A Resource for All Ages (#853)

Some of the most moving coaching conversations I have had in my life have been with teens and young adults who have lost their bearings and lost their way.  What I love about this population, besides the fact that for several years I was one of them, is how quickly they seem to be able to regain their center and tap back in to their innate resilience and creative potential.

This is something that those of us who are parents often seem to forget, and in our love and care for our children we try to protect them with our knowledge instead of pointing them towards their wisdom.

I remember one conversation in particular with a young woman who was on the verge of a breakdown, struggling with a decision about whether to stay in school.  She told me all about her (divorced) parent’s conflicting arguments on each side, and how each time she thought she’d made up her mind the other parent would talk her out of it.

When I asked her what she would want to do if nobody cared, she looked shocked. “Am I allowed to ask myself that?” she said in a conspiratorial whisper.

When I assured her that she was, she immediately knew the answer but was worried about how it might affect the “losing” parent. So we talked about the thought/feeling system, and how everyone (including her) was living in the feeling of their thinking.

“Does that mean that it’s not my fault when my parents gets mad at me?” she asked.

“It does,” I replied, “but it also means that it’s not their fault when you get mad at them. In fact, it’s no one’s fault – just a misunderstanding of where our feelings come from that causes us to look in the wrong direction for a solution.”

We spoke for another half an hour or so, and I invited her to check back in with me whenever she wanted. A few days later I heard from her father, who was upset with me that I had given his daughter such “bad advice”. When I explained that I hadn’t given her any advice other than to follow her own wisdom, he argued that was an irresponsible stance to take given her youth and inexperience.

I listened as best I could, but he left our conversation convinced I was a well-meaning fool who had ruined his daughter’s life. A few weeks later, I heard from the young woman again, who called to thank me for helping her to find the courage of her convictions.

“It’s funny,” she said. “In nineteen years, nobody ever once asked me what I wanted to do about anything that mattered. I had no idea that if I asked the question and stopped to listen, I would know the answer.”

Fast forward several years into the future and that young woman is thriving. I haven’t spoken to her father since that day, but as I’ve watched my own children growing up and beginning to make more and more of their own choices, I empathize with him.  There are definitely times when I find it difficult to trust that the same wisdom that guides my path is guiding my children on theirs.

But then I reflect back on my life and realize I’ve never really regretted my own mistakes; I’ve only ever regretted the ones I made trying to follow someone else’s ideas of what I should or shouldn’t do. And that helps me to find the courage of my own convictions and allow my children to make their way with me as a resource, not a road map.

I love my kids, and I love how they show up in the world. And while I certainly don’t know how their lives will ultimately turn out, I find myself being the best parent I can be when I am more curious than afraid.

Have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be fun!

With all my love,
Michael

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