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May your aspirations be realised!

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Monika Pedersen

WithIn the academic year, the month of May brings with it a plethora of exams and the closure of an educational chapter. Students in class 9 at Danish schools are finishing their official schooling obligations, while grade 12 international students are completing the last of their studies prior to heading to further education, the world of work, or international travel. It is a busy and testing month with a lot of pressure on students, parents, and educators.

It is also a time of reflection on the achievements and successes of the previous years and how they will frame and influence the next. Whilst doing this, a key word to consider is ‘success’ and how it should be interpreted.

The meaning of success

Success has many meanings in different contexts, but the common similarity is that a goal or dream is achieved. Many of us strive for success, big and small, and we also know that many small steps make up that journey.

Along the road to success, one is likely to experience challenges, setbacks, and even failures. It is not all bright and wonderful as it is conveyed in romantic movies or glossy magazines. In reality, it is this part of the journey for which we need to prepare our children and students. It is crucial to brace them for the fact that hardships can hit and that they should be equipped with strategies to deal with these unwanted episodes. This is particularly significant when starting a new aspect of life’s journey.

As a parent and a teacher, the instinct is to want to protect children from making mistakes. However, trying to prevent children from ever experiencing disappointment or having to take responsibility and bear the consequences of an unwise choice is detrimental to their development. Though unwanted, these lessons need to be learnt. Fortunately, it is possible to teach a child to approach a disheartening situation from a different angle. To do this, it is necessary to instil a positive mindset towards knockbacks.

"Along the road to success, one is likely to experience challenges, setbacks, and even failures."

Changing mindsets

To do this, a shift in stance is needed to see a setback as a chance to review the original approach taken for any flaws or to learn a valuable lesson that can be applied in the future - this might be the most challenging part, but key, to seeing the event as a positive building block to bigger success. By working with a child to see an oversight not as an error but as a learning opportunity to be embraced, the young person stands every chance of dealing effectively with future demanding situations whilst maintaining his/her confidence and finding the strength to try again.

By building this capacity into a student’s mindset, the real strength of a person is forged, along with traits of resilience, determination, and persistence. These, among other qualities, are the ones which will assist a person to deal with adversity and appreciate the necessary steps towards reaching the pinnacle of his/her target.

It is also the perception of what success is that is important for students to consider. To see success as a celebration of a series of actions or decisions in a range of spheres and not as a single trophy helps a child gain a broader definition. It is this mindset that encourages a child to see the upside of life and the simple experiences that create well-being and happiness, for example, the beauty of a sunny day or the sharing of homemade cake with their family. It paves the way to seeing obstacles as hurdles that can be overcome, and in doing so, it develops a sense of purpose and control and a willingness to take risks and grow stronger. It is the process of forming, now commonly referred to as ‘grit’, or as was known in yesteryear’s terms as ‘backbone’.

Adjusting a child’s perception and interpretation through the vocabulary used, the reactions to decisions and outcomes, and the maintenance of a reflective, buoyant mind enables children to develop a positive, grounded outlook that will help them see challenges as the chance to grow and life is a series of opportunities towards the realisation of their aspirations.

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