Sustaining “Pure” Self-Confidence

My most recent article over at Lifehack.org tells about the “life list” my 7 year-old son has been composing over the last couple of months – on his own. I stumbled across his list about a week ago (modeled after John Goddard’s life list), and it has led me to ponder the question, “What difference do goals make, anyway?”

I recall hearing a terrific quotation from David Allen about goals. He said: “The value of goals is not the future they describe, but the change in perception of reality they foster, and the change in performance they effect right now, inside of you.”

hell freezes over(Re-read that quotation… it’s a great one.)

I love that my son believes that anything he can dream is possible. I love that that’s his reality. (“It’s not over, Daddy,” he says frequently, when watching a sports event whose outcome seems obvious. “Anything can happen.”) His life list reflects his expectation that he will eventually fulfill his loftiest aspirations (whether this is accurate or not is irrelevant) and if David Allen’s quotation is accurate, today and tomorrow he’ll “perform” with the pure self-confidence that fuels all great lives.

My challenge as his parent is this: How can I help him sustain his self-confidence, optimism, and possibility-thinking and carry it into adolescence and adulthood?

(To read my original article, My 7 Year-Old Son’s Life Listclick here.)

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3 responses to “Sustaining “Pure” Self-Confidence

  1. As is often said, “If I knew the answer, I’d win the Nobel Peace Price for Psychology.” But, not “knowing” never stopped me from pontificating.

    Here’s an example from rearing my two daughters, who are both outstanding athletes, “A” students, and responsible citizens (thank you, Lord!). When they were young, I was worried about being negative and dousing their spirit by offering “advice,” particularly in sports. But, having played a lot of sports and coached some, there was a lot I could offer them.

    When they were both very young, I kept saying in every way I could say it that if I “ask” them to do something a certain way, that was to help them get better and “let’s try it.” I also added that I wasn’t being “mean.” At one time, their favorite come-back to someone that wouldn’t let them do what they wanted was to call them “mean.”

    My intro before delivering constructive criticism was preceded with a non-phony positive or compliment, if I could. I’d always say things like “let’s see if this lets you do it better.”

    This worked so well, once they were starting into really competitive sports, they would start coming to me asking how they could do it better.

    There’s always some obvious stuff that improves what they’re doing immediately. That opens the door right away to mutual trust and understanding. My girls also quickly understood that they could learn from the school of hard knocks, but, learn faster, from constructive advice.

  2. I enjoy your blog, Crawdaddy. A couple thoughts on this post. First, you have a neat kid. Be sure to thank God or the universe for that. Second, you are doing something right as a parent. Although I had good and loving parents, they are not “possibility thinkers” and therefore did not model that valuable skill for me or my sisters. It’s something I’ve had to learn on my own. I don’t have kids myself, but I think the best thing you can do as a parent is to continue to nurture your own possibility-thinking so that you can continue to model it for your kids.

  3. The picture you included was a great example, too. In 2004, the Red Sox were down 0-3 in a best of 7 series, meaning they had to win 4 straight to come back, which no one had ever done in professional sports. And it was against the Yankees, who are known for their “clutch” playing, while the Red Sox weren’t.

    After the third loss, most of the world had written them off, but David Ortiz (Big Papi) believed. He told his teammates they could still come back, and they actually believed him. And against all odds, they came back. Being a Red Sox fan, it was the greatest sports moment ever!

    The reason it had never been done before is probably partly because many people believed it just couldn’t be done. Or even if you believe it in theory, believing it when you’re in those shoes is a lot harder.

    On a related note, I play in a tennis league, and I have to play people who are obviously better trained, skilled, and fit than I am. If I expect to lose, I will, but by believing and doing what I can, I’ve won some of those matches (much to the dismay of my opponent!). Much of the battle is in the mind.

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