiness is an outcome of hard work and discipline. It is the result of having met a set goal. It is not the goal in and of itself.
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