Definition of Success

My husband recently related to me a conversation between two of our friends. One man asked another, “What’s your definition of success: finishing a small number of projects, or starting lots of things and not bringing them to completion?”

Seems like a silly question. After all, we all want to be “finishers,” don’t we? I suppose I’ve always considered myself a finisher. I have goal sheets full of projects and love to check things off of my “to-do” list. However, I have to admit that right now all of my projects are in various stages of completion. Some may never get done. So what is my definition of success? I guess that’s a valid question.

Let’s take, for example, homeschooling. We started a unit study on grains several weeks ago. Got through two sections and now it’s sitting on my desk in favor of other endeavors. I’m sure we’ll get back to it, but I can’t say I have a time line on it. Likewise, we’ve begun several different books as read-alouds but not all of them have been finished. Maybe never will…at least not in the near future. Why does this happen? My answer is two-fold: first, our interests shift and change, and what seems exciting and even needful at one point may not remain a priority. Second, life is busy, we often get distracted, and sometimes it’s just easier to move on to something else.

I like the idea of bringing projects to completion, really I do. I think that self-discipline (which comes from making onesself complete things that have been begun) is a positive character trait and I don’t want my children (or myself) to be lacking in it. However, there are often other lessons learned from “not finishing” that are just as valuable. For example, when we jump from one half-finished project to another, often it’s because we get distracted by things like ministry opportunities, teachable moments, and family times. Which of these are more important to pursue? And if it’s a case of shifting interests, well, isn’t it also important to have the freedom to investigate and learn things that are of intrinsic interest, rather than stay with something that no longer has “life” in it?

So I would say that sometimes I’m a good starter, and at other times I’m a finisher. In the same way, sometimes I insist that my children bring projects to completion while at other times they have the freedom and flexibility to “not finish.” What about you?

2 thoughts on “Definition of Success

  1. Hmm… what a fine line to walk. great question. I always worried that I might pushing my kids to finish a project or do something in a subject they might not be ready to do. I asked a few friends to join with me in prayer that I will have wisdom in each and every situation. I believe in being flexible. But when is it the right thing to say NO, we are going to push thru and when it is appropriate to let go and put it on the shelf-I think that comes with practice. For me, lots of it because I naturally don’t have the discernment. I homeschool our 4 children without any help. I often feel myself lacking the discernment in certain areas or subjects. But I pray that if we don’t make the right call that we forgive ourselves, turn around and start again.

  2. Wow, once again, I feel like you are writing just for me. I am still struggling with my goals of perfection and have a hard time lowering my standards both for my children but mainly for myself. Which some days pushes me to be better, but most days just discourages me to the point of accomplishing the exact opposite of what my goals were! Thanks Cindy!

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