I am going to tell you about a common dilemma I face in my pursuit of “fatherhood greatness.” I am willing to make a bet that many of my readers might be able to relate to what I am about to share. My problem comes whenever I go to another dad’s home and observe all the differences between his life and my own. I notice the calendar on the fridge full of exciting events and honorable goals. I see clean floors, dusted surfaces, and toys put meticulously into little bins. I am drawn to all the cool gadgets as I try to picture their many uses. I can’t help but wonder how much time and money it must take to make it all come together. Everything seems so perfect. Then, I go home and I begin to see flaws all around me. I start to question my own lifestyle. I begin to wonder if I should just burn everything down and start all over again. I beat myself up for not being the cool, confident dad that other dads seem to be. By the time the day is over, I feel two inches tall and full of regrets. Sound familiar?
There is an awkward duality to making comparisons that leave most of us internally conflicted. On one hand, there is value in making personal improvements based on what we see in others. History is full of men that have accomplished great things in their lives. It is wise for us to follow their example. On the other hand, making comparisons can leave us miserable and discontent. And so, I am left with a question- how do we make beneficial improvements in our lives while also being content with who we are and what we have? Honestly, I don’t know if I can fully answer this question for myself, let alone make sense of this question for you. Yet, this is something that we, as dads, must wrestle with daily. We want to be better today than we were yesterday, but we don’t want to crush our spirit in the pursuit of greatness. The best I can offer to you today are three rules. I believe that if we follow these three rules, we will be a few steps closer to making healthy comparisons.
The first rule is to have realistic expectations. When we try to live up to a standard that is not achievable, either within the present or the future, we run the risk of harming our morale. It is important for us to set goals for ourselves that have the potential and means to be successful. If I can create goals for myself that are attainable, I will be more likely to follow through with them. As the picture of personal success becomes clearer to me, I will find greater motivation to see my goals come to fruition.
The second rule is to address the problem and not the person. When we make comparisons, it can be tempting to shame ourselves for not being who we think we ought to be or doing what we think we ought to be doing. Shame rarely serves us well. Alternatively, when we look for ways to improve upon our actions, our character, and our circumstances we are more likely to make positive changes for ourselves. The same kind of thinking goes into having healthy conflict with someone we care about. Instead of trying to hurt the person, we divert our attention to the issue that is causing us strife.
The third rule is to find joy in where we are and where we are going. This is the rule that, among all the rules, feels the least hashed out. It is tempting to say that we should simply be satisfied with what we have and who we are. This is good for us, but it doesn’t address the internal drive we have to grow and advance ourselves. We can just as easily make a case that it isn’t healthy to stay satisfied with who we are and what we are doing today. Our desire for change is what leads us to become better people. Therefore, I assume that we are at our healthiest when we learn to find joy in both who we are/where we are in life and who we will be/what we will achieve. In other words, we embrace or learn to appreciate both stability and change.
Writing this post has proven to be a deep philosophical exercise for me. I felt the need to write about this topic only because I believe that it is near and dear to myself and to many fathers that will read this post. Is this something that you are wrestling with also? If so, where have you landed with the questions brought up here? Have you come to any other conclusions? Please share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comments section. Thank you for letting me share my mind with you today.