A Life of Intention

Published By: Susan Ritter | Wed, Sep 29, 2021

One of the best things about being a single parent is that your child or children have an opportunity to share in the decision-making.  This is true for all parents but happens less often for adults who have each other to discuss alternatives and plan for the future.  Because it has always been just my son and myself, I tend to share my thinking with him on the big questions - like where should we live and where should we travel.  And the small questions – like what’s for dinner ☺

This interaction can be a two-edged sword.  It gives him autonomy and a voice in the decisions that we make about our future, so he can prepare mentally for the changes and learn more about what is coming based on the decisions.  But it also means that when things don’t work out as planned, I turn to him for support in remedying the situation.  These real-world responsibilities and problem-solving exercises have allowed him to grow up quickly and hone his “street smarts” skills within a safe framework.  

In the past, this process was done ad hoc.  As ideas came to me, I would share them with a little background and get his input.  Ultimately, he was just coming along for the ride that supports my vision for us and what I feel is his best future.  But this year he turns 16 and I’ve decided it is time for him to start creating a vision of the future for his own independent life.  He has seen me visualize and then make a concrete plan for us, and watched me teach others to do the same.  I’ve decided it is his turn to do the same for himself.

Now, this concept isn’t new.  Adults have always asked children what they want to be when they grow up.  When very young, children usually have an answer based on their limited understanding of the choices.  But by the time they are teenagers, the question is much muddier for most.  I see three scenarios that have played out over and over again through the past 50 years.  

  1. In the first scenario, the young person has no idea what they want because the options are limitless and they don’t know what to expect from any of them.  They go to college or university and drift from one program to the next hoping to find something to inspire them.  Unfortunately, inspiration is not one of the commodities that colleges and universities provide, except in rare cases.  Others may forfeit tertiary education altogether and just go get a job, falling further and further behind as job advancement requirements for higher levels of education increase.
  2. In the second scenario, imagination and creativity have been crushed out of the child throughout the school years.  They make decisions based on expedience - how much money they will earn in a certain career and/or how easy it is to get a degree.  This approach has led to disillusionment, frustration and boredom for most after 10 years of managing a dead-end career or job. 
  3. In the third scenario, parents have already made the decision for their child.  The child either doesn’t have an opportunity to present an alternative, or their alternative doesn’t meet the expectations of the parents.  The child hears comments like “You can’t make a living doing that.”

Today, the patterns of the past 70 years no longer provide the same results.  Young people are coming out of tertiary education with advanced degrees but few prospects for a career, while others are starting businesses as teenagers, and creating a life to fit their own expectations.  That doesn’t mean all children should forego college and start a business, but it does mean that a vision for the future needs to be created so that the path to the vision can be designed.  If the vision is to become a surgeon, then a medical education is mandatory and best found in a university environment.  But to become a successful entrepreneur, college is not necessarily the best path.  Instead, finding mentors and learning by doing is more expedient.  

More than ever before, understanding this shift will make the difference for our children.  Technology, globalization, and disruptions will divide the population into two camps.  

  1. Those who are dependent on the system will become expendable serfs to the power players as artificial intelligence and robots replace humans in the mundane jobs. 
  2. Those who are creative and independent will be able to create the life they want for themselves.  

For my son, this starts with learning how to visualize a desired future built around a solid world view.  Then learn how to create and execute a path to that future vision and practice problem-solving the challenges along the way.  For some, this process could start as early as age 14, for others it may be better to start a little later.  For my son, his natural desire for independence has materialized this year and makes it the perfect time to start mentoring him in this process.  Here is the process we are following:

Step 1 – Over the winter break, we perform a 5-day home workshop.  The idea is to put 2 hours aside each day to do independent thinking and writing, then a shared discussion about the following:

  • Review and assess what was accomplished, what we learned, and whether it made us happy, in the prior year.
  • Build a vision of what our life could look like in five years, independently and together.
  • Build a vision of what we would like to do and accomplish in the next year and how it supports the five-year vision.
  • Identify the steps to accomplish the one-year vision and build the plan, answering the questions:  what do we need to create, who do we need to connect with, how are we going to create it, and when will we do each step in the plan.
  • Create a metric and check-in points throughout the year to evaluate our progress.


Step 2 – With the plan established, we spend two hours on a Sunday afternoon each month, to review our progress for our individual goals as well as our shared goals.  We discuss challenges and apply problem-solving techniques to overcome or redirect our activities to get back on track.  The trick is to help my son practice problem-solving himself, not provide the solutions.  I’m a fixer, so this is actually pretty difficult for me and remains one of my own personal goals from year to year ☺  It is worth mentioning that your child can help you problem-solve your challenges just as well as you can help them with theirs.  Give them the opportunity to contribute and you might find out exactly what has created your problem in the first place.

Step 3 – On a quarterly basis, we will celebrate our progress.  Since there are only two of us, we alternate what that celebration looks like from quarter to quarter.  It may be a weekend holiday somewhere, or to visit a friend, or to have a special dinner out, or to purchase an upgrade to a favorite video game.  The quarterly celebration is only held if the goals for the quarter were met, however if the plan is solid and the effort is intentional, the quarterly celebration is never at risk.  

TIP: By keeping specific activities and products to be used as celebratory treats, it creates experiences in delayed gratification and increases the perceived value of the celebratory activities.  Both of these outcomes are valuable in creating a life of gratitude and happiness.

All things in life are cyclical, when we create rituals and processes that provide cyclical patterns, we create stability in our life even when the activities we are doing are challenging or risky.  In the end, intentional living based on creating and executing a plan will give your child structures to dream big and allow them to become anything they want to be.

If you are interested in more details about this model, type “more” into the chat and I’ll follow up with a message to connect with you to discuss how you can implement a similar program for your family.

Until next week and a new month, remember, “The future is yours to create”.

Original Source:  A Life of Intention | LinkedIn