Aiming high comes with a price, valuing progress costs less….
Imagine a shiney space of feeling successful and full of smiles…. above all worries and wants! Then consider the effort to get to/or stay there – is it still worth the climb? Perhaps yes, if you can enjoy the steps along the way, perhaps no if you become dissatisfied by anything less than the top.
Lets think about the analogy of a building…
We all want what is ‘better’ and lots of children (and their parents) strive for the best. It’s like wanting to spend time in the penthouse – you will feel special and bit a little bit ‘above’ others, so you will also feel more secure. There is a choice of how to see yourself in the penthouse too – is it just luck, or hard work or circumstance?
Beneath the penthouse you will you be in ordinary apartments, with a small sense of competition – who is higher and who is lower, and this sometimes creates a sense of wanting more or feeling ‘not enough’. There is a little more frustration (especially when near the top but not at the top!). There is a choice of how to see yourself in the higher floors – do you want to view with a sense of dispapointed not to rise as high as hoped, or feel great that you have reached the higher floors.
There is benefit to being here. It retains the elements of the higher floors – it is still a place to live and has the benefits of a roof and walls. It has value… either as a start point, or as a position of choice. How you choose to view this place depends on how happy you are. If you see it as a useful position you will enjoy it, but if you see it as ‘not enough’ you will not. In this case, it will FEEL like the basement even when it is not!
Now things change…
Imagine the lift breaks and cannot be fixed for three months! The strain of living in the penthouse might not be worth its elevation!
The Mid Levels
People may feel relief, and the lower levels may feel a small sense of superiority - and that ‘settling for less’ was a useful place.
For many children they are able to give their best…. They either have real ability to do so, or are able to fake it and find a way. But over time, this can produce strain. This happens with academics and with friendships and sports… that children aim for highest and, though you may not see it, they feel the strain but don't know how to choose a ‘better fit point’ to aim for, having always yearned for the penthouse.
Success feels good, depending on how much strain is involved. Because if all your energy is put into winning and reaching that higher level, you may miss out on the joys of life. It may be that to reach that a good deal of support is needed so being in the penthouse is dependent on others cheering you on up the stairs every day! Using your own steam isn’t enough and you need cheer leaders in life to appreicate your efforts and encourage you along.
Sometimes settling for less whilst building skills is another option. This would mean a shift from the idea of getting to the top, to really seeing the gain in the journey.
Along the way building…
More thoughts about ‘how to’ do things
A sense of purpose
Understanding what is needed
Building the ‘muscles’ of endurance
Staying when things are hard
Finding positive ways to view what is effortful
...etc. are all useful.
So it is not wrong to aim high….but
If wanting to be friends with only the most popular kid in class is your aim, you can feel quite rejected.
If in wanting to be with the most able or confident kids in games means having to stretch too far outside. your own skills set or comfort zone, that can feel demoralising.
If wanting to be best in every subject you might be letting go of the reality that most people have better and worse subjects and feel discouraged by the one subject you fail to thrive in.
If wanting everything to be nice all the time is the goal, then any negative feelings that show up will feel immensely frustrating.
Lets acknowledge that to enjoy the penthouse requires…
Starting lower and moving up
Thinking about what is required to get there (considering problems)
Building the strengths and skills to manage it (patience/courage)
Accepting efforts and considering mistakes that occur (learning)
Persisting and not giving up when bad feelings occur (enduring)
Really learning how to self-encourge and keep going (kind thoughts)
And appreciating gain… acknowledging the value of the steps along the way (noticing what works)
As well as…
Allowing slip ups and building the patience to wait for the next step up