If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?
I love that line.
It’s originally from the 1950’s musical South Pacific, which makes me sound a bit highbrow when I’m not. I don’t like musicals. I heard that line on Dizzee Rascal’s track Dream.
For me it means ‘do you know where you are headed?’ From a work or career perspective we often have a goal in mind, something to achieve. But when it comes to family a destination is often the last thing in mind. Survival is the priority, which is strange for something so permanent and life transforming.
Over just this last week, I’ve worked with 20+ dads on fatherhood, in one form or another. Only two have thought hard about their family’s future. Only two. By ‘thought hard’ I mean they can confidently say:
1. I know what kind of person I want my child to be
2. I know what kind of life and relationship I want with my child in the future
3. I know what that means I need to do and not do
4. I’ve started doing it
Only two is shocking because it’s an admittedly biased sample. Biased because these are men who have actively put themselves forward to learn more about being a better dad. Two out of 20+ is shockingly small for something so important. Raising children is a remarkable life adventure. One that completely changes the way you see the world, changes what’s important to you, and changes your brain too.
So much of the world will change by the time our kids are grown. The vast majority of changes are outside of our control. AI will be doing most of what we call work today, the climate will have changed, universal basic income might even be a thing, lab meat may be the norm. The only thing we can control is our contribution to building a strong connection with our children. To not have thought about what kind of connection you want is, to me, nuts.
Perhaps you think I’m being a bit dramatic when I use the word ‘shocking’? After all, generations of dads have gone before us and haven’t thought about this. A statement validated by the microscopic number of books, films and stories of deeply engaged fathers from generations gone by. That’s not to say they didn’t exist of course, but where they did they had to keep it quiet, which tells us a lot.
Yet just because that’s the way things used to be, does not, in anyway what so ever mean it’s the way they should be. The way people around them accepted or ignored Weinstein’s, Fallon’s and Spacey’s past behaviour makes this point very clearly.
But it’s not just a logical argument and critical view of the past that backs up my point. There’s also a selfish dimension to it too.
If part of the point of life is to enjoy it, the evidence is also on my side. Harvard has been running the Grant study since 1938, in search of understanding what makes for a happy life. It’s one of the longest running studies ever. You know what they found? The key to a happier, healthier life?
Do you know what kind of relationship you want to have with your kids next year, in ten years, in thirty years time?
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