Digging Deep and Finishing Strong

By: Heather Murray

Have you noticed when the chips are down you must dig deep and push yourself? I have had to do this to ensure my success and am convinced the upcoming generations will need to do the same thing. In these modern days with the competitive environment, we must push ourselves and teach our children to do the same. I am not suggesting being militant with visions of hours of enforced practice but rather educating what it means to hold oneself to a high standard and all that entails.  For ourselves, we can make sure we are doing our very best work, whatever we are undertaking. You might be surprised to learn this is best practiced while focusing on the small things we do every day. For instance something as small as loading the dishwasher (or washing the dishes by hand) for example. When we take pride in loading the dishwasher every time we have a dirty dish which creates a well-executed outcome, we ensure we are digging deep and finishing strong. In this way we are modeling for our children and teaching them too. We can set the standard. We will always clean up the dishes and never leave one in the sink. This seemingly small goal turns out to be a big one when gaining control over forcing ourselves to accept nothing less than our best. Besides the small task (I consider it big) of “doing” the dishes, other daily chores such as making the bed each day and doing it well, brushing teeth morning and night thoroughly, etc. can help get us in the habit of doing all things on time and with high standards. This is what I call “striving for excellence.” Students who excel in school are great examples of this high achievement.

As an educator I have often stated that honor roll students do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether they want to or not. This same mantra plays out in life success and, no matter how small the chore, helps children learn what it means to dig deep and finish strong. This single habit of striving for excellence plays a large part in any success. Over the years I have noticed many people shying away from insisting they do their best, and even more parents who are afraid to make sure their children produce their best work. I believe we have stopped nudging our children on their journey to be their best because we worry we will make them feel badly. I know it feels weird to suggest your child (grandchild, niece, nephew, little buddy) push harder, and it isn’t easy to push yourself either. But if you want you and your child to be able to do more, or be more successful, then perhaps it's time to make a change. Start with the everyday chores and do them each and every day without fail. Then once that habit is set, continue doing the simple tasks with excellence. Reaching the top level of what we are doing takes time, effort, failure, and persistence. It isn’t magic – what you see as others luck is actually the result of hard work. Take for instance learning something new. When was the last time you tackled something you didn’t know how to do, failed a few times, kept trying and in the end felt very accomplished because of your newfound knowledge? To reach our own high standard, failure and persistence must occur in order to succeed and as parents we must make sure our children experience both. If it’s been awhile since you have done something like this you need to get back to stretching yourself. With each occurrence of pushing yourself you will start to realize you can master learning if given enough time, put in enough effort, and keep going even when you fail and as a bonus your children will witness the process along the way.

Striving for excellence is what helps guarantee success in life, whether it be as a student, a friend, an employee, an entrepreneur, a spouse, or just a good human. Here is the plan for being on top of your game. Do this with your child too. 1.) Choose something to learn and/or master; 2.) Make a plan: how? online learning, YouTube, mentor, take a class, etc); when? make a schedule of when you will learn; practice? keep a daily/weekly record of practice and progress; 3.) Have a weekly family meeting during which each person can report their progress; 4.) Set time frames for a reward, celebrate the success along the way (simple dinner out, going to the park, nothing too elaborate but just enough to say progress is being made); and when finished, review the process used to get there and celebrate success. In all you and your children do, make a habit of asking the question– “Am I striving for excellence?”  

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