If you struggle to let your past go I have good news: a bad action doesn’t define you.
Don’t Tell Kids They’re Smart
I’m going to tell you something that might shock you: you shouldn’t tell your kids they’re smart.
It’s true. Psychologists say that telling kids they are smart can have huge negative consequences. Why? For a very simple reason.
When you tell a child they are smart they take that as a trait – as something they are – not as something they attain. What’s more, they fear losing the trait. Even those people that understand that a bad action doesn’t define you, often still try to apply labels when they think it’s good.
Unfortunately, when a child is told they are smart and it comes time to stretch themselves, they shy away from taking chances. Instead of growing intellectually, they play it safe. They want to avoid doing anything that will remove the “smart” label. Sadly, the result is the exact opposite.
Praise Their Effort
As much as we like to believe people are born smart or talented the truth is much different. These things are learned, not created at birth.
When we look at someone like Dwayne Johnson, we don’t think “there’s a guy born with muscles”. No, we think “there’s a guy who worked hard to become strong.”
The same is true with intelligence, business acumen, writing ability, etc. You’re not born with it: you exercise it and get better at it over time. A bad action doesn’t define you; concerted effort over time begins to shape who you are.
People think Tiger Woods has natural talent, but when he was very young, his father would take him in the garage and put him in a high chair so he could watch his dad practice driving with a makeshift “driving range”. At 10 months he was using a special club his dad made for him. At 18 months he was going to the golf course. That’s not natural talent; that’s an extremely early start.
If you want kids to succeed, you don’t praise a trait: “you’re so smart”; you praise effort: “you worked so hard”. Effort create success.
More than a Label
But we are not so easily defined, and when we try to define ourselves with labels, even good ones, we often find ourselves stuck and struggling to break free.
But you are not a label. You are a person. Your past actions don’t define who you have the capability to be. If you want to be all you can be, try these three simple steps:
- Avoid Labels: Feeling like your life is predefined can be pretty limiting. You don’t have to be “the nerd” or “lazy” or “shy” or “clumsy”. These are labels that serve only to make us believe something and then act according to what we believe.
- Focus on Effort: Do you want to be smarter? Read more. Do you want to be more productive? Work more. Do you want to be more outgoing? Talk to more people. You can become who you want to become.
- Try Again: Did you not get the results you were going for? Then try again. Success is simply the absence of quitting. If you’re still moving forward, you are on the path to success.
A bad action doesn’t define you any more than any other label. You can be what you want to be. Avoid labels, focus on effort, and, when things don’t work out, try again. That’s the road toward success.