Does your family come first in everything you do? Do you really prioritize your kids with every decision you make? If you think about it for more than a second, I’m sure you’ll realize that you don’t and for good reason!
I was inspired to write this because of what NBA superstar Steph Curry and his wife Ayesha said a few years back now. They said that they put their relationship ahead of any other commitments – including kids. On the face of it, this appears to challenge our sensibilities around parenthood. We’re so used to saying that “we always put our kids first”…but do we?
Let’s do a little thought experiment. It might be better for your kids to grow up with both parents around them 24/7, at least until school age. But odds are that, unless you’re independently wealthy, you and/or your spouse will need to work. You have to put food on the table and pay the bills after all, otherwise they won’t have a home to grow up in. And so: they will need to spend at lease a few days of the week in a nursery.
I’m sure you also see it as setting a good example for them. That being: work hard, meet your commitments, be responsible and your quality of life will subsequently be improved. Your parents, no doubt wished to instill a similar attitude in you. This principal doesn’t end when you have kids, does it?
This is something that I think the vast majority of us Dads can understand. Even if we’ve never really articulated it like that before, we still acknowledge that there is a wholistic approach to family, that goes beyond simply falling on your sword at every opportunity for the sake of your kids.
You have to be in service, to be of service.
This is a saying I’m particularly fond of. It’s not an objectivist or rational egoist slogan, but a simple acknowledgement that we must take time and care to ensure that we are at our peak performance, in order to be of maximum service to others. The fact is that your kids need you, and they need you to be the best version of you that you can be!
You wouldn’t ignore the warning signs of a debilitating or terminal illness, just because your kids must come first in all things and therefore you can’t spare the time to go get checked out, would you? I hope not. There’s a reason why you need to put the oxygen mask on first, during a loss of cabin pressure onboard an airplane. They need your help!
We have gotten so used to thinking of things in terms of a zero-sum outcome. The natural reaction to what the likes of Steph Curry and others say, is to think that it means that they don’t consider their kids to be a priority at all. But that’s not what they’re saying. By prioritizing their relationship, ensuring that their ‘cup’ is full and overflowing, they’re able to do the best for their kids. I suppose one could argue that, in light of this, they are putting their kids first.
There’s a secret conversation that always seems to arise: “how can we fully pursue and realize our vision, while at the same time cultivating love, a thriving family and fulfilling relationships?” Here’s the reality for anyone who loves a dreamer: everything comes second to the dream. – Will Smith
This quote, and a huge amount of wisdom, was brought up by my guest Yanik Silver on a recent episode of my Beyond Success podcast. You can listen to that episode right here:
Yanik himself faced this very question years ago, and even had a lot of pushback (as he talks about in the interview). He realized though, that his mission had to come first. Without it he was not who he could be, and that was not good enough.
The real question was: how to incorporate life, friends and family into that dream? To make his mission his priority, without it being at the detriment, or to the exclusion of his loved ones.
Not an easy one to answer, but it is a lot easier to find solutions when you are better resourced and firing on all cylinders. When you have that unerring drive within you to keep going, guided by laser-vision in the direction of your true North. Solutions will present themselves, if you have a strong enough ‘why’. As Will Smith also said:
The attainment of the dream became an act of survival, in my darkest night my dream saved my life. It was my light, my food, my vision of brighter days sustained me, it was my whole purpose.
Dreams, missions, goals, call them what you will – they galvanize us. They equip us with the resolve and determination to resource ourselves with whatever it takes, in order to keep moving forward. The question to ask ourselves is : why wouldn’t we want to be that for our families?
It is, I believe, a great source of depression in the world, as well as the pandemic of Imposter Syndrome that we currently face: people do not prioritize their purpose. As a consequence they find themselves feeling unmotivated, under-stimulated and unfulfilled. They dance to the tune of someone else for the best part of their life, and then have a crisis over it when they hit middle-age.
Don’t be that guy. Understand that putting your family first means prioritizing yourself and your mission. Understand that in doing so, you are not relegating your family’s importance to nothing. You’re honoring them!
Make sure that you are pouring yourself fully into what you’re doing. Be present for your mission and your family. That’s how to do your best for them, not by thinking of your life as “essentially over” and needlessly sacrificing your own dreams.
Use the need to be your best as a spur in your side, to forge ahead. When you’re not feeling like working on your dream, remind yourself that it’s not just you depending on your success.
Don’t teach them the same old, tired belief that success is for others. Don’t stoke resentment towards them, by sacrificing your mission at the alter of your kids. Instead, be a beacon to your family. Show them that they can have a mission and succeed in executing it too.