That was daunting—but understandable, considering our tendency to get more set in our ways as we grow older. But I was even more surprised to see something else when the college opened a sister primary and secondary school (K-12, as we call it in the U.S.). I was amazed at how much of this same thinking was coming from developing high school students, impressionable middle schoolers, and even wee elementary pupils.
Though we express it differently at varying stages of life, it is all essentially the same attitude: “This is too hard!”
No teenager should make such concrete, negative pronouncements about his or her abilities. No adolescent should be so sure about what he or she just can’t do.
If our infants knew any better, they might say at age 11 months, “I just can’t walk. This walking thing is just not for me.” But they don’t. We expect them someday to get off all fours and keep their balance with the rest of us. And they embrace the task.
When should that change? At what age should our children shy away from challenges?
Yes, it’s harder to learn certain things as we get older. Yes, every child has certain aptitudes as well as mental and physical strengths; certain subjects will come more easily to a child than others. And yes, there may be times when it would be better for him to shift to something he has a knack for rather than bullishly persisting in a doomed effort.
But what’s the attitude? Are our children simply settling for what comes easy? What kind of life do we doom them to if, after they try something once or twice without success, we allow them to give up, resigned to “just not being good at that”?
When even 7-year-olds comfortably slip into this attitude, it is clear this is part of our human nature. We naturally opt for what comes easily with the least effort and the most instant gratification.
In our “it’s too hard” world, we must constantly prod ourselves never to quit—to stick with something through whatever challenges stand in the way.
Our children can take lessons from history. They should know about the inventors who failed thousands of times before creating their masterpieces. We have to teach them about great men and women who ignored the naysayers—even their inner naysayer—and built great institutions. They must learn that anything worth having is worth struggling for—that only when it is “too hard” is it good enough to go after.
One of those persevering historic figures was Herbert W. Armstrong, who founded several enduring institutions despite severe obstacles. In his booklet The Seven Laws of Success, Mr. Armstrong outlined two laws to overcome failure: drive and perseverance. The first of these is the positive, internal-combustion engine that propels us to vigorous action. The second is the determination to stick with a task even in the face of the inevitable obstacles that will arise.
No one can expect to be a success without developing these qualities. Our children especially need these two laws of success. They need help to push themselves to overcome their mental blocks and the gravitational pull toward lethargy.
We are all born knowing nothing—we must be taught everything. How many of our “mental blocks” come from us simply never learning what we need to know? Our children—and we—must never give up on a concept before even starting!
Mr. Armstrong said he learned more in the last 10 years of his 93-year life than in all the years before. He also wrote that, in general, ages 16 to 25 are vital preparatory years for the mind: “At age 25 a more definite adulthood of mind, attitude, interests, is reached. The mind becomes more ‘set’ in its ways. The years between ages 16 and 25 are the vitally important years of adult preparation for life’s work. These are the crucial years of PREPARATION. During these years the mind is capable of acquiring faster than at any other stage of life the advanced knowledge needed before beginning one’s adult career ….”
What budding college student should resign himself to failure in certain subjects he thinks he is “not cut out for”? What child should say, “I just can’t”?
Our children’s paths to success will include obstacles that need to be overcome. Let us not obstruct that path by removing all hindrances. Teach them how to drive themselves and to persevere. Not everything will come naturally and easily to them. The endeavors that require them to break through or surmount obstacles are generally the ones that come with the greatest rewards.
Request a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet The Seven Laws of Success.