Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Succeed in Life

I think a lot about how I should raise little R so that she has the best chance of success in life. I want her to be smart, so I expose her to many new experiences. I want her to enjoy reading (since poor reading skills are correlated with huge problems, like being suicidal, dropping out of high school, and going to jail), so I buy her lots of books and read them with her often. I want her to be well-adjusted, so I try to be be calm, consistent, affectionate and positive whenever possible.

Probably the most important quality for a happy, successful life is a personality characteristic referred to by psychologists as "conscientiousness". People who have a lot of this succeed in school, at work, and in personal relationships; they also live longer, healthier lives. People who are low in this quality are more likely to commit crimes; develop drug addictions; have difficulty sustaining friendships or marriages. They are even fatter.

What does "conscientiousness" mean exactly? It's defined as "the quality of acting according to the dictates of one's conscience": in other words, the ability to be self-disciplined. Aspects of self-discipline include an ability to postpone gratification (passing up that cookie; not having sex with that handsome stranger; going to work even though you want to sleep in); being careful and painstaking in the tasks you attempt; and thinking carefully before acting. Traits associated with conscientiousness include orderliness, self-control, industriousness and responsibility, and honesty.

So obviously one of my main goals as a parent ought to be helping little R build and develop her self-discipline. It seems like this is perhaps the most important gift I could give her (at least after being loving and affectionate, so that she doesn't become a psychopath). The only question is, how to do this? I am still thinking about it.

1 comment:

  1. I have no particular words of wisdom, but this post made me think about the poem I grew up with taped to the refrigerator. "Children Learn What They Live" by Dorothy Law Nolte. My mother would read it often just to remind herself of the values she wanted us to have, and looking back on it now, I think she did a good job :) Here is the poem in case you haven't seen it.