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Because of the work you do...

by Michael Popkin, Ph.D.
Founder and President, Active Parenting Publishers

Have you stopped lately to wonder if your life is a success? I do, from time to time, because it is easy to get caught on the treadmill of work and suddenly feel that I’m running fast but going nowhere.

No matter what our job description, we all spend more time than we’d like shuffling papers, attending meetings and putting out fires rather than doing the work with people that motivated our choice of careers to begin with. Sometimes even working with people can be frustrating and leave us wondering if it’s all worth it.

At times like that, I find that it helps to remember what matters most and how we choose to define success. I’ve always liked the definition of success often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson and reprinted at the beginning of many of our Leader’s Guides:

Success: To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent
people and the affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest
critics and endure the betrayal
of false friends;
To appreciate beauty; to find
the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden
patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know that even one life has
breathed easier because you have
lived. This is to have succeeded.

Leading parenting groups, teaching children, working with teachers and others who help families on a daily basis—all this work meets Emerson’s criteria for success.

Sometimes it helps to get out the old letters of appreciation from parents who have taken a course from me or to take a peek at a souvenir photo given to me by children whom I taught so many years ago. You no doubt have your own personal memory joggers, but you should also remember that because of the work that you (and other leaders) do…

  • there are children who are no longer being abused by their parents
  • there are fathers who are no longer estranged from their teenagers
  • there are mothers who have rediscovered the joy of parenting.

I know this because parents have written me letters about how your good work has changed their lives.

You should realize that because of the work you do…

  • there are fewer kids dying
  • from drug overdoses
  • there are fewer taking their own lives through suicide
  • there are fewer getting AIDS or having unwanted pregnancies
  • there are fewer teens smoking.

Because of the work you do, kids are…

  • learning to make responsible choices
  • developing the character that will enable them to make real contribu- tions to their families and communities
  • getting into success cycles and staying there.

The work you do is vitally important. It makes the lives of thousands of children and teenagers better every year. You probably don’t see the results of your work personally, because so much happens down the road. As one of my counseling professors taught years ago, if we help a person make a ten-percent change in the direction he is going today, years later that will account for a huge difference in where that person ends up. When it comes to children, we not only make a difference in the child’s life, but also in the parents’ lives and in the lives of people that child will impact over scores of years. The work that you do will truly continue long into the future and long after you have ceased to work at all.

Reflecting on this makes me feel pretty successful. I hope that it does you, too.


Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 2005 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.