One of the most inspiring things I learned a few years ago when I had just started the Youth Wellness Network and was working with youth across North America was the idea that, in order to empower anyone else, I needed to take responsibility for my OWN life first. This realization not only changed the dynamic of every single relationship I had in my life, but it also created the very foundation for what my organization is now built on – leading by an authentic example.
I believe that if more parents took responsibility for their OWN lives before they tried to get their kids to do something that they weren’t even practicing themselves - more young people would grow up empowered and inspired rather than rebellious and disillusioned. The fact is actions speak WAY louder than words and youth emulate our actions so much more than they listen to our words.
I believe many adults - like my father did with me - underestimate the power and wisdom of young people, and believe that since they don’t know better they must be controlled. My parents spent so much time trying to prevent me from experiencing the same pain and discomfort they lived through by telling me what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. I know this was their way of trying to protect me, but it ended up causing more harm than good. In deciding everything for me they were actually disempowering me from making healthy choices on my own. I was set up for a lifetime of indecisiveness and powerlessness.
Thankfully at the age of 50 my dad had a major transformation in his life and ended up shedding a lot of those old belief systems and took on new more empowering ones instead. He turned his own life around and became so inspired by the process that he wanted to help others do the same. That is where I got to reap the benefits. It was his inspired action to live the empowered version of himself that inspired me to follow suit. I now know that there is a more empowering way to raise our next generation!
Once children’s primary needs are met (love, food, and shelter), and they’re safe from physical harm, parents have the opportunity to allow their kids the freedom to become personally responsible. In allowing your young ones to think and act for themselves, and then respecting their decisions, you’ll be able to move to a place of trust, love and faith in your relationship. All of these experiences will let them learn, grow and make mistakes. The more YOU have faith that life will bring them exactly what THEY need, when they need it, the more they’ll be able to gain the self-knowledge required to flourish as adults. You just have to trust that no matter what they go through, they’ll become more evolved people as a result.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be a parent to your children - quite the contrary. It’s just a shift in the way you take on this role by default. For example, you can still provide guidance and share your own stories, but you must own these as yours, not as things that might or will happen to your kids. You can teach them that actions always have consequences, and the more aware they are of these consequences, the easier their choices become. You can show them how to make decisions that truly feel good within them, and then to live with and learn from the repercussions, no matter what they are. You can share your own morals and values while encouraging them to create their own. You can teach them that the more they’re able to respect and love themselves, the more they’ll be able to respect and love others. If more parents are able to accomplish all this, it’s possible that the next generation will grow up feeling more in control of their lives and more personally responsible for the realities they’re manifesting.
While my dad unconsciously spent a lot of time controlling me as a young person - telling me what to do, forcing me to behave a certain way around the house, and pressuring me to act maturely in the classroom and in public - he realizes now that that way of parenting did not set me up for success.
When I moved away from home to go to university, I was unable to conﬁdently make decisions for myself and, as a result, I struggled tremendously. It was only when I started working with my dad, after his transformation in a coaching relationship, that he learned the value of allowing me (with his support) to take complete responsibility for my OWN life and circumstances. He no longer told me what to do and he never provided solutions for my problems and concerns. Rather, he empowered me to look within and realize how much control I actually had over the events transpiring in my life.
This isn’t just true for parents and children. I believe that it’s in all of our best interests to give all the people in our lives - spouses, siblings, employees, students, friends, and so on - the space to make their own choices and learn from their mistakes. If you’re able to release the desire to control every outcome and tell others what to do, our youth will be free to grow into unique, conﬁdent people.
The more that we allow each other to live personally responsible lives, the more harmonious our relationships and environments will become. We’ll all thrive if given the chance to do so.
The most efﬁcient way to encourage others to take ownership of their own lives is to lead by example. The more we move from a “do as I say” to a “do as I do” approach, the more enabled individuals will be to make happier, healthier, and more positive choices that feel good to them.
Empowerment and personal responsibility are the way of the future. Through these practices, young leaders will be nurtured and supported. And this next generation will have the opportunity and the ability to repair our planet and live in peace.
**Most of this blog is an excerpt from Michael’s new book Empowered YOUth: A Father and Son’s Journey to Conscious Living (Hay House) Now available everywhere books are sold. If you like this blog you will most likely enjoy the book!**
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