My youngest attended a junior cycling event last weekend. For his troubles he received a certificate for 'taking part, learning new skills and trying hard'.
Many people feel that today's children are over-rewarded. Everything is incentivised. Everyone gets a sticker, so that no-one feels left out. Or has to deal with disappointment.
I'm still not sure where I stand on that one. But as I paused to re-read the wording on the certificate , something struck me.
Taking part. Learning new skills. Trying hard. These aren't just challenges for children. These are ideals that all of us should strive towards. Because, let's face it, these three seemingly simple concepts aren't as simple to put into practice.
Easy huh? But how many of us like walking into a business networking event, a parent and toddler group, or a new exercise class for the first time? Thought not. In the last week, I've grappled with butterflies and forced myself into two new situations - one sporting, one work-related. Was I nervous? Yes. Did I enjoy it once I got there? Yes. Did I feel better afterwards? Yes. Will it be easier next time? Possibly not. But deep down I know that I need to keep putting myself out there.
Learning new skills
Now, this is something I do want to achieve. The challenge with this one, for me, is discipline. I need to prioritise what I want to learn, then make the time to do it. Meanwhile, I've decided that baby steps are better than nothing. Last night child number one asked if she could show me a new drawing technique she had learned. Two messy mats. Two pieces of A4. Two pencils. And the best 15 minutes of my day. For multiple reasons.
Possibly the biggest challenge of all. Particularly when there's no obvious progress or immediate reward. The ability to keep trying - even though your goal is distant and others are streaking ahead - is a tough proposition. It requires determination. Strength of character. Resilience. I believe that the ability to try hard - and to keep trying - is just as important, if not more, than natural talent. So often we tell our children to "try their best". The words are straightforward. In reality, it's a big ask.
Take part. Learn new skills. Try hard.
One innocent certificate. Three pretty solid rules for life. For all of us.