All students know at some level what it feels like to be humiliated. When this happens, the person who is hurt has a decision to make– he/she can either buy into the criticism and be made to feel small and insignificant or he/she can resist feelings of inferiority and defeat the criticism through positive thinking. It takes tons of energy to build and maintain a strong self-esteem in the midst of criticism and humiliation but it’s energy well spent and leads to the development of a strong character.
Setting aside the 19th century gender-biased language and applying the wisdom to all students, Thoreau is saying something important about success and positive thinking. If students believe they can succeed, then they are halfway home. The power of positive thinking is undeniable. But failure is also crucial. Students must find a balance here between positive thinking and acceptance of their imperfections. Only then will they learn how to persevere.
Students of every age struggle with moral decisions about how to balance their own individual needs with the needs of others. Either way they decide, there is sacrifice. Focus on the individual and they must sacrifice others. Focus on others and they must sacrifice their own individual needs. Clear answers are hard to come by. What’s important is that students make a commitment to reflect deeply on ethical decisions before they make them and take responsibility for the decisions they make.
Students approach decision-making in very different ways. Some are very impulsive and see decision-making as something to rush into and are very comfortable making changes on the fly. Others take a cautious approach and carefully consider all options before deciding on a course of action. Each situation demands its own customized strategy and students must reason through the options to select the right one.
Happiness is something all students want. The challenge is always how to get it. Students often get mixed messages here; on the one hand, they are told to focus on themselves and figure out a path towards happiness that benefits them directly. On the other hand, they are told that happiness can only be achieved by helping others. The choices they make in the quest for happiness shape their characters in profound ways.
Character development is at least as important as the development of academic skills. A strong character fuels self-discipline and self-motivation, both of which breed success in life. But character development sometimes feels like impossible work, especially when a person’s difficult life circumstances get in the way. How a person turns out is often determined by forces out of his/her control.
Going through hard times is something most everybody has to do. Some people face hardship and turn away. They become discouraged and think that success is unattainable. Others see hardship as an opportunity for self-motivation, goal-setting and a fresh re-evaluation of values. Students must determine whether to see hardship as a barrier or an opportunity, and accept the consequences underlying the choices they make.
The ability to work in a team is touted by teachers, employers and coaches as an indispensable skill. Alone, people can accomplish great things but when people work as a team the potential for success skyrockets. Students know this in theory but when it comes to accepting the reality of working with others who have different styles and motivations, all of a sudden teamwork feels like a heavy burden.
Self-motivation is an important skill for students of all ages to master. It’s important for students to reflect upon what motivates them to do their best. The challenge with self-motivation is to find exactly what triggers a person to become invested and interested in something enough to see it to completion. For some, motivation is more feeling-based; for others, more thinking-based. Finding that reliable guide for personal motivation is essential for success in life.
Respect is something all students want. The question is how to get it. Students are told that if they hold themselves in high regard, people will want to be around them. They are also told that respect comes from doing things for others. Though the path towards respect is different for people, all agree that it is a worthwhile pursuit and leads to greater self-awareness and self-efficacy.
An ambitious person is confident and self-motivated, both of which are qualities we want to see in our children. But ambition sometimes gets us into trouble. It encourages us to compete with others over scarce resources and that causes us to be selfish and uncompromising sometimes. It’s important to recognize that there are other people in the world and we have an ethical obligation to think about their needs as well.
Ask the students what they dream about and you are sure to get a wild variety of interesting answers. Students dream all of the time and some use them to set lofty goals for their life pursuits. Others see dreams as fake pictures of reality. However they are viewed, thinking about dreams is a chance for students to become more self-aware about what they value and what they really want out of life.