Every father wants to be the perfect father. To achieve that you need to unleash your biggest superpower as a dad.
Be careful what you wish for
My father had it easy. He taught English for a year at Delhi University after doing his Masters in English. Then he joined the Indian Railways and retired from there. We lived in small towns and big towns. It was a world with very few choices. There were never more than two or three choices to mull over.
The news was read out by All India Radio and Doordarshan. There were three cars to choose from – Ambassador, Fiat and Standard Herald. The Ambassador cars were synonymous with the Government vehicles. Buying the Fiat car was my father’s subtle way to show his independent streak. When it came to Bollywood, Lata Mangeshkar sang 60% of the songs and her sister Asha Bhosle sang the rest. Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi made up the choices for male vocalists.
Career choices were limited
For science students, the field was wide open to choose from. You could choose to become a doctor or engineer and maybe an architect if you were adventurous. Those who studied Humanities became academics or wrote the Civil Services Exams. The Commerce students became Chartered Accountants. I joined the Corporate Sector because I knew the least about it, having emerged from my cocoon.
More choice is a recipe for misery
If 2x = 6, it is easy to solve the mystery. As soon as you add another unknown, the equation is complex. Excessive choice can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. In a world of endless choice, there is no room for not making the perfect choice. There certainly is no time for the meaningless choices either.
You can get 80,000 varieties of coffee at Starbucks and it will take three human lifetimes to try them all. I am sorry, I just found out there are 87,000 drink combinations at Starbucks. I have to do a fact check before I can tell you which is the more believable figure. You still have one lifetime and a limited budget to try it all.
Create an OkCupid account, and you’ll have the chance to connect with more than 50 million members. Yes, but then you have to narrow down that choice to that one person. “Someone did not have ambition. Someone was dull and boring. Most people were self-obsessed. My friends tell me that my perfect match is one swipe away.”
Stop trying for perfection
When my kid was born I wanted to become a perfect father. I expected my kid to be a perfect kid. The kid refused to be perfect. That was the end of my project of creating a perfect family. As an act of protest, I too stopped being the perfect father. In retrospect, that was the best decision I took.
It is only when you stop trying to be perfect can you actually unleash the superpower you need the most as a dad.
Three secret tips I learned from my dad
1. Simplify the decision. Minimise the choices. Whenever I wanted my dad to buy me something expensive, he always agreed readily without looking up from the newspaper and said, “Next month.” It gave me instant joy and anticipation. Unfortunately I never remembered anything for 30 days.
2.There is a positive in every decision. As long as I stayed with my first employer, my father explained to me that it showed me as a stable employee. When I changed my first employer, he said, “You are extremely adaptable. I like that!” I forgot to ask him which was a better option to be a stable employee or adaptable.
3. Set smaller and more achievable goals: I wanted to play the guitar for The Beatles. My clanging did not sound good enough even after I tried for a few weeks. I asked dad if I should give up on my dream. He said, “If you learn just two chords, you can play enough songs to go for the audition. Perfection comes in the way of your dreams.” So did I get selected to play for the Beatles? Ummm… no. Wait… not because I was not good enough. The Beatles broke up just the day before the audition.
The superpower to slow down
My wish for all Fathers is that you have to discover the superpower to slow down. When you sit down to eat your next meal, spend more time enjoying the texture of the food, the taste, the sound of the crunch, the colours of the food and the aroma of the food. Then enjoy the conversation with your loved ones. Find time to slow down today and then try to slow down tomorrow and then every day. That is the superpower I wish for you.
Happy Father’s Day.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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