What I learned from my 17-year old daughter

This is a story written by Zen Rabbit client Jane Daly from Bank of Sacramento. For readers of the mailed version of the Rabbit Rouser newsletter, scroll down 3/4 of the way for the rest of the story. 

My daughter is driven. She loved to set goals for herself and work to reach them. When she was in the 6th grade, she set a goal that she would get straight A’s from 7th grade all the way through high school. A lofty goal, indeed! In addition, she ran for student council president and was involved in student government all six years. She also played basketball on the school’s team. Community involvement? Of course! She was involved with the church youth group and participated in their fund raisers, community service and missions trips. Does she sound perfect? Hmmmmm.

Somewhere during the high schools years, Heather set her sights on being class valedictorian at graduation. At her school, this required a GPA of greater than 4.0. Advanced Placement classes allowed her to get more grade points for an A than in a regular class. School involvement also counted toward the valedictorian role. This was her new driving ambition! To stand in front of the whole school body, parents, teachers and staff and give a speech as the highest grade point student was now her goal.

As graduation day neared and the points were being tallied, it was clear that she and her BEST FRIEND were neck and neck for the valedictorian honor. Tension mounted, as you can imagine. Think about something you have wanted for a very long time; worked hard for; and suddenly it was within reach. So close you can grasp it. The culmination of six long years of toil.

Finally, a meeting was called of the top three students and the school administration. It was to be announced who would be valedictorian and who would share the salutatorian role.

As Heather’s palms sweated and her stomach jumped, it was announced that her best friend, Sara, was valedictorian. Heather was crushed. But she was able to wish her best friend well and congratulate her on a job well done. Sara outdid Heather by only 2 tenths of a percent.

In reflecting on this life lesson, I learned three things from my daughter:

  1. Have a worthy goal. Don’t be afraid to set a goal that is way out there. Can you imagine a 6th grader saying “I’m going to get straight A’s for the next six years?” As adults, we would want to caution, “Well, don’t be discouraged if you don’t make it. Things can happen between now and then.” How many times are we hesitant to set a goal because we hear those voices saying much the same thing: “You’re setting yourself up for failure! Set a lower goal! Don’t do it!” Set the goal and don’t let anyone tell you why it won’t happen.
  2. Once you’ve set the goal, keep it in sight and work toward it with all your heart. It will hurt. It will cause you to say no to some things that will give you a temporary good feeling. But remember Heather, who diligently did her homework, sacrificed some fun times with friends, and kept her goal in sight.
  3. Accept defeat graciously. I was never as proud of my daughter as when I saw that she was truly happy for Sara who won the role she had coveted for those years. She also fervently prepared her salutatorian speech and gave it her best effort. She was not ashamed to have come in 2nd place. If YOU set a goal and just don’t quite make it, accept that you gave your best effort and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

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