What is Success

Is success defined by our monetary status, our relationships, academic ability, the respect of colleagues, or our level of health? Naturally, success is relative to each person and thus different for every individual. My own definition of success is:  the ability to actualize what counts for you. The success itself is actually secondary to my mind. What is critical is how to attain or actualize the success. How success is actualized however, is often overlooked. We’ve all experienced success on varying levels, and for different reasons. ‘Yes! I got an A for the course!‘ ‘I was the successful applicant for the job!’ ‘I finally caught my first wave on my surfboard!’HOW we actualized our success’ quickly fades because the success itself stands in the limelight of our mind. The real gem however, is how the success was actualized; these are the attributes, characteristics, or traits that were called upon that actually enabled the success to occur and that that will enable future success. This is the whole point of the Successful Learner Trait Framework. To focus on, give priority to, and make very explicit those traits that will enable our students to actualize success.

Its interesting to consider our own lives and the successes we’ve achieved, especially when we think about how we were able to actualized what counted for us. For myself, success is reflected by the quality of the my relationships. Its also about being productive and seeing a satisfying end-product as a result of my effort. This might be: digging up fresh potatoes from the garden and preparing them for lunch, sailing off shore for a year in order to realize a family dream, or creating an experience for my students where deep learning occurs alongside happy, engaged energy. What qualities within myself enabled the realization of such deeply satisfying experiences?  Hmm. I’m a work horse and can persist through big jobs, marathon runs, or long uncomfortable sailing passages. I am abundantly enthusiastic too. Identifying these ‘success traits’, helps me to own them and more effectively apply them. But where did these success-traits come from? This is another important aspect of thinking about our success and what was the source of our own ‘success traits’.

For most of us blessed with a solid upbringing by loving supportive parents, the foundations for success are typically laid down by our parents. The experiences of our childhood scaffold our future success. This all happens very implicitly. The foundations of our success are subtle, yet profound. Often they exist inside of experiences of how families deal with adversity, or how shared accomplishments are celebrated together. I can trace my work-horse ethic and enthusiasm to my experiences living on a large farm in the prairies of Alberta as a young girl where the unexpected adversity and challenges faced by our family, resulted in some powerful character building.

As adults, and especially as educators, I believe its important to understand and become conscious of the traits that have led to our success. We also start to recognize that the traits we own that have contributed to our own success were never explicitly taught to us. This is key! What if it was? Making explicit what leads to success stacks the deck for ALL students, especially for our at risk students. Additionally, the understanding our own success traits enables our use of such traits very deliberately and effectively; this is equally true for our students. Many teachers have shared with me how exciting when their young learners can clearly articulate what successful learner traits they relied upon to accomplish a challenge or activity! The purpose of the Successful Learner Trait Framework is to make explicit what leads to success and to authentically and powerfully teach towards the deep cultivation of the traits within our students.