It all came to a head last Wednesday while on my way home from work. It had been a long and emotionally draining week and my son, Weston, was in the backseat throwing a tantrum because I looked at him. When I double checked the rear view mirror to see if he was still upset and I couldn’t help but think how lucky he was. I too was on the brink of a meltdown and all I wanted to do was crawl into the backseat and kick and scream and join him in his crying fit.
But alas, I’m not a toddler and far past the point in my life where its acceptable to have a conniption every time someone looks at me wrong. So instead, I put my big girl panties on and did my best to not go all Chernobyl in front of my son. It was hard. Really, really hard.
As I drove along, my thoughts grazed over all of the areas of my life that felt suffocated by helplessness. Why did everything seem so much harder than it should? How did I become so disconnected from myself that I failed to notice how miserable I had been?
I remember feeling adrift in the universe in those moments. I kept picturing myself being swept into a black hole, floating through outer space, getting smaller and smaller and smaller until I disappeared into the abyss.
That little quarter life crisis was one week ago and since then, I’ve been systematically dissecting all areas of my life and putting everything under a microscope. I don’t know how long I’ve been living in autopilot mode (at least that much I’ve figured out) but now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I’m pretty sure I know how I got here.
It’s been a subtle devolution that happened over time. Little by little, day after day, I let my dreams slip farther and farther away from me and then one day I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a stranger staring back at me.
I became complacent and distracted. I gave up on myself.
That’s when I realized that not only have I been short changing myself but that I’ve likely been chopping my son off at the feet as well. Sure, I’ve managed to teach him to say “please” and to be gentle with animals and to identify the color green. But what about the less obvious lessons in life that can only be taught by leading through example?
To help motivate me to make some changes, I drummed up a few “cliche” sayings that I’ve heard over the course of my life. You know, the ones about finding happiness and following your bliss. Then I thought about how I’ve essentially given them the middle finger by not acknowledging their power…because clearly I know more than people like Buddha and God or even some ancient Chinese Proverb.
Without further ado, here are a few things I’m failing to teach my son simply but not adhering to them myself. I’m putting this out there in the Universe for everyone to see because it’s high time I start following some of this advice.
1. Pursue your passion and do something that makes you happy. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this phrase, I wouldn’t have to worry about money. But seriously – I lost sight of that college-aged idealism and conviction that led me to believe that I could change the world. That’s the kind of passion that brings fulfillment. Hard work is important but if it isn’t the kind of work that fills the heart and moves the spirit or at least keeps you interested and motivated, then you’re just expending empty energy.
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Unknown
2. Take risks. Get out of your comfort zone. Face your fears. However you want to phrase it, the point is not to get too cozy. If you aren’t moving forward, you might as well be going backward.
A man grows most tired when standing still.” – Chinese Proverb
3. Set goals. Not to get all Tony Robbins up in here but it’s too easy to lose sight of your dreams if you don’t make a plan. Add kids to the mix and it get’s even harder. Write down some realistic and actionable benchmarks, break them down into monthly and daily activities and get started. Now.
People with goals succeed because they know where they are going…it’s as simple as that.” – Earl Nightingale
4. It’s never too late to start again. Sometimes you fall down, get lost or maybe give up. But the most beautiful thing about the human existence is that we have the conscious choice to get back up, course correct and start again. You have an entire lifetime to reinvent yourself. I just can’t accept that today is the end of the line…or tomorrow…or the next day. You get the point.
For what it’s worth: It’s never to late to be who you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.” – F. Scott. Fitzgerald
5. Learn to love yourself. I really hate to admit this, especially publicly, but one of the main reasons I gave up on my dreams is because I never fully believed in myself. Deep down I was too concerned with embarrassing myself if I met defeat. I was ruled by the notion that if I didn’t try, I couldn’t fail. You really can do anything you put your mind too.
Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” – Malcolm S. Forbes
6. Success is how you define it. I think success means to be happy and true to oneself. I think it’s about liking who you are, what you do and how you do it.
If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.” – Anna Quindlen
7. Don’t give up. This one is pretty obvious. Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.
Just keep a clear mind, go straight ahead, try, try, try for ten thousand years.” -Soen Sa Nim
I don’t want to be a walking contradiction and I want my son to be proud of me – I want him to be inspired by the life I lead. So, I’m making some changes – and it starts with this confession.
I need to practice what I preach if I am going to give Wes the best shot at being a confident, happy kid that goes out into the world and does good things.
What are your challenges? What are you working towards? How are you getting there?
– The Confessioness