What’s most important? Achievement or character?

What’s most important? Achievement or character?
18th January 2016 Anne Richards

What’s more important? What we achieve in life or the kind of person we are?

She said she didn’t think she’d done much with her life. I vividly remember the last conversation I had with her not long after her 93rd birthday. It was very reflective and honest.

When it came to writing a tribute to her I realised that in some ways she was right. Certainly by contemporary standards she hadn’t achieved very much at all. Most people will never know anything about her – she certainly wasn’t successful or famous. No academic qualifications. No career.

I realised though, it was possible to express deep gratitude for the kind of person she was. Because she had qualities and characteristics which were consistent and endured.  Her unswerving commitment to family life shown always in love. We could rely on her to always have an emergency packet of polos in her handbag when we were kids, which continued for our kids. Always there to pick us up when we fell over when we were small. There to read us a story, teach us to knit, and sew. Always interested in what we were doing as we were growing up. Proud of our successes and opportunities. Much of the time though, she was in the background working hard, and getting jobs done for the sake of everyone else. She never sought recognition or thanks. She was a woman of principles and values. And on reflection I reckon she must have sacrificed a lot for the sake of everyone else.

She outlived her husband by almost 30 years and actually it was in that phase of her life that she became more her own person in so many ways. It was then that she learned new things – she learnt how to swim, and discovered that she had a talent for art. She developed a vibrant social life with new friends. Even in her grief she found a deep resilience to rebuild her life.

So, why should I be regaling you with the story of my Grandma? Well, in this world where we are so driven by success and achievement, and there’s nothing wrong with that, perhaps it’s harder to get a glimpse of who people are – of their character and integrity.

So here’s a question for us to think about. In our context of learning, how are we helping our young people develop their own values, character, principles and integrity, which will underpin their success and achievement?