Questionable Advice #4: What should I do with the rest of my life?
The only advice column that gives you more questions than answers.
From Rob, looking for personalized questions:
These are two questions, tightly intertwined:
1) What should I do with the rest of my life?
2) How (and to what degree) can I improve my relationships with my children?
Brief History: I recently moved to Michigan to care for my dying wife, who had to come first because I was not up physically to caring for her. She has since died. My relationship with my (3) children is lacking – at least from my perspective. The more progress I can make on question #2 has great bearing on my answer to #1.
Thank you, I look forward to your questions.
When I decided to start my blog, I knew I wanted to focus on the theme of questions. I won’t bore you with my soapbox for why I think questions are so beneficial, but I will say my top three beliefs. The reason I focus on giving questions, rather than answers, is because:
- I cannot give an answer for someone because I’m not them.
- There isn’t one correct answer.
- Often, we know the answer, but it’s just hard to see it from our own biased, blurred perspective.
If I sound hypocritical right now (because I encourage people to ask me for answers), that’s because I am. But I wanted to highlight these core beliefs because I believe they may help shed some insight into the answers you are seeking.
Let’s work backward and start with #3. You ask what you should do with your life. I have no doubt you’re seeking a specific answer, but I think you’ve already started answering your question without realizing it. You say, “the more progress I can make on question #2 has great bearing on my answer to #1.”
This sentence, to me, says everything.
One top value you have right now is your children. You want to improve your relationships with them and prioritize them in your life. This should be your guidepost for every big and small decision you make. And the more you intentionally bring it into your daily decision-making process, the more direction you’ll find.
When looking through this lens, consider:
- What decisions would allow you to spend more time with your children?
- What jobs would allow you to prioritize a work-family balance?
- What measures would help you feel healthy, rested, and stable as an individual so you can be a healthy, rested, and stable individual in their lives?
- What areas of your life do you need to grow to be a better presence in your children’s lives?
You might not realize it, but you possess more clarity from where I’m standing than most people. We all have thousands of choices to make every day – where to live, what to do for work, how to spend our time, etc. In the multitude of decisions, we need guiding principles to help discern what works for us. This doesn’t mean we’ll consistently be correct or t
hat our answers won’t change. Part of life is figuring out the constant evolution of who we are.
This brings me to #2: There isn’t one correct answer.
There’s not one perfect house out there waiting for you, or job, or future relationship. Instead, an abundance of potential exists. Life is about taking a step, learning from it, and then taking another step. Often, things don’t work out as planned – a lesson I know you experienced with the passing of your wife. To combat this, we must constantly check in with ourselves and see if our actions align with our values.
Right now, your value is your children.
You ask how to improve your relationship with your children and to what degree. And this rounds out #1: I cannot give an answer for someone because I’m not them. This applies to your children, as well. I don’t know precisely what they need, and even if you gave me the entire history of your relationship, I still wouldn’t know.
You have four children who are all incredibly different people (because we all are), and I’m sure they’re all coping with the grief of their mother in different ways. Building each relationship will require something different, and part of your value-aligned journey will be to figure out what those differences are.
That being said, the root of all four relationships will be the same. Your children want what we all want: to feel loved, valued, and heard. I’m not sure what’s caused you to grow apart or what “hard feelings” may exist. It might take a long time to rebuild your relationships. But all you can do is try, be patient, and continually align action with your values.
Just as we are constantly evolving as individuals, relationships do too.
You demonstrated vulnerability by reaching out to me and expressing your priority. Do the same with your children. Tell them what you hope for. Ask them what they want – and make yourself vulnerable to listen to everything and anything they have to say (even if it hurts). And then, show them your values through your big and small decisions.
Thank you for giving me the great privilege of seeing a glimpse into your life. I wish you the best of luck on your journey.
- What does each of your children find meaningful? How can you ask them better questions?
- How often do you express your love for your children with your words? With your actions?
- What areas of your life align with your values? Don’t align?
- How often do you take risks and learn from them?
- What do you need to take care of yourself? What support systems do you have in place?
- How can you practice patience in your life?
- What negative emotions hold you back and get in the way of your relationships?
- What are some of your strengths?