I was motivational speaker for a conference of education administrators. During the break they ushed in a group of 8 year olds who nervously collected at the front of the room and started singing christmas carols.
I looked uncomfortably around the room while cringing at the sound of children all singing off key. After 15 minutes of this painful display of unprepared crooning, to my surprize the audience rose out of their seats and grudgingly gave a half hearted standing ovation.
Huh? Were they watching the same thing? The singing I just experienced- was less than good. I am all for boosting a childs ego but only if it's warranted. Following this the children were all given little pins that had motivational sayings on them. What?
This was a conference of education leaders and they were teaching some scary lessons to our future generation:
You should get praised for just showing up
Don't worry about being your best, mediocre is all we ask
You deserve recognition- even if you don't deserve it
Everyone gets an award
Nobody rises to low expectations, so why are we setting the bar low and praising children and young adults for less than average performance? In the process we are also setting kids up to feel entitled despite lack of effort or performance.
As a motivational speaker I am always challenging people (and myself) in my motivational talks to set goals and strive for something more. If you don't, nothing changes, you risk being obsolete, and your motivation and growth will stall.
Read Generational Speaker motivational talk about How to Prevent Mediocrity
Theories on happiness all point to striving for something, reaching for a goal and doing your best. In fact the challenge with goals is that once you reach them, they cease to be motivating and now you must aim higher.
The practice of cheering for mediocrity came from the need to boost every child's self esteem and self worth. Every child deserves equal opportunity and an environment where they can feel good about themselves. But at the expense of teaching them its ok to do good enough to just get by?
As a generational speaker I hear many stories from audience members how this trend has created generations that are at odd in terms of their values. Baby boomers were told to work hard and to value accomplishment and achievement, and now they are raising a generation and teaching them exactly the opposite. The result is working arrangements where younger and older professionals can't see eye to eye.
Read Generational Speakers Ground Rules Generation Y Need to Know