Hiding Behind Family

We don’t often view family as an obstacle. Most of the time it’s regarded as a sacred entity that comes before everything else. There are certainly situations where we put our family first for the right reasons. However, far too often we leverage the concept of family in order to justify tabling our passions and dismissing our own dreams. 

Operating under this mindset, there are also those who claim that their children or spouse are their only passion. I understand this sentiment, but it’s not enough. You should absolutely be committed to your children and family, but you also possess individual dreams, unique to you. If every child born lived only to be passionate about the children they would one day have, not only would this inhibit progress, but it would also leave us empty of many of life’s most beautiful experiences.

Without individual passion the works of Aristotle, Shakespeare, Darwin, Gandhi, Einstein, and Dylan wouldn’t exist; the list goes on. Every notable advancement and source of inspiration/joy is thanks to those in relentless pursuit of their dreams. Without passion, humanity would deteriorate into a dull shade of gray, a faceless mass. We would simply exist. Boundaries and limitations in current thought would tower overhead, never to be transcended.

The foundation for everything in life is individual identity. You have to first be happy with yourself and pursue your passion. Unfortunately, we often become distracted by the idea of marriage and kids and use it to shield ourselves as if it’s some great act of nobility. It’s not all that surprising when we consider the deeply rooted myth surrounding family, convincing most that greatness in other realms of life is impossible if we value human relationships.

When we surrender to this myth, we allow aspirations that once burned deep within to fall by the wayside and perpetuate this cycle by instilling the same misconception in younger generations. The truth is that a life void of passion is incapable of anything beyond mediocre.

In his TEDx Talk on a similar concept, Larry Smith, Professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo, defines passion as realizing the highest expression of one’s individual talents. He goes on to discuss the excuses we manifest as we fail to recognize or pursue our passion. The common denominator across these excuses is the misconception – born either out of fear or ignorance – that following our dreams comes at a crippling price and demands we sacrifice family, friends, and/or relationships. Smith counters by suggesting we should instead view all these concepts as being interconnected.

Greatness is all of these things: establishing a strong individual identity, pursuing your unique passion, building quality relationships – you fill in the blank. These ideas are not mutually exclusive. Together they form a cohesive whole.

Certainly pursuing your passion or developing other areas of your life comes at a price, but not necessarily that of your family or relationships. With the right approach, the sacrifice comes in the form of being efficient and productive with the time you do have (i.e. limit consumption of passive entertainment that has no bearing on your life). Eliminate the distractions.

If you’re someone who claims to be ‘incredibly busy’ but still have time to watch eight hours of football on Sunday and are unwilling to give that up, best of luck in your future endeavors. Greatness demands sacrifice and maturing beyond certain temptations. It’s important to recognize this before engaging in meaningful relationships or bringing another life into the world.

I do not have children because I am 26 and selfish. But I would assume the deepest hope any respectable parent has for their child is that they excel in whatever they take on and discover true happiness in their life – which always involves pursuing a passion in some way. When you see someone you love completely immersed and in his or her element, it generates a great sense of satisfaction – second only to personal experience. But if you don’t expect this from yourself, it’s entirely unfair to expect anything different from your kids, or anyone else for that matter. When you settle and become paralyzed by ignorance or fear, this is the example that your kids, and the rest of the world, see day in and day out.

There is nothing virtuous about just getting through life. In fact, it’s wasteful. We all have aspirations, dreams, and passions that are equally important to each of us. Careful consideration must be given to each moving part. Please don’t be someone who gets married, has kids, then takes cover behind your family when you realize that you only did these things as a matter of course or in fear of pursuing your dreams. Family is only one piece of the cohesive whole. It can and should coexist with other dreams you have for your life.

The world would be a considerably better place if every single person pursued the one thing that made him or her feel most alive and projected this ambition across to every aspect of life. Moving with determination towards your individual passion not only provides you with a greater sense of satisfaction, but it also offers encouragement to others in your life. Do not seek excuses; they are far too easy to come by. Seek inspiration. Demand greatness from yourself. In an age of constant consumption and takers, give something back to the world, something uniquely yours.