3 Tips for Success? First, Lower Your Standards

My daughter, son-in-law, 6-year-old granddaughter, and son spent Christmas with me this year. It was great because they live so far away. On a couple of occasions, I pulled the “grandma” card. That is where my daughter is completely losing her mind about something my granddaughter has done and then Grandma comes to the rescue.

“Mom”, my daughter sighs. “She is going to be horrible when we get home if you keep bailing her out.” My daughter has a point. Consistency is key and my daughter knows the disciplinary hot-spots. At the end of the day, I concede that my daughter is right. We need to be a bit stricter in the formidable years so our children can make good choices when they are adults. But, I still feel the need to give my daughter some unsolicited advice because …

I’m a successful parent.

How can I say I’m a successful parent? I look at the results – I have two adult children who have lived up to my standards. My kids:

  1. Are still alive (it’s kind of important to keep them alive).
  2. Haven’t killed anyone.
  3. Haven’t gone to jail (or, at least, I don’t know about it and, let’s be honest, ignorance can be bliss).
  4. Support themselves and live outside my home.
  5. Fix their own messes (hence the reason I don’t know if they’ve actually gone to jail).
  6. Are loving, tolerant, inquisitive, and independent. These are biases but I have hard examples to back it up so, technically, it can be measured.
  7. Seek advice from a plethora of sources.

As you can see, my standards are relatively low. I didn’t quantify how much they need to make or which college they needed to attend or who they should marry or the home they should buy. In fact, very few of these “standards” are measurable because the things I value the most are intrinsic. I simply want my children to be happy, productive, socially adjusted members of society.

Neither of my children have lived their life the way I envisioned. My daughter took a break from college to start a family. She is on the home-stretch for her BS but she admits it is a bit harder to juggle work, school, and a growing family. My son is on a European backpacking trip. My biggest concern is that he will have so much fun that he won’t come back to finish college. However, I’m proud of the choices they have both made because they are living their own lives based on their internal principles.

As a successful parent, I have some advice for new parents which crosses over to business quite well. If I could go back in time, I would be kind to myself, identify and focus on the things that are most important, and laugh more.

Be kind to yourself

Sometimes our standards are crazy and completely irrational. I mean really crazy! As a parent, do your children’s clothes need to be clean at all times? Kids need the chance to explore their environment and that rarely occurs while staying clean. For business, do you (as the owner or supervisor) need to see every product offered to customers? Quality assurance is great but you may be tying up your limited resources with non-value-adding actions.

Parents, there are very few mistakes children can’t bounce back from. Don’t fall into the mindset that your children’s lives have been ruined by an event. Even children who have suffered debilitating illness/injury have adjusted their lives and blessed the world with their presence. Business owners and professionals, you will miss things, fail to deliver, and make people unhappy. This is a certainty but I’m confident you can recover from these missteps if you believe in yourself. Most business owners either struggle, close their doors, or file for bankruptcy with their first business. Learn from your mistakes, pick yourself up, and try again.

Failure is not fatal so be kind to yourself.

Identify and focus on important things

In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey talks about the eulogy/funeral exercise. What do you want people to say at your funeral? Do you want them to say you were always supportive or that you watched a lot of TV? Once you know what you want people to say, put a plan in place to get there.

For businesses and professionals, what do you want people to say at your retirement ceremony? Just as important, how many people do you want to attend? One of my coworkers retired after 40 years. We had to have multiple ceremonies and people came from around the country to attend and speak. He understood the importance of cultivating relationships while driving innovation.

Are you focusing on the important things? Sometimes we have to focus on narrow targets to hit strategic targets but everything we do should have purpose.

Laugh more

Happy people tend to be more successful. Why? Laughing reduces stress hormones (i.e., cortisol, etc.). Happy people don’t waste time worrying about things they can’t change which leaves energy for the things they can change. And … well, don’t you like being around positive instead of negative people? Cross-functional collaboration hinges on happy and positive thinking.

For parents, your underlying attitude (positive or negative) will influence how your children interact with the world. I’m not being overly dramatic. Pessimistic parents tend to have pessimistic children and parents who laugh often have children who are ready to laugh as well. You are helping your children create a happy and successful life when you teach them how to laugh.

Bottom line … I want to have happy, laughing moments to keep me company during my golden years. I want moments that are so enjoyable and funny that I almost wet my panties when I retell them. Life is too short to be sour. If that isn’t motivating, then just remember that laughing burns more calories than frowning.

So, laugh more this year!

What unsolicited advice would you share with parents, business owners, and professionals?

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