When I watched this video this week about Steve Irwin’s mission, I was touched that he was so committed to his personal mission that he wanted nothing more than to see his kids carry on his legacy. (Please go watch the video before you finish reading this post).
There are a few reasons this message impacted me with regards to parenting and family culture.
As parents, there isn’t a lot of emphasis on finding our personal mission. I think parents are seen as neglectful or selfish if they were to pursue anything other than parenting in itself. But, if you have read any of my articles recently, you would know how I feel about this. If you want to truly be effective, you need to fill your life with things that enrich your life in spite of anything you have going on. Self-care is not selfish! When you are passionate about your personal mission, you are not just taking care of yourself, you are filling your cup, and giving yourself fuel for raising great kids who are passionate and committed to their own mission.
In my experience, when you allow yourself to get bogged down in the day-to-day and you don’t have a personal mission, you lose hope in your purpose, you lose your self-image and your self-worth. When I became a mom, I was so anxious about being a good mom. Day after day, I would stress and struggle with what to do with this newborn that I cried and cried that I didn’t know what I was doing with my life! You often hear that new moms feel lonely and isolated, and I think it has something to do with this whole stigma that if you aren’t 100% focused on that new baby, you are being a bad mom. Well, I wish I could go back and tell myself that my baby is going to be just fine as long as I met her needs, if I also meet my own needs! When parents go out and explore their own passions, meet with friends, get exercise, and take care of themselves, they are modeling for their kids that life is meant to be lived. They are modeling how to interact with other people, how to take care of themselves, and how to pursue something in life that brings fulfillment and purpose. Lose yourself in service and study, and your kids will come along.
Be committed to your mission and it will translate to good parenting. In my interview with Donna Goff, she told a story of how her mom would get ready to go out of the house, and Donna would ask, “mom, where are you going?” And her mom would say, “going crazy! Wanna come?!” Donna would tag along with her to whatever class or excursion she had planned for the day, and that is what enriched her life, and piqued her curiosity.
I remember going to gardening classes with my mom as a kid. My parents wrapped me into their excitement about the self-improvement courses they had attended when I was a teenager, and taught me how I could be a better person by reaching for my potential. My parents taught me by example that learning is a life-long process.
Family culture is about leaving a legacy. When Steve Irwin talked about his kids carrying on his mission, he wanted to know that he was leaving a legacy for his children to follow. Your family narrative is about your family values, it is what your family stands for, and it starts from you having a passion and a mission. That legacy comes from living your values, and being fiercely committed to modeling your mission for your kids. It comes from perpetuating your family stories and retelling them again and again. It comes from getting up day after day and persistently following your curiosity, if not your passion.
Kids who know where they come from and why they are here are more resilient. So many kids these days seem to be lost and don’t know what to do with their lives. Some adults still don’t know. I’m not suggesting that we create apprentices of our kids, forcing them to follow in our footsteps. But by following our passion, we give our kids a model for how to pursue their own passions. When I interviewed my friend, Paul, we talked about developing his passion for basketball that led him to playing in the ParaOlympics. He told me about how his son has developed a passion for Motocross, and is actually really good at it. Imagine if Paul didn’t know how to pursue a passion and didn’t know how to help his son follow his dreams. Imagine if we could all be so privileged! It begins with just starting something, even if you don’t expect to do that thing forever. When you develop a skill, it teaches you – at the very least – how to develop a skill.
I know this might not be easy when life is so busy and distracting. As I write this, I’m trying to convince Michael that he has an amazing gift that he needs to share with the world. He has a voice that is being buried and silenced because he is out of practice. He is very passionate about many things but his work keeps his so busy, he has very little energy for pursuing his dreams. It breaks my heart because I know he wants to do something with his desire. He is on the verge of doing something that will inspire him and empower him to do more, and I am so excited for him. As he gets started in his process of pursuing his passion, I can see a light coming back to his eyes. I have told you about his journey and the struggle we have endured, so I think you understand how hard this is for us. When the world is constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough, that you are insignificant, you lose sight of who you are and what you are capable of. Fear begins to rule your life. Don’t let fear ruin your life. Don’t become a drifter who is afraid of challenges or potential failure. Just start! Find something that lights up your life!
I am truly convinced that life is meant to be lived in spite of what ever situation we live in.
There are few excuses for living in fear. Pick your mentor, pick a hero, find someone to emulate who is doing what you dream of. I know a mom with ten children who teaches yoga every week. I know a dad who was paralyzed from the waist down at ten years old who became a professional basketball player. I talk to people on my podcast all the time who are making an impact on the world, many who have overcome obstacles, or lived full, busy lives. You have an important gift to share that will guide your family toward their mission. You have a legacy to leave that will inspire your children to live their mission. You probably won’t become famous or a world influencer, but you will influence your little sphere: your family.
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