17 Apr The Fine Line Between Ambition and Delusion

My generation has always been told we could be anything we wanted to be, do anything we set our minds to. Some say this has led to overconfident, entitled individuals who expect everything to be handed to them. While I don’t think it has quite reached that level, I do think a more happy medium may be appropriate. So what are we supposed to tell our kids when they ask us if they can be President, or an astronaut, or a professional athlete?

Instead of telling our kids how great they are at everything regardless of its truth, maybe we should be a little more honest with them. Do they not deserve to be told the truth? Let’s face it, the first few weeks on American Idol are full of delusional children of enabling parents. If you constantly tell your children they are good at everything, or that it’s good enough just to participate (the participation ribbon may be the downfall of my generation), than why should they strive to be better?

I bet his mom told him he was great

So what should a parent do? Well, my little one is less than 9 months old, but I am already thinking of how to handle these situations. I think it obviously depends on their age, the older they get the more honest you are with them. You can praise your child for a job well done without telling them they are the best. You can still help them to become better by telling them if they want to be better they need to practice. You would be doing your child a disservice if you do not prepare them for the real world, if they think they are good at everything than they may not take criticism well, or have a very good work ethic.

How does this tie in with finance? (Since this is supposed to be a financial blog) Well, although I think my parents did a good job at keeping me from being one of the delusioned gen Y’s, somewhere along the way I did develop an unreasonable expectation of income after college. Everyone always told me all I needed to do was get a degree and then I would get that high paying job. Well, it has now been 2 years since I graduated, and I barely make more than I did when I was 18. Part of this is due to the economy, but part is due to the fact that everyone was told the same thing, so now it’s the norm to have a bachelor’s degree, and it is no longer enough. So instead of telling our kids do X, and you can get Y, we should tell them to plan on being better than your competition.

One thing to remember is, it’s never too late to do what you want to do (unless it’s being a professional athlete, or something with an age limit), but for the most part, if it’s something you want to do, you can still make it happen. I am currently reading “48 days until the work you love”, and I am in the process of deciding what it is I want to be when I grow up. When I make that decision, I will lay out a plan of action to get there. If that means going back to school, then that’s what I am going to do. But for our kid’s sake, let’s try and impress upon them that there is a fine line between ambition and delusion; it’s called having a plan and following through.

Message to Claire: Simple, set goals and have a plan of action and a time frame for accomplishing those goals. Also, share these goals with your friends and family, the more people that know your goals the more likely you will be to accomplish them. If your goals are high, then make sure you have a great plan of action. If your plan is to be the first woman President, than it’s true what everyone says, you can do what you set your mind to. But you better have a plan, just “wanting it” won’t cut it.