Character v. accomplishments

Written by Ashley

I am a collector of quotes. Particularly quotes that change my perspective or reframe the way I look at the world.  

A few weeks ago, my wife told me about a fantastic quote I wanted to share. My wife and I have three kids ages 15, 13, and 10. They all play sports competitively, and they work very hard on their grades (okay, the 15-year old has to be pushed a little bit, but you get the point). Over the years, I’ve had a tendency to get really excited when one of my children does something really good. I pat them on the back, give them lots of encouragement, tell them how awesome they are, etc. etc.  

The quote my wife told me about changed my view on how I was encouraging my children. Here’s the quote:  

“Celebrate your kid’s character before you celebrate their accomplishments.”

Celebrate your children’s character first

Think about that for a second. When you celebrate your kid’s accomplishments first, you’re teaching them that they get positive reactions based on whether they win or lose, not necessarily how they play the game. That’s ingraining in their psyche the notion that accomplishments are the most important thing, as opposed to character.

On the other hand, if you celebrate your kid’s character before their accomplishments, you’re teaching them that how you play the game is more important.  You show your kids that it is less important whether you win or lose, or make a bunch of money in your job, or go to all the right schools, or have a bunch of followers on social media. None of that stuff means anything at the end of the day. What truly matters is whether we are raising good, solid human beings with a moral framework to make decisions as they grow into adulthood.

Accomplishments don’t last

Accomplishments are also transitory. They don’t last. They slip away. Maybe your child doesn’t accomplish what he or she wants to accomplish. That happens all the time, both in children and adults. If you are accomplishment-focused, then you will tend to feel bad about yourself regardless of how you end the game, and you’ll judge your self-worth based on whether you win or lose. That’s a toxic way to look at the world.

On the other hand, if your kids are focused more on character traits like hard work, perseverance, ethics, compassion, kindness, charity, or whatever other character traits you think are appropriate, they will be more focused on a much more important thing. How you play the game.

Cheaters don’t always win

I love winning. I hate losing. I love accomplishing things. I hate setting goals and not reaching them. So it’s not as if accomplishments aren’t important. But you don’t really accomplish anything of any substance without character behind it.  Sure, there are plenty of people that made a lot of money and cheated to get it. There are people that win sporting events unfairly. As we’ve seen from the college admission scandals, there are parents who conned their child’s way into prestigious universities. Those may seem like successes, but if you don’t have character to back it up, it’s not repeatable, it doesn’t last.

Character is repeatable and lasting. If you have good character traits, you will be successful, whether you make the most money, have the most Instagram followers, or go to the most prestigious school. What’s important is how you get there, building your character along the way.

I thought this was a super important quote and wanted to share it with all of you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this quote.

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