When I was a kid, even a young adult, I was very motivated to succeed - not for very good reasons, actually very neurotic ones, but still there was nothing and no one that would get in the way of my success. As an adult I still have a sense of accomplishment from those early achievements, a sense of identity for having achieved them with no help from others, and a strong inner drive - oh, and still that same neurosis that makes me feel like a failure if I am not achieving something.
I don't want to pass that same flavor of crazy down to my kids, but I do want to see them have a dream and work toward it, no matter what it is. I think having inner drive is important in terms of their career ambition and their ability to get scholarships for college as well as keeping them focused on what matters to them and hopefully keeping them out of trouble. I don't want them to plan their lives right now or torture themselves if they don't exactly meet their dreams, I just don't want them to feel like life is going to hand it to them. They are very lucky to have everything, to have parents that could likely pay for expensive college educations and that are willing to pay for any extracurricular activity that will potentially help them in life. I think it's not always the best thing to have things handed to them. My kids have everything but don't seem all that driven - I think they don't get it that they have to work for it, that no one is going to hand them success in life. They are kind of lazy.
My pre-teen son does actually seem more driven and less lazy than the rest at times, but there's definitely a limit to it. He wants to be on time for track practice and spends hours in 90 degree heat running and jumping into sand pits because he loves it and wants to be great. He has his first big track meet this weekend. In his mind, it's over after the meet, goal achieved, no more need to practice. I say keep going to practices to see how good he can get even if it's the only track meet he will compete in this summer. He wants to be a doctor - he actually had my c-section videotaped by the anesthesiologist so he could see it and can't understand why everyone else doesn't especially want to watch it over and over (or at all).
There are definitely limits to his motivation - he is after all a nine year old boy. He doesn't want to work extra hard to make sure he gets in the upper level math class next year and only does the track events he knows he's good out without trying to get better at the others. He wants to build legos and ride his bike and play video games for hours. I can totally see his potential (as well as that of his siblings). I say play but leave some time for smartness every day. Yeh, I know, I'm a total buzz kill.
As a person who crammed and then forgot everything minutes after the test ended, I am a now believer in moving forward a little every day. Like the movie, Groundhog Day, you have to spend time every day building character. Each day may seem like the one before it, but if you work on your dream everyday, slowly you will achieve it. I want my kids to see their dreams. That's my dream - despite the opposition, I will keep working on that every day.