William Deresiewicz gave a speech in May to the Freshmen class at Stanford, addressing the need to make choices for oneself, and to have courage in the face of those choices. He emphasized that one requires frequent self-evaluation throughout the journey of one’s life, and that there is more to “success” than getting a high paying job. I think this speech probably flew over the heads of most of the students listening, and it might have been better received by a bunch of fifth graders at a TED Conference.
Nevertheless, his words are something we all ought to consider, because people who think for themselves, make choices based in their own values, and work to broaden themselves beyond a specialty, tend to turn into extraordinary people. They also tend to make informed choices as citizens in the political arena, show pride in the work they do regardless of its financial rewards, and work toward building an imaginative community.
Self-actualization isn’t a new concept, it’s rather old, since many people throughout history have been or made themselves self-actualized. It’s a goal I strive for within myself, and one I hope my child will achieve. It’s not an easy path, not when your choices go against the grain of what society expects of you, but it can be spiritually, emotionally, and mentally rewarding. In some cases, there’s even a financial reward, but that’s usually not the goal, unless one’s values are squarely in the money seat.
So when you’re working with your children, helping to guide them along their path, consider what choices you’re making, and encourage them to make their own. After all, these ideals are at the heart of many homeschooling and unschooling philosophies.