My mother taught me to always do my best, and this has been one of the most important lessons learned in my life. Life was not a competition--I didn't have to prove I was better than anyone--but I was expected to give a full effort at anything I did. There were times (and probably years) that I chose to ignore that counsel, but the principle had been taught, and it wouldn't easily be forgotten.
Of course I'm not the only one who had a mother that pushed for excellence:
"When I was a child, my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk you'll end up as the pope.' Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso."
-- Pablo Picasso
Can you imagine being mother to Picasso? Think of the enormous effect of those expressions of confidence which she gave him.
Coming across this quote and reflecting on my own experiences reminded me that as mothers, we have the enormous ability to instill confidence and encourage aspirations in these sweet little minds. We can't afford to underestimate the power of our words.