Letting Go. Are you attached to your kid’s success?

You verify every grade on the report card. You double check your kid’s homework to make sure she has it all “right”. You make sure they do their homework for two hours before they play any Minecraft. You take over the science project to ensure they win top prize. You want to make sure your child is a success and your happiness is dependent on it.

Really? Do you want to be dependent on your child’s success for your own happiness? That will end up being a lifetime of struggle. I’m not suggesting that you don’t want health and happiness for your child. We all want that. But are you measuring your happiness and/or success by your child’s success? What does success look like for your child? And who gets to decide what success is? Is that really up to you?

Letting go

I facilitated a workshop on CRR Global’s Toxins and Exploring Edges. I coached one of the participants on a change she wanted to make in her life (which Edge she wanted to explore). She has two sons. One is academically gifted and the other is academically challenged. Well, she was able to let go of expectations from the challenged son. She realized that letting go of one child’s expectations had heightened the expectations for the other child. The change she wanted to make was to be able to let go of expectations for her gifted son.

So here are some of the insights from the exercise:

  • Trust is the core of every relationship. This is one of the 5 Behaviors of the Cohesive Team by Patrick Lencioni. As Lencioni posits, it’s not just predictive trust (you do what you say you are going to do) but also vulnerability based trust (you admit when you made a mistake). Are you letting your child be vulnerable? Are they allowed to make a mistake without you chiding them? If they can’t be vulnerable, they aren’t going to tell you when they mess up.

 

  • Autonomy doesn’t have to mean you don’t care. Autonomy is a great gift to the folks in your life. Getting wrapped up in whether or not their homework is done or if they are EVER going to empty the garbage is exhausting and it’s not helping you find happiness. When you don’t let your children have autonomy (within reason folks…don’t let your 5-year-old park the car), they are constantly seeking your approval and reassurance or, on the flip side, are demotivated because they can’t have independence. Autonomy helps them create that on their own. The responsibility of success, failure and happiness are safely resting on their shoulders. Autonomy shows that you do care.

 

  • Let go in stages that work for you. The mom I was working with, initially “jumped” across the Edge. She then decided to go back and slowly inch her way across the Edge. It resonated when she was able to gradually move across the change of letting go. Her body language relaxed. You could see that she was relieved and that she could control how and when she would let go. How and when you let go is a very personal choice. Don’t jump unless you want to.

 

  • Acceptance of both failure and success is critical. Mommy client said that she needed to let go of whether her son got a 90 or a 97. “They are both A’s.” I remember standing in the middle of the kitchen when my son was making a complicated cake recipe. I was making suggestions ….er telling him how to fix it when he looked at me, put up his hand and said, “Stop! Let me fail.” I was thunder struck. Whether or not that cake failed is not life changing but him taking responsibility for its failure or success is life changing. Let go of the reins.

 

  • Communicate your expectations. One of the participants at the workshop suggested she go home and tell her sons about her new insight. If she doesn’t communicate that she is letting go of her expectations, he might feel like she is abdicating. There were several in the audience who talked about a parent who had essentially abdicated their parenting if a child did not follow the path the parent wanted (you know…doctor, lawyer, good college education, etc.). I remember telling my son after a poor semester at school, that I loved him no matter what he did. I didn’t want him feeling like he had to stick to something in exchange for my love. Unconditional love needs to be communicated.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world and is complicated, as in my case, when you are separated with the parent you had that child with. Model happiness for your children instead of measuring their success against unrealistic expectations. You will be happier in the end as well.

Waiting for Happiness? 7 Ways to Embrace it Now.

I’m not sure this is an American construct, but I have felt that for most of my life that I would be happy once I: Got out of college, got a job, got married, got divorced, bought a house, moved, made a million dollars. Funny; I never got there. There is always one more elusive hurdle. It feels like I’m on this constant treadmill; happiness is always around the next corner.

As Shawn Achor says in his book The Happiness Advantage, we’ve been sold the idea that once we are “successful” we will be happy. Turns out, it is the exact opposite. The research has shown that you need to be happy to find success, or at least it helps you get there faster. You need to be happy in order to be a success. Happiness comes first in the equation. finding happiness

Here are some ideas on how to make happiness part of your life (instead of waiting for the elusive success milestone):

1. Fall up. As Shawn Achor prescribes, it’s all about how you handle adversity. Instead of falling down you need to fall up. When I trained for my half marathon last year, I would look for adversity. If Saturday was going to be hot (90 degrees plus) and Sunday a breezy 60…run on Saturday. Rain in the forecast? Run on that day. Look for it. Embrace it. On the actual race day? It rained. No biggie. I’m falling up.

2. Kindness. Pick a day to practice kindness; a sort of “pay it forward” kind of day. Shawn Achor recommends picking the day in advance. So if you did a couple of nice things today, start over tomorrow and call it Kindness Day. This is actually harder than it sounds…yes, I’ve tried it. I tried to do 5 kind things today. I’m up to 4 but the day is not over. I feel like going to Starbucks so I can buy the person behind me their drink. But I have to say, when you are on a mission to be kind, it feels great. I’m looking for an opportunity to pay a compliment, hold the door and smile. Try a bit of kindness.

3. Internal Locus of Control. Say what? This is whether you blame everyone else (the world is out to get me) or you are the master of your own journey. Sail your own ship whether there is a hurricane or not. Accept responsibility for your life. It’s not your mother’s fault, the stock market, Obama ..Yada Yada Yada . Folks who see life with from the external locus of control view are not as happy. They are constantly at the whim of fate; waiting for the next wave to wash them out. If you can move to an internal locus of control, you take control; you act on the world instead of the world acting on you. Let out the jib, stay the course and take control of the rudder of your life. Embrace an internal locus of control.

4. Blessings. Count your blessings. Do you have a roof over your head? Enough food? Clothes? People you can count on? Your dog loves you. It’s sunny outside. It finally stopped snowing. It finally started raining. Be grateful and count it up. I journal three a day. What went right and write it down. Start counting your blessings.

5. Reframe. Think about how you frame events in your life. If your flight was delayed, are you happy you met someone new waiting for seat assignments or are you thinking about how you will miss the first session of the conference? It turns out that if you can see the joy, the serendipity of “bad events”, you will be happier and be able to find the light in the darkness. Reframe the situation from slogging through the mud to playing in the mud. Have you ever seen pictures of folks after an obstacle course race? They just lived through a 5 k and 10 different obstacles but they are ecstatic. Reframe how you see obstacles (and maybe get a little muddy).

6. Focus. Focus on what you can control. Make it a very narrow focus. Shawn Achor calls this the Zorro Circle. It’s empowering to take care of the things within your control. I can get this blog post done, clean out my inbox and make dinner. Whew. What a relief. I’m happy when I’m not overwhelmed and focus on the things that I can change or do. Focus.

7. Anticipate. Plan an exotic trip a year from now and anticipate it every day. That sounds crazy doesn’t it? But the anticipation makes you happy. You are more positive and forward thinking. This even works if the trip is make-believe. So mark you calendar for that cruise to Alaska and start counting down the days. Plan the zip line tour, the fishing trip and the photos you are going to take. Anticipation is the antidote.

I think the main thing is to quit projecting into the future for the next milestone and it’s elusive “happiness”. Take stock of what you already have and share it with others. Happiness begets success, not the other way around.

Where do you find happiness?