How would you set your children up for true career success? In a perfect world, when it comes to choosing an occupation, we would have only two priorities:
1. To find a job that we enjoy
2. To find a job that pays us enough to cover the reasonable needs
In reality, when it comes to choosing a job, three additional concerns can creep in:
1. We need to find a job that will not just pay enough to cover the basics but enough to impress other people. Sometimes these people are ones we don’t even like very much
2. We strive for a job that will allow us to not be at the mercy of other people
3. We hope for a job that will give us respect from our peers, allow us to be held in high regard and maybe even offer fame so that we will never again have to feel small or neglected
These three additional requirements make working life hugely more complicated and, quite probably, more unhappy than it would otherwise need to be. It’s little wonder some of our children have absolutely no idea what true career success means! Rather than being able to focus on the work they are passionate about and that they would essentially enjoy, they sometimes end up twisting their natural wants and needs to appease somewhat false external prerequisites.
This thought process means that a lot of us are driven to aim for far loftier careers in fields we’ve been taught are the epitome of working life – even when we may not really like them and may have to work much harder than is good for our health or our family. We are prone to become anxious because the bar for “failing” is so much higher. So, for example, if we make a bit less money than the sum we made last year, it registers as a momentous negative moment in our careers. Under pressure, we may make foolish career moves, cut corners in our work, involve ourselves in risky get-rich-quick schemes or not give our work the time and focus it needs. We’ll almost certainly be less creative and original because the dangers of failure seem so great.
So what is it that children need to find a job they enjoy and be content with earning enough to cover reasonable needs? Aka “true career success fo children”. The answer might come as a surprise to you but it is equal parts simple for those of us who have experienced it and fiendishly difficult for those who haven’t. The answer is love.
Before you write this off as just another “hippy” perspective, stick with me for a bit and hopefully, it will all make sense… A child who is properly loved is one who doesn’t need to prove themselves in any significant way. They don’t have to excel at school, dazzle their peers or prop up a parent’s fragile sense of esteem based on their grades. This child may still do well at school because they enjoy the work not because they want to make their parents proud.
They can find their way to their own pleasures. They don’t need to amaze; because they’re special enough just by existing. This child may end up working extremely hard but will do so because of passion, not applause. They can concentrate on doing a job very well, while unhindered by worries about whether they’ll be known to people around the world.
Once they become an adult this love further enhances their sense of security. When someone properly loves us (and by “someone” I most certainly mean ourselves first then others) we tend to feel rooted and welcome. It doesn’t really matter if no one knows who we are or if there isn’t a lot of money in the bank. When we are loved, we don’t feel compelled to work harder than the task at hand requires. We don’t need to accumulate beyond measure; we are already gratified purely by the fact that we exist.
On the flip-side, when people crave power, fortune and fame, it isn’t greed that is driving them but a feeling of being unloved. These people look like winners but in reality, deep down are unhappy victims. All the frantic activity of modern high-powered people stems from a feeling of invisibility and unimportance.
Life achievements are great but often excessive achievements are the legacy of an emotionally damaged sense that it isn’t enough just to be. How much money is needed without love? How little one can get by on with love! It may have become second nature to us to try to fix emotional wounds through our career choices and exploits and often we may not even realise that it’s happening. Those of us who have lived a little should dare to ask: what might I have done with my life up to this point if I had felt truly loved from the get-go? We may have to acknowledge some hard truths about our parenting style to ensure our children don’t sacrifice their genuine ambitions in the name of shoring up a sense of acceptability.
The most astonishing career achievements will never compensate our children for lack of love. Work cannot fix this deficit. So show them unconditional love and teach them to enjoy work (& life) on their own terms. You’ll set your children up for true career success and they’ll thank you for it later.
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