Right at the beginning of Springboard Workshop One a question we ask participants is this:
“What is your greatest achievement?”
We get some astonishing responses, and hearing a room-full of achievements spoken out loud makes your heart sing. One of the answers that crops up the most is this:
(Please don’t stop reading if you’re not a parent – I promise there’s a bigger picture here!)
There’s so much going on in this response it’s hard to know where to begin. An achievement is something you’ve gained by doing something, isn’t it? So if what you’ve achieved is ‘A Child’, which bit of that ‘doing’ process are we talking about? The point of conception? The act of labour? The laborious process of adoption or fostering?
When we start drilling down, what our women are proud of is actually the way their child or children have turned out. That might be their personal qualities, their record at school, some sporting or artistic talent, their resilience in a time of adversity… completely understandable, I’m a proud mum myself, I absolutely get this.
All too often we find it more comfortable to hold our own achievements at arm’s length. We might put them down to luck, good genes, supportive friends or – as in the example above – someone else’s (our child’s) general wonderfulness.
Why do we do this? Hands up if, like me, you feel just a wee bit uncomfortable standing up and stating that you’ve done something awesome. Can you hear it? That small, nagging voice that tells you not to be boastful, that bragging is unappealing, that nice children aren’t big-headed? It can hang around for an awfully long time after we’re all grown up.
To state as a fact the things you’ve achieved is not to be boastful. It’s owning the truth of what you’ve done and how you did it. Then you simply say it without diminishing or dismissing it in the telling.
So, when asked “what is your greatest achievement?” a more truthful and accurate answer might be:
“The way I brought up my child to be the kind / tough / hardworking / talented / strong / gentle person s/he is today.”
“The hard slog I put in to run the London Marathon last year.”
“Saving up for three years so I could go diving off the Great Barrier Reef.”
“Persuading myself I could pass my GCSE Maths and then doing it.”
Our greatest achievements never fall into our laps. They come about because of the effort we’ve put in. Don’t sell yourself short. Know how you achieved something, and when you tell your story make that part of it.