I often think about this tweet from Adam Grant:
“Too many people spend their lives being dutiful descendants instead of good ancestors. The responsibility of each generation is not to please their predecessors. It’s to improve things for their offspring. It’s more important to make your children proud than your parents proud.”
Having spent most of my career working with college students, I have too often seen young people overly concerned about what their parents want for their lives.
When in doubt, though, maybe default to choices that would make your kids, or future kids, proud. And that might simply be living a life that’s true to yourself, that’s on a track you truly want to be on, as an example for the generation following you.
When I was in elementary school, my dad quit his secure job to start his own business. After a few bumpy years of uncertainty and just barely getting by, he and my mom had their small business in a position to provide a rewarding, if not especially lucrative, career for them both. Years later he told me that his primary motivation in quitting his job and starting his business was to set an example for me and my sister, to show us we didn’t have to settle for a conventional career path, that we should feel free to pursue whatever dreams inspired us.
What is the story your grandchildren will be told about how you lived your life? Honor your parents. But live your life, not theirs.