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Educating our Children for Long-Lasting Fulfilment

By Arun Abey - 5th July 2010

When it comes to bringing up our children most of us would agree we want them to be happy. So the way we educate and raise them should reflect this.

Of course when we say we want our kids to be happy we mean we want them to enjoy a holistic sense of wellbeing.  Critical to this will be their ability to lead a life which is congruent with their values, priorities and passions.

Fortunately given the right guidance, children are adept at discovering their own values, and finding creative ways to fulfil their goals.

Children learn quickly. While adults struggle for weeks reading user’s manuals for all the latest gadgets, our children seem to know how to use them almost intuitively. And I am constantly surprised by the ability of my two boys aged 12 and 15 to distil complex information in a matter of moments.

In fact, I often experience my deepest moments of clarity when I discuss important concepts with them and am forced to do the same.

One such moment came 5 years ago when my elder son, then aged 10 asked me what were the most important things to consider when choosing a career. My answer was that he should find something he enjoys, that he is good at, that he can live off and has a positive effect on others.

It seems simple enough. After all, as psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote: ‘the most beautiful fate, the most wonderful good fortune that can happen to any human being, is to be paid for doing that which he passionately loves to do.’

But unfortunately this isn’t always the approach our society and we take to educating and raising our children. All too often, education seems to be focused on the path which leads to the highest paying career, typically in areas like Finance, Law or Medicine. The assumption is that a high-status, high-paying career will bring happiness. And for some it does. Yet there are countless examples of unhappy lives spent pursuing wealth and status.

So how can we take a different approach to our children’s education both at school and home – one that explores the four core elements to lasting fulfilment – passion, competence, financial security and making a difference to the lives of others?

The starting point is to help children discover their passions. Some ways to do this are to:

•    Share your passions – Has a friend’s infectious love for an interest or hobby ever inspired you to develop it too? Or perhaps you caught a love of something from one of your teachers at school. While you don’t want to force children to love what you do, sharing your interests with them can inspire them to discover their own.

•    Buy your children experiences as gifts – In a society where so many people, including children have every material possession they could possibly need, experiences can make great gift ideas for your kids. And research shows both the giver and receiver are likely to get longer-lasting satisfaction from experiences than things. This could include classes in a particular interest, concert tickets, a mystery flight or a weekend adventure.

•    Explore different experiences, people and places – Family holidays can be a good time to open your children’s mind to new and different experiences. Travelling to foreign country, especially a developing one, can be a powerful educational experience for kids. Or at home you could try holidaying with friends, farm-stays, music festivals, or adventure activities, all of which expose children to different people and unusual experiences.

•    Give your children the opportunity to explore the natural world – Exploring nature helps develop a spirit of enquiry for many kids because nature is so extraordinary and complex. This could include exploring the rocks at the beach, taking a walk in the national park or sitting out at night to watch the stars.

By helping children explore different sources of happiness, we can help them discover the distinction between short-lived pleasures and longer lasting gratifications, as well as the power of helping others. This will hold them in good stead when helping them choose a career path that will fulfil them, and also in using their money wisely through life to maximise long-lasting wellbeing.

Of course passion is not always enough – in some cases there is too great a gap between one’s passion in a field, and the talent needed to achieve success or find financial security. But one of the beauties of the modern world is the opportunity to combine passions and skills in creative and fulfilling ways. Children are great at this – but first they need to be encouraged to explore their passions.

Comments (2)

SusanW's picture

Encouraging our children to experience life

After good marks as a teen led people to only ever offer me law and medicine as possible career choices, I now encourage my own children and others that I meet to think about what they enjoy and what they are passionate about when they are thinking about their future. You spend far too many hours at work to consider a long-term job that makes you miserable, even if it does pay well.

I love the idea of encouraging children to try new things and offering them opportunities to experience something new. I agree it is tempting sometimes to guide our children in a particular direction but I try to make sure my focus is teaching my children how to think about things rather than telling them what they should be thinking/doing.

YvetteVignando's picture

Living a Life Congruent with Our Passions

I think this is a subject ripe for contemplation. Although I am completely committed to supporting our kids in following their passions into the work environment, I also have that natural parent-knows-best-brain inside there somewhere. I love to see the boys developing their interests and talking about their possible jobs and future adventures - I think it's ideal for motivation generally - but I have to honestly say I make a conscious effort to edit my observations to avoid imposing my own idea of a fulfilled life on them! The line between loving guidance and pushy parenting is not clear. What do you think?

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