Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. It takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to make and learn from mistakes. But most important is to keep going, even when you want to give up.
If you never give up, eventually you will reach your goal. And with each goal, comes a confidence that any challenge is surmountable, any goal is attainable, and that you grow when you challenge your limitations.
This was a hard-earned lesson for a high school junior who has striven not only to perform well academically, but also in leadership roles in his school and community. Recently he led a three-day family workshop on the founding principles of the United States and how it can inform global citizenship. The process was challenging, but with the support of his mother and community, it was a great success.
During his first year of High School everything was new, exciting, and call it beginners luck, but everything seemed easier.
Three years later, commitments have become responsibilities that require leadership and character. He is no longer the freshman following the upperclassmen, he was the upperclassmen being asked to lead by example and make hard decisions. The basic workload of homework drills, lab reports and exams has gotten heavier and heavier. Community involvement and extracurricular sports require more time and work. And all the while, his personal expectation to deliver the best had become non-negotiable.
It was during a moment of overload that he sought out mom’s support. Overwhelmed by all his obligations, particularly the amount of work it was taking to qualify for his Eagle Scout Badge, at first he hoped to get her approval to scale back on his workload. She did not give him that option. “You’ve come this far, you can’t quit now,” she said softly. He pushed back. He was not required to fulfill his commitment to the community project, it was voluntary. Life was getting too stressful.
“If you quit now, you are teaching yourself that it is okay to walk away from challenge.” she gently reminded him. “It’s a hard lesson to unlearn.” He kept fighting back. He barely had time to sleep or eat, let alone keep up his grades and do well in sports. Couldn’t he just let this one slide?
“You know the most important things in life are hard to attain. But it’s through the challenge you learn and grow,” she smiled.
Finally, her kind encouragement and firm affirmation of his ability to see his final project through successfully won out. He decided to take it through to the end.
And it was hard. There were more sleepless nights writing up opening remarks, there were organizing meetings recruitment calls, all while trying to keep everything else in his life in balance. But mom was also there. She brought him cookies and a cup of coco in the late evenings when he worked through the schedule. She was there to listen to his draft remarks and offer feedback. She was there to make sure he ate in the morning, packed a lunch and had a good meal in the evening. And she was there to be his advocate when he needed a voice and representation to make things work in the adult world. She worked just as hard to make sure he succeeded.
And he did. The program was an amazing success, with great reflections, and a request for more like it. When he looked at his own his experience, he had also learned a lot: about organizing and working with people, about creating a schedule, about the importance of having families learn about principles and values together, and of course that he was capable of so much more than what he thought, it just took belief and a refusal to give up.
His mother helped him see that he could do it and her gentle support that gave him the power to believe in his capacity. She saw his potential and refused to back down. Along the way, she backed him up every step of the way.
There will be challenges in every area of life, that is a guarantee. The more valuable the goal, the harder and longer the journey to attain it. But by challenging our limitations, we discover what we are capable of. It helps to have parents who can remind us of our potential, and push us when we want to give up, urging us strongly or gently to never give up and tell us how much they believe in us.
Someday they can do the same for their children, ensuring that every generation surpasses the last.