In recent years, there has been an alarming tendency for adolescents and young adults to seek only the path of ease. In other words, when given the opportunity to apply real effort to learn, grow or improve, they choose to “sit it out.”
The rationale for the lazy path sounds like this:
• “Oh, I don’t want to work that hard.”
• “It’s not worth it. I just want to hang out with friends.”
• “Mom and Dad work too hard. I don’t want to be like them.” • “I do okay without really studying, so who cares!”
• “I’ll work harder when I get older.”
• “I will be a YouTube hit, like Justin Bieber, so I don’t have to.”
• “Why should I? My parents have lots of money.”
Seeking the easy way out:
The formula for misery In many ways, we find that choice based upon what requires the least effort is the inevitable formula for misery. Notice, however, we are not required and this does not imply that we should take the most difficult path. That’s not the answer.
But, first, we must get clear on why the easy path is so harmful, as we often allow our children to choose it. Under this approach, multiple weaknesses are encouraged and nurtured within your child, which ultimately build misery. 1. Difficult tasks are abandoned because it’s too hard, so skill is not developed.
2. Sustained attention, which requires effort, is not established.
3. Self-esteem is not developed. Doing one’s best builds esteem.
4. A sense of emptiness comes from seeking the pleasurable way out.
5. They do not see or comprehend the reality formula: Efforts bring rewards. In essence, doing less than we are capable of inevitably messes with the mind and makes us weak.
If you want your child to have a better life, do not confuse this with an easier life
The two are not the same, and many of us get confused on this issue. We want a better life for our children, so we create and build an easy life. We see the manifestation of this in children who feel deserving of anything they want, with virtually no effort. They expect new toys, new phones and new clothes whenever they ask, with ZERO effort of their own. They expect to be taken to their friends’ houses, parties and sleepovers with a five-minute notice—and we do it. All of this builds the expectation of an easy life where everything comes their way, with little (if any) contribution of their own.
Best effort: The key to happiness
Learning to give life your best is one of the secrets to a full and happy life. Why? In the process of seeking to learn at your best, perform at your best and contribute to your best, we open the door to an important realization: We actually GET the most from life when we GIVE IT the most we have. It is by applying our greatest resources, skills and intellect to the task at hand that creates the greatest satisfaction. By doing this, our perspective is on the present, not the future or the past. This brings enormous contentment, as well as a settled sense of internal ease and esteem. Yet, it is not a bragging point or an inflated esteem that arises from doing our best; the impact is internal and reflected in how we carry ourselves in the world.
Without this, we tend to chase pleasure and happiness through incessant activity and stimulation. We notice our children taking the easy path to find the quickest track to pleasure, rather than expend effort toward growth, learning or contributing to something of value.
As school ends and we enter summer, resist the urge to make things too easy for your kids or to make their school break focused exclusively on pleasure. Allow and support a balance of effort-based activity, as well as pleasure-based activity and insist that a contribution toward the family and community is included in that effort. Ignore the complaints that they will have initially; you are teaching them a life lesson about learning to work a bit harder and give a bit more. Hold them accountable to real effort on tasks of real value. And for the remainder of the summer, do enjoy it and have some fun!
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.