doing things differently

How Dads Can Color Outside the Lines

Creativity is a natural gift. According to educational philosopher Sir Ken Robinson, almost all humans are born with a huge capacity for creativity. Then, over the years, our educational paradigms squash original thought, replacing it with an assembly line, factory model approach to learning. So when problems arise, we avoid creative thinking in favor of cultural convention, which is often what got us into our messes in the first place. But we can change this by doing things differently.

We’re not talking about throwing out conventional wisdom but recommending a heads-up stance that recognizes the limitations of convention and allows us to acknowledge our families’ unique needs and circumstances. This is about being aware rather than defaulting to the status quo. Here’s how to enhance your life as a dad by doing things differently—by learning how to color outside the lines.

Whose line is it?

First, and this is an important starting point, ask this question: “Who exactly is drawing the lines I’m coloring between so carefully?” If it’s God, then OK. But if the lines you’re trying so hard to stay inside are actually sketched into place by the advertising industry, by someone you’re jealous of, or by some set of cultural expectations that may well stand in conflict with who you really are, then it’s time to do things differently.

Make a new plan.

Try making some work decisions based on your family rather than making family decisions based on what your job dictates. Maybe less time with the kids isn’t worth the extra money. Maybe being able to make bigger car payments for a nicer car isn’t a great trade-off for missing another family event every week (not to mention the extra debt). Seriously, Dad, you can’t make up for lost time.

Am I happy?

Take a personal inventory. Make a list of the 10 things you value most in your life. The list likely will include your children, your faith, your home, your friends, and your community. Then make a list of the top 10 things you spend your time attending to in an average week, excluding sleep. If the two lists fail to line up, ask yourself why and consider whether you’d be better off doing things differently. It turns out that the first step to success is defining it.

What if?

Ask yourself some “what if” questions. What if I were a stay-at-home dad? What if I stopped arguing with people who disagree with me and spent more time listening to their points of view? What if I took the kids out of “select” sports and had dinner together as a family every night? What if we sold one of the cars, moved to a smaller house, canceled cable, and lived more simply?

Rewrite the story.

What if I made a conscious decision to rewrite the story of my family’s life by acknowledging the current state of things and then, by doing things differently, rather than simply drifting along without really evaluating anything?

Sound off: What would change in your life by doing things differently?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things you’d like to do differently?”