The Best Advice I Ever Received

Sometimes in life, I have those “aha!” moments where things click and I gain clarity. Then, there are a few times when they are even more than that—they are life changing and mind-altering moments.  

Let me just give you a few lines of backstory first. (It’s relevant, I promise.)

I’m the baby of eight kids, and my dad was gone by the time I was 5 years old. He lived out of town, and I saw him occasionally after the age of 10. I would talk with him on the phone, and we had occasional visits. He was a very serious, successful businessman one moment and my funny dad who had the loudest laugh in the movie theater the next.  

I loved my dad and respected his brilliant business mind. I was acutely aware at an early age that his time and attention would be focused on business first and family down the line—maybe fourth, right after golf at the country club, Michigan football, and his new wife.

Fast forward to when I was 22 years old, a single mom in need of direction, and pretty much confused about everything. Cue Psychologist Robert Miller, my therapist for a few months. That’s when I one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten came down the pike.  

After going through my history, my recent setbacks, and what was holding me back from moving on into my future, Robert Miller says to me,

“Micki, Ward Cleaver is never going to come walking through the front door. Stop waiting for him.”  

What?! Did this guy think that I was hoping and praying and waiting and watching for the perfect TV image of a father to come home and talk to me with a sensitive script of understanding words? Yep, he did, because that’s exactly what he thought.  

My whole life had been centered around watching my friends with their dads and imagining what it would be like to have that dad in my life. What I created for myself was a life of constant disappointment based on comparisons and unrealistic expectations. Whoa. That was huge.  

I didn’t have the perfect father that came home from work every day at the same time and lovingly greeted his family before sitting down to dinner together. What I had was my Dad, and that's ok.

How many issues in our lives are based on the constant disappointments due to our unhealthy need to measure up?

Our unrealistic expectations that come from looking at others’ business growth, marriages, friends, and families may also be what is skewing our worldview. Whew, that’s a slippery slope. Comparison for improvement and ideas’ sake can be brilliant. Comparison, when done through the eyes of envy, is nothing but destructive.  

After the day that this advice really set in a little, something changed. It wasn’t my dad.

It was my perception that changed, and that is everything.

It was the realization that you just don’t have control over everything in your life.  

You may be saying, “What does this have to do with me? I’m fine with my dad.”  The metaphor of “Ward Cleaver” is the picture perfect anything.

There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, an overnight success, an easy life, or a natural born winner. We only see half the picture, and we see it through our own life lens filters.

My example today is personal and family related. Yours might be feeling like you’ve been overlooked for a position that you earned. You may be so envious because your ideas haven’t manifested into the business that you dreamed of yet, but the other guys have hit it big.

There are so many things that happen that may be in or out of our control. You can wallow in it and get bitter and angry, or you can choose to understand and move on. Let me tell you: From experience, choosing the latter will make you better.

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