By Dave and Annabella Hagen
“The poorest man is not he without a cent, it is he without a vision.”
–Old Chinese Proverb
When Michelangelo created his masterpiece sculptures, he had a vision of what they could potentially look like. Your children’s successful life journey also begins with vision–how they see themselves, and how they see their futures. Your children can be taught in your intentional family culture to fiercely believe that they really can accomplish whatever they can see themselves doing.
If your child has a dream and does not believe that they can accomplish it, they are probably right—they won’t. No one else has the right to tell your children what they are capable of. Let them find out on their own where their ceiling is.
You are your children’s flashlight
Help your children to “see” their possibilities by celebrating and supporting their vision for themselves. Affirming words from a mother or father are like a light switch and can light up a room full of possibilities for them. Regularly ask them this question: “Who and what can you become in your life?” As a grandma said to her grandson on many occasions: “Go set the world on fire!” In other words, “I believe in you!” Encourage them to “shoot for the moon, and wherever you end up is good enough.”
When combined with consistent affirming experiences, what deeply rooted belief can your children acquire from this principle? “I AM a person who can be what I can see.”
Michelangelo used hammers and chisels as sculpting tools to create his marble masterpieces. We propose that there are five “sculpting tools” you can use as a parent to teach your children to be “what they can see.” These tools are designed to work together to lead your children to internalizing and living this principle. They are:
- Foster Optimism
- Celebrate Their Dreams
- Be a Dreamer and a Doer
- Don’t Be Afraid to be Special
- Change the Way They See Themselves
In this article, we will focus on tool #1:
What’s most important is not what your children know, but what they believe about themselves. Dr. Bob Rotella is one of America’s preeminent sports psychologists. His book, How Champions Think, includes great insights about what goes on inside the minds of high achievers in all walks of life. He says, “Any successful life starts with the way you see yourself.”
Based on his decades of professional experience, his opinion is that the first essential quality of high achievers is optimism:
“It’s not something that’s either in your genes or not in your genes, like blue eyes. I don’t believe that people are born either optimistic or pessimistic the way you’re born either right-handed or left-handed. Exceptional people, I have found, either start out being optimistic or learn to be optimistic because they realize that they can’t get what they want in life without being optimistic.
Optimism is an attitude that people can choose to have. It’s not always easy, but it can be done. Successful people I have worked with do it all the time. They choose optimism. Whatever happens to them, they find reason to be hopeful.
Sometimes, after I give a talk, parents will approach me and say that they wish their kids had been present to hear it. Then they’ll catch themselves and say, “Maybe it’s just as well. I wouldn’t want them to get big dreams, then be discouraged when they can’t achieve them.” I can’t help but think that these parents are going to raise the sort of children who, whatever their dreams might have been, will become people who just want to be safe and secure.
Optimism doesn’t guarantee anything in life, but it will improve your chances. While the correlation between optimism and success is imperfect, there is an almost perfect correlation between negative thinking and failure. So why wouldn’t you be optimistic if it were a choice you could make?”1
Here is a real-life example:
A man in his fifties was visiting with a teenager who lived in the inner city of Los Angeles. When asked about his vision for his life, the young man matter-of-factly responded, “I’m either going to jail or I’m gonna die.” His answer was shocking, but the odds were that he was probably right—and those odds were increased by the fact that he was already laying out that path in his own mind. The man who asked the question could respond only by saying, “You’re probably right. As long as that’s the vision you hold for your life, that’s likely what you will get.” What your children expect for themselves in life is usually what they will get.2
And a contrasting view:
One set of parents we interviewed, who have raised five well-adjusted children, shared this with us: “My wife and I wanted to make sure we gave our children ‘roots and wings’ as a catalyst to their creating empowering beliefs about themselves. The ‘roots’ are a sense of who they really are, a knowledge of their family heritage, and where they come from. The ‘wings’ part allows them to take their own flight in life, based on the confidence and vision we have tried to instill in them—the thing that is possible for each one of them.”
You can share this same optimism and vision with your children!
We will be covering the additional tools in future articles. Stay tuned.
If are interested in reading our book, The Masterpiece Mindset: Empowering Your Kids to Be Confident, Kind, and Resilient, please go here:
1. Bob Rotella, How Champions Think (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2015), 15.
2. Pete Carroll, Win Forever (New York: Portfolio/Penguin 2011), 185.