Advertising
Advertising

6 Things We Can Learn From Children’s Views On Success

6 Things We Can Learn From Children’s Views On Success

As Bill Cosby taught us, kids say the darndest things. But they also offer wisdom well beyond their years. As adults, we have had years of filtering, of being politically correct, of literally learning to shelter our opinion. We’ve learned not offend anyone or worse, make a fool of ourselves. We focus on what we are good at and what we can do, unlike a child who literally believes they can be anything. And while many of us won’t end up being or doing what our five-year-old version wanted us to, there are lessons to be learned from the innocence and wisdom of a child. Here are six things we can learn from children’s views on success.

1. When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut.

What we can learn? It’s okay to shoot for the stars. There’s something to be said for taking on big, huge goals. While being shot to the moon in a rocket most likely isn’t in the cards, there are other big, audacious, hairy goals that you can accomplish. Take the chance and do it. Your six-year-old self will be proud.

Advertising

2. When I grow up, I want to be a princess.

What we can learn? Love, magic, and the storybook ending may not be overly realistic, but there should be a romantic quality to your life, no matter what the age. Finding and pursuing your passions is an important part of being a truly successful, happy person. So maybe you realize you can’t be a princess anymore, since, well, that job is being masterfully handled by Kate Middleton, but you can find and embrace your passions. Your seven-year-old self will appreciate the storybook ending.

3. When I grow up, I want to have a lot of friends.

What we can learn? Relationships matter. And not just the romantic type. Being successful isn’t just defined by the career you choose, but rather the relationships you forge and the people whom you love and who love you. It’s easy, as adults, to focus only on your career and family, but having friends you ‘choose’ is one of the most important parts of a healthy, balanced life. So keep in touch with your friends from high school, have dinner with your co-workers, and reconnect with your best friend growing up. Your 11-year-old self will love catching up with old friends, and you will too.

Advertising

4. When I grow up, I want to be big and strong.

What we can learn? You’re body is a temple. Treat it like one, or your success can be cut short. Stay active and take care of your body. Whether you exercise 30 minutes a day, eat healthy, or better yet both, you’ll improve your health, live longer, and be happier. And you’ll make your three-year-old self quite proud.

5. When I grow up, I want to be like Mommy/Daddy and make them proud.

What we can learn? It’s okay to be like your parents. The 15-year-old version of your self is likely cringing at the thought, but your parents have taught you much. Whether it’s lessons as simple as how to ride a bike (persistence), how to act in public (respect), or how to run a company (ethics), those lessons were vital in your upbringing. Taking these lessons and applying them to your adult life can help ensure you maintain your personal moral compass and make your parents proud. Your eight-year-old self will approve.

Advertising

6. When I grow up, I want to fly.

What we can learn? There’s no challenge that you can’t overcome. Wanting to fly seems like an incredibly naive request, but often looking past what something seems to be and getting to the root of it can help you uncover a world of possibilities. We know you will not grow wings anytime soon, but one can certainly fly. Whether in a hot air balloon, as a pilot of a private plane, or by hang-gliding high above the ocean, you can accomplish even the most absurd-sounding dreams if you take a step back and find a creative approach.

Many of our childhood dreams are just that, childish. But there’s something that can be learned from the innocence of a child. And that spirit can easily be lost as an adult. Find ways to still dream big and accomplish your goals. Your 13-year-old self will definitely approve.

Advertising

Featured photo credit: ToniVC via flickr.com

More by this author

Kyle Robbins

Founder, BrandingBeard.com

Why Helping Others Actually Helps Yourself 10 Things You Must Do When You’re Single 11 Types Of Friends You Will Have In Your Lifetime 12 Things Highly Productive People Don’t Do Visit a park 31 Things You Can Do Instead Of Spending Money

Trending in Productivity

1 The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) 2 What to Do When Bored at Work (And Why You Feel Bored Actually) 3 6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills 4 How to Concentrate and Focus Better to Boost Productivity 5 15 Productive Things to Do When Bored (So Time Is Not Wasted)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

Advertising

Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

Advertising

One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

Advertising

But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

Advertising

It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next