The Pathway Talk With Your Parents

Figuring out what you want to do with the next stage of your life can be pretty hard.

For some of us, it’s made all the more difficult by the massive difference between our own goals and our parents’ expectations.

We might not be so sure what we want to do with our lives, but they seem to know exactly what we should do. You want to be a writer; they want you to be a dentist. You want to be a taxidermist; they want you to go into finance. Heck, maybe you want to become a lawyer, but your family thinks you’d be better off as a roving circus performer.

As a relatively stable roving circus performer writer and editor whose family wasn’t always so sure about my career, I’ve found that this difference in opinion isn’t insurmountable. Put on your pinstriped suit and don your most suave toupée: We’re headed to the negotiation table.

1) Hear Out Your Parents, Then Make Your Case

Ask your parents why they want the things they want. It’s possible they actually see law school as an excellent basis for a career in international espionage, not the courts. Or, more likely, they do want you to be a lawyer, but only because that’s their way of trying to make sure you never have to go hungry.

Then, make sure they know what your ultimate goals are. Perhaps you want to have a boring but stable part-time career to make room for more fun (but not profitable) hobbies. Maybe both you and your parents think money is super important, but you just don’t think being an international spy is right for you.

Make sure you’re both very clear on the ‘why’. Sometimes, this can solve the whole problem when you realise you’re both aiming for the same goals.

2) Consider Compromise

If you agree on goals but not the method, you’re more likely to get what you want if you accept a small, safe compromise. Your parents have been around for a while and unfortunately they will be right about some things.

An accounting course, for example, is boring (to some) but universally handy. Plus, it’ll reassure your parents that you’re taking things seriously, even if you do just use it to balance the books at your startup company selling novelty dog hats.

If Doggo Hats PTY LTD takes off, great! If not, you’ve still got a lot of options and a lot of knowledge you’d otherwise not have. Prove to your parents that you understand the risks and you have contingency plans. Everyone wins.

3) Deliver The Goods

If you and your family disagree on goals, a reliable way towards gaining acceptance is to prove you can apply yourself. ‘Hardworking yet misguided’ is better than ‘aimless and lazy’, and nothing looks lazier than skipping out on your own aspirations.

If you say you’ll knit a hundred scarves before Christmas, do it. At best, it will convince people that your plans are viable and you’ll stick to them. At worst, you’ll have a hundred scarves. That’s not a bad deal.

4) Don’t Lose Sight Of The Big Picture

In the end, your life is about meeting your own goals, not anyone else’s. If you still can’t see eye-to-eye, perhaps the only solution is time. That’s okay. People change and the expectations of others don’t define you.

As long as you’re still striving towards your goals and clinging to opportunities thrown your way, you’ll be okay. And that’s what your family really wants for you. They care: That’s why they give you a hard time.