It’s the journey, not the destination

Palmer here!

Recently, while talking with some of my teen coaching clients about school starting, they have shared what “success” looks like for themselves. Most of the time, they start with answers like “great grades,” lots of friends, top of their sports teams, etc. While I hope they can achieve those goals, I encourage much more focus on the steps it takes to get there. Yes, getting good grades would be awesome; but I’m much more impressed by the kid who studies for 3 hours a day after school and gets B’s then the kid who spends 10 minutes a day studying and gets A’s. Why? A’s are better…right? Yes and No. While those high grades are nice to see on the report card, a strong work ethic and ability to push through long days will get them through the real challenges in life since most of life isn’t just memorization and standardized tests. From what I’ve seen, those who coast on an ability to get by without working hard get smacked by reality when they get to the real world. Jobs, relationships, physical health, mental health all take work. And they take A LOT of it.

It’s vital to commend our kids’ efforts and not just the end result. Imagine your teen puts in weeks of hard work for a project and doesn’t get the result they hoped for. If their parent’s encouragement is purely result-driven, they might think, “I failed, so I am a failure.” But if they’ve been celebrated for their hard work, resilience, and determination all along, the narrative shifts to, “I gave it my best, and I’m proud of that. I’ll learn and try again.”

So… what can you do to help create that strong work ethic and really empower your kids? You can be on the look out for effort and intention. I used to really struggle with the pressure I felt to perform at a certain level. Often those “end results” felt so far out of reach for me. I need a lot of encouragement sometimes, so that approach left me feeling insecure, anxious, and at times, worthless. As my mom and I navigated that journey and she began to put her energy into praising my effort and not just my grades, I was able to get so much further. Did I always get great grades after having the support along the way and being praised for my efforts? Certainly not. Did it help cultivate a greater sense of ownership and determination in me? ABSOLUTELY!!

Imagine you’re running a marathon and your support team is nowhere to be found along the route, but is just waiting at the end. That’s great if you can get yourself to the end, but if you needed a boost or pick-me-up at mile 5 to keep going and there is no one there to encourage you, odds are you won’t make it to mile 6, 7, and certainly not 26. It’s very easy to celebrate and be supportive at the finish line, but it matters much more to be there for all the water stations and cheering sections.

As you are ramping up for this school season, let’s prioritize supporting people along the route and not just waiting until the end.

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Palmer Skudneski
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