To try over and over again is key to success

Father and son

Complement your children’s efforts rather than their intelligence.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Believing that you’re going to win in the end helps you keep going when things get tough.
  • Youngsters only really understand the need for perseverance once they go to college or start work.

Somehow we’re led to believe that success is all about talent, intelligence, luck or being ‘discovered.’ But statistics suggest otherwise. What really counts is perseverance. Like it takes years to learn how to become truly successful at everything, from managing a hotel to playing the piano. So being willing to stick in there is the real secret.

Even being really clever only helps a little. Far more important is hard work and determination. That’s true even for a real genius. Mozart once wrote in his diary how an entire symphony popped into his head, just like that. But no one ever quotes his next words, where he described how it took him months of work to get it exactly right.

So persistence is critical to success in life. Being focused, hardworking and able to bounce back from setbacks.

Ambition helps of course. But most people never get beyond wishing they were rich. While successful people tend to set themselves truly challenging long-term goals and stick with them, they’re also optimistic, which is another huge help. Because believing that you’re going to win in the end helps you keep going when things get tough.

You can teach your children perseverance, by complimenting their efforts rather than their intelligence. Because children who’re told that they’re clever care more about their grades than about the task itself. And if they’re struggling at a task, they think they’re not smart enough and give up. But children praised for their effort keep going, and work even harder if they find things difficult.

Parental expectations

Schoolchildren also study better and get progressively higher grades if they believe that their intelligence will improve if they work hard. Whereas those who believe that their intelligence is fixed don’t.

So, explain to your children that struggling to understand something difficult creates new connections in the brain. That’s true, and once they really grasp the idea, their marks will shoot up.

Youngsters only really understand the need for perseverance once they go to college or start work. Because that’s usually the first time they have to cope on their own. While in school there’s always someone there to help. Nevertheless, school children who learn to persevere get better grades than the others.

Parental expectations also make a big difference, though being driven by pressure from your parents isn’t anything like the internally generated enthusiasm that drives most entrepreneurs. But external incentives like family expectations and internal influences like commitment often work together. It’s possible to start doing something just because your parents say you should, but then gradually come to love it.

It’s especially good to encourage children to stick at something until they master it. Because as they see that they’re becoming skilled, their motivation increases.

Learning to persevere also levels the playing field, because perseverance favours the rich and poor alike, and people from every possible background, and at every level of ability. So get stuck in there. And never give up!

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