Almost two decades ago, heartbroken and single, I wrote out a list that described the man of my dreams. Less than two years later, my husband and I married, proving that dreams do indeed come true. (Yes, he met and even exceeded all criteria).
As a child, I spent hours staring up into the sky, watching the clouds, dreaming of what might be one day. As I grew older, I became more grounded in reality, the reality of college, graduate school, working and children.
As my husband and I have watched our children (now 12 and 14) grow, the importance of dreams and their ability to drive action, and therefore results, has become more evident, and I’ve begun to once again fall in love with my dreams — dreams not only for myself, but more importantly, for our family.
Michael Bond’s March 6 article in New Scientist Magazine, "The Science of Success: Blood, or Sweat and Tears?" caught my eye. I’m constantly on the lookout for ideas and information regarding children’s development. Bond covered academic research regarding what leads to success. Is it nature or nurture, teachers or parents, environment or genetics? Bond concluded that the answer was not simply black and white, that both nature and nurture played a role.
According to Bond, innate talent matters, but so, too, does consistent practice. Intelligence matters, but so, too, does grit, or "the willpower to see something through to the end," Bond claims. "It involves hard work, and the resisting of distracting desires and impulses."
Standardized testing and centralized education ended up in Bond’s crosshairs. While equal opportunity is often cited as the goal regarding education, Bond points out, "Not only are some people more talented than others, but people also have talents in different areas. Yet if all children are taught the same things in the same way, only some will have a chance to excel. ... Almost all the psychologists and development experts contacted by New Scientist favor a school system that caters to a broader range of talents and interests, and focuses less on measures and targets. ... What doesn’t help, say the experts, is introducing yet more standardized tests."
"Encourage dreaming? That may not seem like a recipe for success to some, but it is perhaps the most important factor of all," wrote Bond. "U.S. psychologist Ellis Paul Torrance followed the lives of several hundred creative high-achievers from high school into middle age . ... Most important of all, he thought, was to ‘fall in love with a dream,’ preferably at a young age, and then pursue it with intensity.
"Torrance coined the word ‘Beyonders’ in his article ‘Thirty Year Longitudinal Study of Creative Achievement,’ in the Roeper Review, February/March 1993. They write inordinate numbers of books or articles, invent scores of innovative devices, paint hundreds of masterpieces, and produce hundreds of films," he writes.
Falling in love with a dream, not having an infatuation that would wax and wane over time, but love that endures and creates a space for forgiveness, nurturing and hope, provides the opportunity to act upon the dream and watch it grow.
The core characteristics of the Beyonders as determined by Torrance are: "Delight in deep thinking, tolerance of mistakes, love of their work, clear purpose, enjoying their work, feeling comfortable as a minority of one, being different, not being well-rounded, having a sense of mission and having courage to be creative."
While the core characteristics might describe individuals who are particularly creative, they also describe individuals who are not the norm, who are a little different and who don’t mind that they are, at times, by themselves. This requires that a person have a keen sense of who they are and who they are not, have the ability to march to their own tune and to ignore those who might point and make fun of them because they are different. It helps if they view themselves not as different or unusual, but special and unique.
Again, there is a clear contrast to the one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development. All children (and therefore people) are different and unique, and the goal should be for each person to develop into the best that he or she can be.
Falling in love, whether with a person or a dream, provides the connection that makes long-term growth and fulfillment possible. Maybe it’s the love of one’s dream that leads to the grit needed to continue to work until one is successful.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers, visit www.creators.com.