By: Carter Williams, Director of Xperience Growth Coaching & Consulting
I recently took a trip with my four-year-old daughter Ellee. The trip was consequential for a couple reasons…
#1: First time leaving Austin since the beginning of the pandemic and
#2: Our first Daddy & Daughter trip.
For anyone that has ever travelled with a four-year-old, known a four-year-old or even seen a four-year-old in person, you can imagine that the trip was filled with big emotions – highs & lows.
And, there are lessons to be learned that apply to business and life. Here are the four biggest lessons I learned and re-learned from our Daddy & Daughter weekend…
1. Enjoy the ride
The road trip from Austin to Rockport on the Texas coast took us roughly 3 hours, 22 minutes and 14 seconds including a pit stop in the middle for the “potty.” (Not that I was counting…) We might have been 30 minutes into the trip when Ellee first asked “When will we be there?” I gave her the answer and then was asked the question about every 10 minutes the rest of the way until we arrived. A few times she talked about how far away the coast house is from Austin. She couldn’t wait to get there.
As you might expect, I did all that I could to make her car ride enjoyable… I played the movie Frozen (one of her favs), which was special because we don’t normally play movies in the car, so that was a treat. Speaking of treats, she had snacks for days at her disposal. At our potty break, I got her a special coloring book and Olaf balloon to play with. We talked, we sang… and she just wanted to get to our destination.
It’s understandable, isn’t it? The “goal” wasn’t the car ride, the goal was the coast. What’s interesting, though, is that at the coast she wanted to watch movies, listen to songs and have snacks… the exact things we had in the car.
We chalk this up to Ellee being a four-year-old, yet how many times do we ask “when will we be there” about where we’re going? We are so focused on our goals and outcomes that we forget to enjoy the ride. We overlook our version of Frozen and coloring books because it’s not our destination. We tell ourselves the journey will be tough and that it will be worth it. However, what do we as high achievers do when we actually hit our goal and reach our destination… Yep… new goal, new destination and the journey continues. If we actually stop and look around for a moment, we’ll probably realize that our journey really is something to enjoy. Let’s look for the joy in the journey.
2. No one cares about your expectations. Be principled, yet flexible.
My goal for our weekend together was that we had fun and built upon our special Daddy & Daughter connection. That was it.
Naturally, I had plans and ideas to make sure that we had fun and connected. We were going to eat yummy foods, take walks in our neighborhood with great views of the water, go to the beach, eat outside on our deck… all things that I know she loves to do, because we do a lot of those things at home (sans the beach views…). We did do some of these things. Some she was happy to do, others I forced. That created frustration in me and in Ellee. I was forcing fun and that is no fun! I lost sight of what I wanted to achieve, because I was getting too tied up with how I was going to achieve it.
There’s a principle in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) that says the person with the most flexibility will have control. It’s the flexibility that allows us to bend to fit the situation, otherwise we’ll break. In looking back, I was too wrapped up in my agenda and was not flexible to hers. That created tension in me that rubbed off on her. Had been willing to be more flexible at times, we would have likely had more fun – which is all I really wanted to do in the first place.
3. Sometimes you just need a break.
Ellee is a really good sleeper. And, she usually gets a lot of sleep including daily naps. As we progressed from Friday afternoon to evening and into Saturday morning to early afternoon, she had not had the amount of sleep normal for her. With limited capacity to control her emotions and actions, she acted out. Defiant, argumentative, short tempered. If I’m being honest, a lot of the frustration I was feeling was a result of this.
Then something miraculous happened… She took a nap. A nice, long 2 hour nap.
When she awoke, she was a new person. Her attitude completely changed. She was sweet, highly energetic, even her eyes were vibrant. She just needed some rest.
We’re no different than Ellee… just larger versions of her. How often do we plow through our lives without stopping to rest – rest of our bodies and our mind? Granted, we can probably hold it together better than she can, the fact still remains that we are not at our best without taking a break physically and mentally. When you know you’re not at your peak performance, give yourself the liberty to take a break, rest, go for a walk, meditate. Take long weekends, week vacations to recharge and rejuvenate. Ensure that you are getting enough rest so that you come back as the YOU you want to be.
4. You are responsible for your own emotions & you only will remember the good parts.
News flash… Ellee was acting like a four-year-old, because she’s four. In her stage in life, she has difficulty controlling emotions and she is testing the boundaries to learn how to navigate life. That can manifest itself into actions and behaviors that can be difficult for parents to manage. Why? We forget the big reason that she’s “misbehaving” is that she is finding where the line is. Which, if we think about it, how do you know where the line is if you don’t cross it from time-to-time. Yet, what do parents do? We allow her actions to frustrate us. I mean that literally… we ALLOW that frustration. It’s the culmination of my unmet expectations – we’re going to have a bunch of fun by my definition and means – and Ellee’s lack of rest. I was not responsible for my emotions and that led me to not be the Dad I wanted to be in some moments of the trip.
Here’s the big aha for me. In the moments of my frustration, I felt justified as I was “simply keeping her from harming herself or things” because “everything she was doing could damage her or our things.” So, I had the right to be frustrated with that, so I was telling myself in the moment. Yet, when I got home and was reflecting on the weekend, all I could remember were the really fun moments – walking on the beach with our feet in the water, playing in the house, watching a jellyfish swim in the canal. And all those “dangerous moments” that got me all worked up? In only 24 hours removed, upon actual reflection, I could only remember one.
In the book Power of Moments, the authors say that after events we typically remember the “peak & the ending.” Essentially, we remember the one or two best moments and how it ends. So, that tells me that all of those times where I let frustration win the moment was really not worth it. It’s not as bad as we make it out to be so don’t make it out to be more than what it is. Consider how this line of thinking might help you maintain a better attitude toward a hard project or challenging client. Getting frustrated in the middle is not worth it, because when you get to the end, the only things that you will likely recall are the best moments and how it ends.
You might be thinking that he had a really difficult weekend with his daughter, and that would be incorrect. We had a great time overall. I am looking forward to the next time that we get to have a Daddy & Daughter getaway! And, because life is not always perfect, it provided a great opportunity to take away some great life lessons that I am applying to being a Dad and in business.