Valuing Significance Over Success
How does one define success?
It would vary, of course, depending on the person answering that question. However, even if we did go by the definition of the word – “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose” – it clearly hinges on a need to achieve a set outcome or goal.
In many cases, this outcome or goal is directly tied to external metrics such as which grade we scored on a test, the position we hold in a company or even the car we own.
However, bring in competition and comparison in the picture, and these metrics of success often become a hurdle in terms of fostering healthy self-esteem. This is rather true, especially for children. If a child is constantly told that he / she should aim to be successful, in terms of measures such as grades, winning competitions and so on, they would likely fall into the habit of constantly pitting their work against others rather than enjoying each lesson for its own worth. This trait, if continued into adulthood, would lead them to make life choices on the basis of what looks “better” than what truly brings them happiness.
It is thus crucial that parents and educators focus on a child’s holistic growth and well-being – which, in the long run, would lead them towards choices for a conscientiously happy life. To do so, one of the most important lessons that should be emphasized both in and outside the classroom is that we each have a unique part to play in this world. And that learning is a tool to help us hone our talents and use them to add value to the world.
If our children are guided to look to creating significance in the work they do, we would be laying the foundation for a world in which each of us uses our personal gifts to help others rather than seeking gratification for one’s self alone.
This is of paramount importance today. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to fore the need to revisit our view of the world and its issues – without further delay. As world renowned environmentalist David Orr said, now more than ever, “The planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind… It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane.”
Let us start by making the change today – in our own way.