Achievement is not everything, not even close

There is an emphasis on achievement today that is completely out of proportions. Our lives, from the moment we are born, focuses almost solely on what we achieve. Who we are is pinned on what we have accomplished and we learn to narrate about ourselves in a way that puts emphasis on what we do and all the things we have done and are planning to do.

It is as if achieving (exceptional) things has become a goal in itself and while it isn’t per se a bad thing to achieve things there is a problem with the way we value what a person has achieved or what a person does. It creates a believe that the goal is to accomplish something and that the process is not important and this is a mistake.

When something interests A she will pursue it with the kind of enthusiam that characterises a child. Immediate, strong an undenying. She can have enthusiasm for something for a short period of time or for a longer period. It all depends on her mood, what it is she is doing, the setting and lots of other things. The main importance of being free to occupy your mind and body with what you find interesting is that you do it because you are motivated to do it. You don’t do it to gain recognition.

museum of natural history
a big block of ice
pouring water down a hole

The problem with doing something with the sole purpose of gaining recognition for the outcome is that the sort of recognition you get is usually based on the set of values that dominates our society today. At least in great parts of the world, and definitely in the Western societies those values focus on achievements mostly and for a great part academic achievement. I am not saying there is anything wrong with academic or any other kinds of achievements. What I am saying is that these aren’t the only skills we should pay attention to. There are MANY more skills that are of equal importance to the well-being of our society as a whole and to the well-being of individuals. All kinds of skills are needed if we want a harmonic society. And if we place too much emphasis on a certain set of skills a huge part of ‘lesser valued’ skills are going to be forgotten or abandoned. As of now a great deal of very important skills have already been forgotten or abandoned. For example the knowledge of how to grow your own food. This is not something that is taught in school, at least not in Danish public schools. One could suspect that this isn’t knowledge the powers that be would like children to have.

The process, which is the part where you learn things is also forgotten if the focus is mainly on the goal. There goes pondering, contemplating, re-focusing, changing your mind etc. all down the drain. These are important things to go through in order to find out what you actually like to do.

I hope that providing A with the freedom to choose what she wants to do and not putting more value into certain (more academic) things she does can help her to develop the skills she feels she needs at a certain time and the confidence to pursue them.

The freedom assigned to her to abandon any project she may have started and pick up a new one provides her with the confidence to start new projects because there is no pressure to finish a project she may have lost enthusiasm for. As a parent I sometimes have to remind myself that this is a good thing. On many levels this is a good thing. It is a good thing because the initiation of a new project (this doesn’t have to be some kind of huge accomplishment. For all I know it could be blowing up a balloon) comes from the ability to come up with ideas which come from her own head. Ideas that have not been put there by somebody else. This is not to say that being inspired by others is not a good thing; it can be a very good thing. It is also not to say that coming up with ideas is a goal in itself. What I am pointing to, really, is the importance of being able to trust yourself and your own abilities and to feel comfortable with your own abilities. That is what I hope for A to be able to do.

If you are not all the time reminded to think that there are some things you do that are better to do than other things you will not automatically value your own accomplishments all the time. What you do will not be the core of who you are. The things you do are a part of who you are of course, but they shouldn’t define you as a person. And they certainly shouldn’t define some people as ‘better’ than others.

A while ago A was very into playing the ipad. Especially the game hay day which, as far as I know, is about getting your online farm to flourish by developing it in all kinds of ways. You have to sell stuff in order to earn money to buy other stuff that you can use for improving your farm and so on. Well, while I am not always myself that enthusiastic about playing video games I do understand the value of having an interest in a particular game. I see that she is really into it. She is on skype chatting to friends about what she needs to buy and sell etc. and she tells me about how she just set up a new machine on hay day and so on. Thus, there are many more aspects than the game itself to playing this game.

As a parent who has been schooled all my life I sometimes find it hard not to judge her activities and interests exactly because I myself have been put through the whole system of value and judgement that the educational system is. It is a system that wants to mold you and put you in a box from a very young age and people are so used to being judged that by the time they finish school they are judging themselves just as harshly.


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