It’s not enough to be smart

Published by Lori Pickert on January 23, 2013 at 09:38 AM

From the HBR blog:

It’s not easy to live up to your fullest potential. There are so many obstacles that can get in the way: bosses that don’t appreciate what you have to offer, tedious projects that take up too much of your time, economies where job opportunities are scarce, the difficulty of juggling career, family, and personal goals.

But smart, talented people rarely realize that one of the toughest hurdles they’ll have to overcome lies within.

Gifted children grow up to be more vulnerable, and less confident, even when they should be the most confident people in the room.

The kind of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children has a major impact on the implicit beliefs we develop about our abilities — including whether we see them as innate and unchangeable, or as capable of developing through effort and practice. … Incidentally, this is particularly true for women.

We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. And because bright kids are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be adults who are far too hard on themselves — adults who will prematurely conclude that they don’t have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.

How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach? Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at? Skills you believed you would never possess? If the list is a long one, you were probably one of the bright kids — and your belief that you are “stuck” being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined. — The Trouble with Bright Kids

Being smart — even gifted — isn’t a magical key to success. Each of our children is a unique bundle of gifts, talents, interests, and issues. Being brilliant in one area doesn’t mean they’re all set. Struggling in one area doesn’t mean their life should revolve around their deficit. Each of them needs to be met where they are and helped to life a full, authentic life.

What we say, what we offer, and how we support them makes a difference. We can create circumstances in which they will define themselves — for life — as learners, makers, doers, problem-solvers.

Think about the life that your child lives, how he spends his day, what he spends his day doing, and who he does it with. Does he feel in control? Does he do things that matter? Does he effect change? Does he participate in something larger than himself that has meaning? Is he connecting with his interests, his talents, and his purpose?

Is some small part of his day dedicated to digging deeper into his own interests and figuring out how he can contribute to the world he lives in?

Much of our children’s lives are out of their control — but I would argue that those parts where they are in control are where they are doing the deepest learning and the deepest character formation. That’s where they are acquiring habits of mind — traits that will help or hinder them on their life’s journey.

We all need practice becoming who we are. Let’s make sure our kids get to live lives that aren’t entirely controlled, decided, narrated, annotated, evaluated, and judged by someone else.

hat tip to Deirdre 

1 comment

Comment by kayte on February 13, 2013 at 09:34 AM

Amen.

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