Avoid Living Only in the Future

Hey, dad, we wrote this one for your teenagers. If you can collar them for just a few moments, please share this post with them. If they won’t stand still long enough to lasso them in, then please pass on the following sentiments.

If they are like every other teenager in the world, they’re probably being urged, coaxed and prodded to think about their future. And there’s probably a tug of war going on inside their heads between the here and now and the out there and whenever.

The future as propaganda

Nothing gets more propaganda than one’s future, especially for those who have most of it still in front of them. Your teenager hears it from all sides—from parents, teachers, bosses, college advisers, recruiters, even peers. The message is the same: What are you going to do with your life?

You’re not alone, dear teenager. In addition to you and many of your friends who are struggling with this riddle, many adults—maybe your own parents—also continue to wonder what they’re going to do with their future. They just have a little less of it.

We put today on layaway

Think about how much we do that is connected with life that hasn’t happened yet. We save money. We invest for a pay-off later on. We maintain a special rainy-day fund. We make to-do lists. We write down things to remember. We take exams that will influence and reshape tomorrow. We plan for holidays that are still months away. We think about trips.  We buy things on layaway. We take out insurance to be ready for what might happen years from now. We plan for retirement. As newbies into this world, we get a social security number, which, throughout our future, will serve as proof that we exist.

Slow down, the future is always ahead of you

The future isn’t a destination. It’s not like arriving at school or stopping at the gas station. Your future is composed of intangibles—hopes, dreams and possibilities. The future urges you to keep moving, changing and growing. Simply put, the future is that part of life that once you arrive, you’re still not there. No wonder it’s hard to look at and to answer that probing question: What are you going to do with your life?

Kids should goals but keep them flexible. Evaluate them. Discard those you lose interest in and make new ones. Keep your options open. Now’s the time to try new things, to make new discoveries and prepare for sudden forks in the road. Welcome those sharp curves and U-turns. These detours help you evaluate the direction you’re taking. Relax.

One thing is for sure: The future will always be there—and it will wait for you until you are ready to tackle it. For even though the future is a great place to think about, the present is the best place to be.

By dads2dads

Keeping the hotline open and tuned in

There was a powerful TV movie that aired a while back about teenage suicide. The movie conveyed the idea time and time again that there are too many “unlistening ears” all around us—in school, church, our social circles, even in our own families.

The sad refrain from a friend or teacher or parent often is, “Why didn’t I listen? Why didn’t I notice—there were so many signals. Why didn’t I ask questions? Why didn’t I stick my nose in a little?” Often, however, the reasons remain inexplicable.

Lending only half an ear

At the end of every day, don’t we all regretfully recall moments when we failed to stop and really listen to someone about whom we cared? Think back. Did you quickly dismiss someone in the family this morning because you were running late and you hardly heard what they were telling you? Were you irritated about something to the point that you mentally blocked out everyone around you? Were you so focused on the big meeting or the job evaluation or the client luncheon that everything that happened or was said earlier that day is a blur? It’s easy to do, and we’re all—young and older—guilty of it.

Test yourself

Try this little exercise. Think back to this morning between getting out of bed and walking out the door of your house. Replay any conversation that you had during that time. What did you say to someone? Who was that someone and what did he or she say back to you? Was there a time or location change for any upcoming event? Did someone (who?) need some cash? Did you give him or her money—how much—and what for? Did someone (who?) mention being late coming home today? Did anyone (who?) grumble about a problem while gulping down his or her cereal? Speaking of cereal, what did your teenager have for breakfast this morning? What did youhave for breakfast?

Okay, this morning could be hours ago. Let’s make it easier. Play back in your mind a two-way conversation you’ve had within the last hour. What was the subject, and what was the outcome? Matter of fact, who was the last person you talked to just before you started reading this?

Living in a haze

We are often so busy that we function in a haze. Today did anyone try to get your full attention but only get a fraction of it? If your answer is no, are you sure? How often do you have an unlistening ear, at work or at home? Or do you even know?

Parents, make a conscious effort to listen intently to your kids. Test yourself often. Play back a conversation and see if you can recall the details of what was exchanged or decided or solved. Turn your unlistening ears into help hotlines. Keep them open and receptive.

By dads2dads