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Which traditional school subject is the most important for career success?

Luvata Quick Poll Results

  • Maths 38%
  • Literacy 28%
  • Foreign languages 16%
  • Science 12%
  • Arts 5%
  • History/Georgraphy 3%

Comments by James Sale, Creative Director of Motivational Maps www.jamessale.co.uk

People clearly have differing views on this, but the results of the poll are clear: maths and the sciences comprise a full 50% of the vote, literacy and languages are 43%; and arts, geography and history are ‘also-runs’ sweeping up the rear. Of course, these statistics are misleading, especially to parents. They see that doctors or lawyers earn a small fortune and so they press for their children at school to be good numerically or linguistically, and bingo! a successful career beckons. But the trouble is: is it the right career for the child?

As a professional mentor, I have met dozens of high achieving, career-orientated individuals who have been a career success only to find midway or later that they were not doing what they wanted to do at all. They hated it; and they resented their parents for putting them through it, and the teachers who complied – who did not spot their real talent for art or whatever.

There is an expression: “Nobody on their death bed wishes they had spent more time in the office“. How true. And there is another, even more chilling: “Most people die with their music still inside them.” They don’t get to be who they really are.

So, shouldn’t we really be asking a question not about career success, important as it is, but widening it to include life success? What would a successful life look like? And there are seven core elements which are non-negotiable.

The first is high levels of self-esteem: do we feel good about ourselves, or are we always in a state of anger, guilt or fear? Secondly, do we have high energy and good health? because without them all success is compromised. Thirdly, do we have high-quality relationships with others – a perennial source of joy and happiness?

The fourth is wealth – having enough money to stop worrying about money. Career success can help here, but can it help with the fifth element: a meaning – purposes, ideals and values which enable us to transcend the pettinesses of life and contribute to a greater good? Some careers can.

The sixth element is growth – what Maslow called self-actualisation – becoming all that we can be and not just stagnating. From a career point of view, stagnating is just doing a ‘job’ in which there is no progression, no vision and no sense of momentum. Finally, the seventh is self-awareness; the foundation stone of all growth - an openness to learning and a profound curiosity about the nature of the self.

This leads me back to what schools teach: do schools teach students what they really need to know? Perhaps a subject for your next poll!


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