Over the last while, I have been helping my children learn more about who they are as people. I feel it is the first step in helping them to find the life that will be the most fulfilling to them.
Thankfully, because I have access to some really powerful self-development tools, the process has not been painful at all and in fact, has been quite uplifting for both girls as well as for my husband and I. It gives us great joy to see our children’s confidence and self worth increase.
Years ago, I took a year-long coaching program through a business academy out of California and the first module in the program revolved around a tool called the Primary Aim Process. At that time, I worked through this module as it relates to my own life and it really did change everything about my personal vision for my life, all for the better.
Given the beneficial nature of that process for me, albeit very late in life (I was nearly 40) and now that my kids are in their middle teen years, I decided it was time to begin a process of introspection and of helping them discover their primary aim as well. I figured if it helped them half as much as it did me, they would be well on their way to a very exciting and fulfilling life.
Of course, there was some confusion because at first they thought I was asking them to choose a career and one of my children was OK with that and one wasn’t at all. The funny thing is that building stress into their lives on purpose has been a big part of our success formula. It seems counter-intuitive, I know, but research clearly shows that adding constructive and controlled stress early on (not traumatic stress) ends up lowering stress and increasing success in the long run.
So, my eldest was good to go because she has known since she was three years old that she wants to be a singer and work in the performing arts particularly on Broadway in New York.
She just figured the exercise would prove what she already knew to be the case… a fait accompli, so to speak, and since she’s been working towards that goal for more than a dozen years, she approached the first part of the exercise with a rather calm heart.
However, when the exercises began to reveal something other than what she thought was a career in the performing arts, she became quite upset. She thought it meant she wasn’t supposed to be on Broadway and of course, that simply did not compute for her.
Then I pointed out that a primary aim and a career are not the same thing and this calmed her down a lot. I guess, she thought I was asking her to give up her dream of being on Broadway and once I clarified the difference she settled down, finished the exercises and discovered a side of herself that was always there but she had never fully acknowledged. In the end, going through the process gave her great joy.
She even realized that the musical theatre production she loved the most so far out of all the plays she has done (she played the lead in Anne of Green Gables in early 2015) actually honored both her career passion (musical theatre) as well as her primary aim (fighting for social justice and equality) and I suggested that this could be the reason why she loved the experience so much.
Anyway, she has doubled down on her passion to head off to Broadway, but now she has a much clearer vision of how she will do that on her terms and given her immense artistic talents as well as a diversity of other highly useful skills, I have no doubt she will more than make it happen.
Unlike my eldest, my younger daughter was very resistant to this exercise at first because right from the start she thought I was telling her she had to choose a career and at the young age of 14, she has felt for the longest time that she’s not ready to choose a career.
Again, I clarified that a person’s primary aim and their career are not the same thing. And when she accepted this and began to work through the exercises, she discovered that things she had continually thought were bad about herself were actually her super powers.
She is not all the way through the process yet, but ever since she started the process, she has begun to realize these things that society would often characterize as unimportant or negative are the very core of who she is and they are the very things that make her so special. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out for her. Like myself, when I went through the process, it was as though she is being given permission to shed society’s unspoken and unwritten expectations of her and to start being herself.
You see, the most important thing I feel I can do for my kids is to help them add meaning to their lives. It doesn’t matter to me what they grow up to be or what credentials they may or may not get behind their names because they are multi-skilled individuals with many talents and very high levels of intelligence. Actually, I believe this to be true of all children and the main job of parents is to work hard to protect kids from the being sucked into the vortex of society’s unrelenting expectations to conform at all costs.
Basically, each of my girls could be successful at many different things, so I am not concerned about how they will actually make a living and support themselves and their respective families. What I am concerned about is how they feel about themselves and how they feel about their purpose in this world.
And there is a method to my madness. Further up in this post, I mentioned that early stress is a good thing and the reason why is because of what Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of The Upside of Stress, calls the “stress paradox”, in which stress is a very good thing in life if it is blended with hope and a sense of purpose, but stress becomes a very bad thing in life if it is blended with depression and doubt.
For kids, having a sense of purpose or a primary aim is a major key in directing their life towards health, happiness, self motivation and success rather than ending up in a drug-dependent state of anxiety and depression, which is a reality for nearly 75 million adults just in the USA; nearly one quarter of the population.
Having a sense of purpose is a key component of developing stress hardiness and resilience in children so that they can grow up to have the lives they want to have instead of having to compromise and live with illness and doubt.
Having a sense of purpose is a key factor in ensuring that as children become adults they don’t develop dependencies on various destructive addictions.
Having a sense of purpose is a key factor in healthy relationships.
Having a sense of purpose is a key factor in financial success.
There is a school of thought out there about being truly blessed if you get to do what you love in life and having a sense of purpose is a major part of that equation.
Sense of purpose is also a key part in maintaining health and wellness, so you get to do what you love for your entire life, not just the first half. Lots of people are able to find a career they love early on, but then stress and illness takes it away from them just as they are getting to the peak of their success. Or it takes away their family or their financial freedom or both.
But, I don’t want any of that for my kids. Rather, I want them to live a life filled with passion and to move freely from job to job or career to career always doing just what they love to do without losing health and wellness and without sacrificing family or financial freedom or both. I guess I am selfish, because I don’t just want the 30-50 year success plan, I want the 100 year success plan for my kids.
And I sincerely hope all children get the opportunity early on to find out who they are as people so they can have all of this too. I would say it’s the new American dream, but since I am Canadian, I guess I need to qualify it as the new North American dream. Actually, I hope children all around the globe get to live this dream.