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  • Writer's pictureDr. CK Bray

What Would I Say if I Were a Dad to My 18-Year-Old Self?

Happy Father’s Day to all those who play a role in raising a young person. I will admit I don’t like Father’s Day. My children must find nice things to say about me, as they also remember when I grounded them for misbehavior during their teenage years. They try to make me out to be a great dad when we all know I am a work in progress. But I’m not complaining if I get a good breakfast and some presents. (If you can believe it, I asked for socks this year, I discovered Wright socks a few years ago; they are my favorite, so I wanted a few extra pairs.)

Since we celebrate Father’s Day this coming Sunday, I have been thinking about what I would tell my 18-year-old self if I was a Dad to myself. I created an extensive list, but here are my favorite 5 rules to live by.

  1. Do Hard Things: Everything I am proud of in my life was extremely hard to do. Hard things make us strong, resilient and teach us valuable lessons. When a challenge comes into your life, and you are scared, face it head-on, dive into it and go to battle. It will turn you into an incredible human. (Even if the result isn’t what you expected).

  2. Take As Much Responsibility As You Can: I believe in the Pareto Principle. That 80% of the work accomplished is done by 20% of the people. Be the 20%; it will provide you with opportunities you can’t imagine, and people will know they can depend on you. Start with yourself, then focus on family, church, neighbors, and community. This is how you change the world and create a life rich with meaning and purpose. (Not by being famous or rich as the world would have you believe). In the words of one of my favorite mentors, “It is better to be trusted than loved.”

  3. If You Don’t Know Which Direction to Go, Then Start Doing Something: There is no roadmap to life. We rarely know the end from the beginning, and unfortunately, we rarely know the beginning; this is especially true during the decade of decisions (20-30 years old). The best thing to do when you don’t know what to do is move ahead and make a decision. Do something! Follow the breadcrumbs. If you are worried the decision is wrong, you learned a lesson and now pivot. That is the road map of life, especially in a world that is in a constant state of change.

  4. Get Married and Put That Marriage As Your First Priority: The research is straightforward. Married people live longer, are happier, healthier, and find more purpose and meaning in their lives. Marriage is hard, really hard, but this fits in with Rule #1. It is essential to have someone to share your life with and take responsibility for. Can’t find your soul mate? Soul mates are made, not found. Think long and hard before you leave or get a divorce. A large percentage of individuals in the United States who get a divorce wish they would have stayed. The grass is rarely greener on the other side.

  5. Enjoy Life: Life is hard, really hard. Bad things happen, and we make bad choices that create consequences. When you have a big win in life or things are going well, stop and take a moment to recognize your success, enjoy it, and pull out all the stops to celebrate. When life is hard, find the little reasons you have a good life, like lunch with your children, a walk on a sunny day, or that your worn-out car made it through another day. There is always something to be grateful for, even if you have to search it out.

Celebrate the Father in your life this week and share the 5 rules with them! I hope it changed your perspective.






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