From the Principal

A Reflection on Success

Is it true that success will automatically follow a dream, a set of goals and hard work? Sadly, I don’t think it’s that simple. We often hear professional speakers or life coaches spruik the message that would have us believe, that achieving success is as simple as that. But one must ask if it is that simple. Why do so many of us fall short, or worse still, fail miserably? Now I am not here to refute this sound message, as it is true that without doing these things we are certain to fail. I am here to put a bit of a reality check on the message.

Let me use an example that would resonate with all of us. Two kids, with the same dream of wanting to achieve something special in life, like becoming a doctor, performing with the philharmonic orchestra, or playing AFL football. Both set SMART goals and work extremely hard to achieve their goals. Are both guaranteed success? Unfortunately, the answer is that there is probably not an equal chance of them both reaching their goal. There are so many other factors likely to impact on their success. Academic ability, sporting ability or any other ability will play a huge part in determining the level of success they experience. Patience, resilience, and resourcefulness combined with family circumstances, health, finances and genetics are also likely to affect the chances these kids have of achieving their goals.

When we sell a message of success being tied to dreams, goals and hard work, we also have to explain the reality, so we don’t set kids up for failure. Sometimes, these things are not enough. We want them to have dreams, and we know that without goals and hard work they will never reach a target, but we also have to tell them there are no guarantees in life. The message should be about giving themselves the best opportunity for success and placing great emphasis on enjoying the journey and their own performance.

Striving for personal performance, personal achievement and personal bests should be the intrinsic motivation we need to instil in our kids. Get them to believe it’s about getting the most out of the God given gifts and talents they have. Their efforts should provide them with that feeling of contentment, in that they have given everything they have, they have used their skills to the best of their ability and their behaviours have ensured they gave themselves the best opportunity to ‘succeed’. To encourage them along the way we need to ensure that we acknowledge and celebrate their efforts and the little wins.

We must ensure they understand that their mindset will play a vital role as there will be hurdles or stumbles along the way and it will be their ability to bounce back after the setbacks that will ultimately determine how successful they are. The ability to find another way when they happen to hit a road block or have an ordinary day will impact the heights they reach.  How often do we hear commentators, when referring to high achieving sports people, say “he/she is a champion, they won’t have two bad games/days in a row”. These people obviously pride themselves on their personal performance, on finding a way to bounce back, to get up and dust themselves off. They don’t point the finger or find excuses; they take full ownership for their own outcomes.

They remind us that the best lessons come when we have to pick ourselves up off the ground. Tough times breed tough people.

My last point is that success is something we strive for, but it is something we cannot control. Personal performance is something we can control. There are not many guarantees in life, but it is guaranteed no one achieves great success without personal effort and performance. So, we should avoid focusing too heavily on success and focus on our daily efforts, our skills, our behaviour and our personal performance, for without these we may leave ourselves short of achieving our goals. Running around the block does not equip us to run a marathon, just as completing a couple of homework tasks does not equip us to gain a 99.95 ATAR score. We should always be looking to improve, to build on what we have done previously and always look for ways we can expand our horizons.

Rob Brennan