There’s has been a lot of literature published in the past decade about following your passion.
Books, articles and blogs are devoted to the message that in finding your passion and following your interests you will find work that you love and life will take on a fuller and richer quality
There’s also been much written lately about how the institution of schooling, which at its core is focused on measurements, testing, and adherence to the rules, does not provide an environment where students can think creatively or have a personal connection with their learning.
In fact one of the biggest criticisms many people have with the current school structure is that it doesn’t allow for passion. Curriculums are already set in place before teachers have even met any of the students. Children’s individual interests, passions and talents are not taken into consideration.
One of the main reason parents choose to not send their children to school is to keep their children’s passion for learning intact. They come to see that, when their children come up with their own learning agenda, through self-initiated projects, research and ideas, they develop deep passions and interests which, in turn, lead to even deeper learning and understanding.
Even many parents who do send their children to school realize that their children need to have time to direct their own learning. These parents do their best to provide this for their kids in what little time their children have left after attending school all day, and then completing homework assignments and studying for tests that have very little connection to their children’s daily lives.
And so many children do grow up encouraged to pursue their passions and dreams. And that’s good, right?
I want my children to follow their interests and passions, too. I’d like them to grow up with a strong sense of what makes them unique. I want them to have lots of time to plan their own projects and goals, learn what it takes to achieve them, and to become self-directed learners.
But, lately, I’ve been thinking that there’s something else that is just as important as following your dreams – lifestyle design.
What is lifestyle design?
It, too, is a phrase that’s been tossed around a lot lately in books and blogs. To me, it’s simply imagining an ideal week or month in your life. What would it look like? What would your mornings be like? Evenings? Weekends?
Young children can do this on a small scale. In fact, this exercise is much easier for them. They can think about the activities that they like to do, the subjects they like to learn about. They know what time of the day they have the most energy. They know when they like to be inside or outside. They know who they want to spend time with and for how long. Working with their parents, they can work on designing their ideal lifestyle right now – they don’t have to wait until they’re older.
In fact, early practice with this will make it much easier to do this in more complex and long-term ways as they grow older.
I think the skill of lifestyle design becomes even more important as children get older and grow into young adults.
Knowing your passions, talents and interests is important, but just as important, and even more so in many ways, is knowing what your values are and how to structure your days in ways that leave you energized and encouraged rather than stressed and depleted.
Let’s say your child has her heart set on becoming a professional singer. She may already have had some gigs and met some influential people in the music business.
It’s great that she has followed her passions and worked hard at achieving her goals. But has she asked herself some important questions about what she’d like her life to look like in the future? Does she want to have a family? How much time does she want to spend with them? Does she really like to travel a lot?
Or what if your son dreams of becoming a criminal defense lawyer? He has lots of natural talent in this area and has spent a lot of time and energy studying about the law. But does he enjoy lots of time to devote to other interests? Does he want to spend a lot of time with his children one day? Does he also dream of long-term travel?
Pursing passions and dreams is important, but I think it’s also very important that we ask our children as they grow older to think about all the things that are important to them- including values and things they believe in.
Here are some important questions to consider:
Is travel important to you?
Do you value freedom in planning out your day?
Do you value flexibility?
How important is spending a lot of time with your family?
What are your strongest beliefs and values?
Do you do your best work at night or in the morning?
Do you prefer to work hard at one big project at a time or take on lots of little projects at the same time?
All these questions and perhaps dozens more are important for your children to answer as they prepare to become independent. They may have a passion for something, but if that passion is going to negatively affect other areas of their lives, they should think long and hard about that.
It’s important for them to articulate and understand deeply what their priorities and highest values are. If they are not deeply aware of them, than even if they pursue their dreams and passions, they might still be left frustrated and unfulfilled.
Photo Credit: Horia Varlan
How important is it for you to share the principals of lifestyle design with your children?
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