One recent morning, my husband and I were watching the local news. The anchor team was interviewing a young man who was about to embark on a journey to explore all of the coasts of the United States on a Jet Ski — all the way from Maine around to Washington. When he was asked why he was doing it he replied “I want to see stuff.” Then, almost as an after thought, he added “and my message is to kids to follow their dreams.” I said to my husband “How is it that someone could put the rest of their life on hold, and have the financial wherewithall to do something like that?” My husband replied “that is not normal peoples’ reality.”
In a way he is right. There is a small percentage of the world’s population that become those that achieve “greatness.” They are adventurers, great scholars and scientists, professional athletes, political leaders, and celebrities. They are the unique individuals who Tweet about doing things on their days off like scuba diving off a tropical island or attending a designer fashion show when the rest of us are doing our laundry and cleaning our homes. There will always be those that make news for the unique and unusual successes they achieve. The rest of us are busy achieving less lofty goals in our own realities.
I completely believe that we should encourage our children to reach for their dreams — that virtually anyone is capable of achieving their goals. My only concern is if we push them to fulfill their dreams, are we in danger of setting them up for unreasonable feelings of failure if they don’t quite achieve them? Are we telling them that just being “good” isn’t enough?
I will always support and encourage my son to dream big and go for those dreams. If he wants to be a world traveler, a rock star, an Olympic diver, or a great inventor, I will cheer him on and be his #1 fan. However — if he doesn’t become one of those, and instead “just” becomes a healthy, happy man with a good heart, a kind soul, a good education, finds work he enjoys and is able to pay his bills, and strives to have a beneficial impact on others or the environment, I will be no less proud of him — perhaps even more.
If you ask anyone who their hero or role models are, they may respond with a few well-known names of those in that “greatness” category. But even more likely, they will name people like their mom, a childhood teacher, a coach, a soldier, or a loved one battling a disability or illness. That’s right, the majority of our true heroes and role models are the “real” people in our lives.
So how do we encourage our children to achieve big dreams, but at the same time let them know it is ok if they don’t quite reach that “greatness” level? I think the best way is to lead by example. It is vital that we all, no matter our age or stage of life, have dreams and goals. Even if those dreams and goals change and adjust over time. As for me, before I leave this life, I would love to be a successful published author, travel to see more of the world, and volunteer more to help those less fortunate than I. If I am able to achieve any of those goals, I will feel lucky and blessed. However, if I don’t quite make it, will I lay on my deathbed filled with regret and remorse? Geeez, I certainly hope not. What kind of example would I be setting for the next generations? I’d much rather have an attitude of peace and gratitude, and say “wow, what a great ride I had!”
So, Real Women, what do you say we all make a promise to each other? The promise is to reach for the stars, and encourage our children to stretch even further to grab those stars even higher than ours — but at the same time, we must remember to recognize and appreciate that our ordinary lives are already pretty darn extraordinary.