I’ve recently been thinking about the really important things I should teach my children – the values that will help them to (hopefully) grow into happy, successful and decent adults. It’s the things that aren’t always taught in a classroom – the things that I realize may be lost on some of the present generation. Through my various interactions with adults, it has become apparent that not everyone is taking snaps from the same playbook – some folks just don’t get it. They don’t get how to be responsible and accountable and cordial. They don’t get the common sense component of how human beings should interact with each other. It’s unfortunate. But that’s one of the cool things about being a parent – getting the opportunity to help mold the little people you created into (hopefully) productive members of society. Now as with everything, part of this is a crapshoot… 1 plus 1 does not always equal 2 – just because you preach certain values doesn’t mean they’ll listen. But I have to believe that providing a foundation rooted in humility and goodness has to play some kind of role. So this is my list. These are the things that count in my book. It’s what I hope I am able to effectively teach my kids, and what I hope they apply when it matters.
- Admit mistakes – Period. No one expects perfection, but what they do expect is when you fall short, you fess up, take responsibility. Especially in the workplace. How you act when you royally screw up is one of the quickest way earn or lose respect. Just own it.
- You are in charge of your attitude – To pull from the famous Charles Swindoll quote, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Sometimes you can’t control the people and circumstance around you, but you can control how it impacts you. Your attitude is always within your control.
- Be genuine – Be you. Whether people like it or not. Don’t let your crowd dictate who you are. It’s okay to go against the grain. People will appreciate your honesty and respect you for it. True authenticity is rare.
- Don’t feel entitled – The world doesn’t owe you anything. You’re not entitled fairness or to live the life you think you should. Life isn’t fair. Hard work gets rewarded. Handouts are the easy way out.
- Think about other people’s feelings – Taking the extra time to consider the feelings of others will pay off in the long run. Empathy and compassion will build relationships and trust. In a world of people screaming “me, me, me,” showing consideration will set you apart.
- Be humble – Don’t ever get too big for your britches. Accept compliments graciously. Don’t boast – let your accomplishments speak for themselves.
- Show appreciation – When others make your life easier, be grateful – they didn’t have to. Showing gratitude builds others up. People who feel appreciated give back. Say thank you often and mean it.
- Don’t be petty – Don’t make a big deal over small stuff. Forgive quickly. Don’t make the insignificant things significant by giving it your energy.
- Be generous – With your time, with your stuff. Give favors easily because you never know when you’ll need one in return.
- Don’t expect anything in return – When you are generous, don’t do it with the intent of repayment – you will be disappointed frequently. If you put enough good out there, it will come back to you, but maybe not in the way you expect.
- Don’t take things personally –Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that people have ill intentions toward you. Although it’s easy to take other people’s words or actions to heart, often it’s not even about you. Being overly sensitive and insecure is unattractive. Your friends/family/colleagues don’t want to walk on eggshells, so don’t break at every criticism.
- Don’t feel sorry for yourself – Instead, focus on improving your situation. Self-pity is not productive. There is always a bright side. It might not be immediately apparent, but I promise you it’s there.
- Respect authority – Teachers, police officers, bosses, the President. Especially the President. It doesn’t matter if your political beliefs align with the person in office; it is patriotic to respect the President.
- Be accepting of others – We’re all different. Black or white, gay or straight, Christian or not, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, toilet paper over or under – we’re all human, all worthy of love. Spend more time looking for each other’s similarities. Don’t disparage those less fortunate than you.
- Don’t compare yourself to others – Life is not a competition. What others have is irrelevant to you. You don’t know their whole story. Measure your success against your own scale. You will never be truly happy if jealousy is your motivator. Make your own goals and go after them.
So that’s it – my two cents. Knowing it is the easy part. Living it and being an example for my kids is the hard part. Game on.