The Expectations of “Doing Your Best”


Pope Francis

Over the summer I read Pope Francis’ “Top 10 Ways To Increase Happiness In One’s Life.

They are:

10. Work for peace.

9. Don’t proselytize: respect others’ beliefs.

8. Stop being negative.

7. Respect and care for nature.

6. Create dignified jobs for young people.

5. Sundays should be holidays.

4. A healthy sense of leisure.

3. Proceed calmly in life.

2. Be giving of yourself to others.

1. Live and let live.

I thought about the Pope’s top 10 list as we move deeper into the semester and quarter grades are formulated. Suddenly, the anxiety level of students may start to increase, and they may be delighted or disappointed at some of their academic outcomes.

I believe that we need to be supportive of our young people in high school and college by helping them put into perspective all of the daily responsibilities they are asked to manage. From the notion of “high stakes testing” to competitive college admissions, our young people have to manage stress and pressure, and often need time for reflection and relaxation. I find that, for the most part, I have to tell my own children, now in college and graduate school, that “doing your best” is all that we as parents can expect. Sometimes the tasks at hand seem insurmountable and “doing your best” doesn’t get the result that students expect. Then what do you say?

Maybe that is the time to reframe the situation and study just what exactly is “failure,” and what is it that the student has “failed.” Even the most “critical” or “high stakes” assessments have their place in the total context of one’s life. We could recite hundreds of clichés to our children – when God closes a door, God opens a window, and so on. We can also talk sensibly about what we have learned from the experience and how positive next steps can be developed from it. I do not believe there is just one answer for parents who try to respond to their children facing challenges and failures. But I do believe it takes honest conversation, with results that may often not be the “quick fix” solution, but rather a slow evolutionary process.

That is why Pope Francis’ comments on ways to live a happy life are a wonderful blueprint to living our lives each day. Within the context of the day, we certainly deal with many relationships and situations, and to do so while keeping in mind this 10-item checklist is helpful in managing through particularly difficult days. So as we move through the first semester of the school year, may we as parents of students have the wisdom and grace to work through the difficulties and celebrate the successes with our children.