“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our potential,” Winston Churchill said.
Happy and effective people the world over are those who know where they’re going and work hard to get there.
From Stephen Covey to Napoleon Hill to Earl Nightingale, those who write about achieving success talk about the importance of setting goals. They also emphasize being constantly mindful of our goals and working every day to achieve them.
Perhaps this is the reason for the general success of our school system. Students are constantly given goals from the day they walk into kindergarten. Learn your letters, learn your colours, learn your numbers, pass kindergarten and go to Grade 1.
The ultimate goal in the public school system is to graduate from high school, but from there we have more goals to achieve.
It’s a beautiful system and it works for most people.
We have also become much better in recent years in setting goals for those who don’t fit into the box of public education.
In my work with at-risk high school students, I draw up individual education plans (IEPs) for each person, consulting with students and their families to establish objectives for each year. It’s also very important that I sit down early each week with each learner and discuss progress from the previous week and draw up targets for the new week.
Growth is achieved only through consistent effort. We have good days and bad days, but if we work with persistence, we’re always amazed at the progress we have made.
But once school is complete, we seldom have the structure needed to guide us forward. Now it’s up to us to set goals.
The challenge is that this goes against the structure of much of our economy. In my profession, there’s a pay scale and a retirement plan. Teach for this many years and you’ll earn this much. Work for this many years and you get this pension. You could easily fall into a pattern of doing the same thing day after day, year after year until you retire and don’t have to do it anymore. I honestly don’t know many teachers who allow themselves to fall into this trap, but it’s a recipe for an unhappy life.
If I want to speak to my students with integrity about setting and achieving goals, I have to be doing the same. I need to take advantage of opportunities for real professional development and personal growth. I need to be constantly improving.
The courses I teach must be continually adapted to a changing world to maintain their relevance, keeping in mind that some universal truths never change.
I must also be constantly evolving as a person, being better today than I was yesterday. Young people learn more from our actions than they do from our words, so I have to live the lessons that I’m teaching.
What’s true for teachers is true for all of us, especially those who have professions that aren’t constantly challenged by the ebb and flow of the free market economy.
Humans are designed for constant and consistent growth. The more we grow, the more we realize that we need to continue to grow. The better we get, the more we realize that we have only begun to scratch the surface of our amazing potential.
Life isn’t a destination, it’s a beautiful journey. Realizing this is one of the key ingredients of a happy life.
Troy Media’s Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning teacher in Prince George, B.C.