It was equally frustrating and encouraging to watch Caitlin, daughter of ‘white’ Dee (picture: C4) on the infamous Channel 4 documentary ‘Benefits Street’ last night, declare her ambitions to work in fitness, much to the derision of her mother who couldn’t understand why her daughter would want to work for a living rather than effectively be ‘paid’ to do nothing.
As long as Caitlin can stay focused on her goal, is not distracted by the counter influences around her and pays more attention to her mum when she talks her contrary message of wanting a career for her daughter, which she very confusingly also did, she will probably succeed despite the odds being stacked against her.
It led me to wonder whether the key to success is the goal itself rather than your circumstances, although it is undeniable that these obviously have a massive effect.I was having a similar conversation with my dad at the weekend over a birthday drink. He left the family home when four of us siblings were very young. I wanted to be a journalist and needed five ‘O’ levels and three A levels to become a trainee, which I dutifully obtained. It was an English literature lecturer on my last day who suggested a degree as an alternative route, unconsidered until that point. Being a late applicant, my choice was limited and I ended up at a not-too-amazing polytechnic but achieved a 2.1 and won a place on a journalism post-grad at City Uni.
Discussing how background has an effect, I pointed out to my dad that had I been born into a family who were more interested in educational achievement, I probably would have applied to uni much earlier and attended a different establishment but my goal kept me focused. I consider my middle brother to be academically capable but he left school with few qualifications and has held some half-decent jobs over the course of the last 20 odd years but I think a university degree would have seen him on a different course. The only difference between me and my brother? I had a goal.
My dad thinks he has cocked up. He did. Not by leaving the family home but his lack of interest in our education and work goals, which would not have been any different had he stayed. However, he thinks I drive my own children too hard! Oh, how we are the product of our unique upbringings!
Fellow parents have often commented on how focused my eldest daughter is when it comes to achieving top exam grades and undertaking work experience. It has been easy: she has a goal. She wants to be a vet and to be in with shot at achieving a place at vet school there are distinctive hoops to jump through and she is very busy jumping although I am behind her, nagging, all the way!
My middle daughter has no idea what she wants to do but loves languages. She is extremely studious and hard-working. She also has me as a mother so the fact she has no goal, is not a huge worry. There are, without doubt, plenty of middle class and wealthy youngsters who have not achieved or careered off the rails despite all their privileges. A lack of a goal and several distractions to fill that gap could have been their undoing.
My son, the youngest, is very different. He was literally dragged kicking and screaming through the national curriculum during his primary school years, preferring the physical world to the academic. Now at secondary school, he is a reformed character: he has decided he would like to be a commercial or military pilot. He has a goal.
So, is it as simple as having a goal which can determine the likelihood of achieving? I think so. I wish Caitlin the very best of luck and sincerely hope she keeps her goal well and truly in sight; if she does, she has every chance of succeeding.