Empowering Young Girls: How To Guide Your Daughter To A Fulfilling Life

RADA | Guide Daughter

Being young should be the time for freedom, fun, and self-exploration. Unfortunately, in today’s competitive environment, kids as young as grade schoolers already worry about their futures. Tim Jordan, MD has seen this during a father-daughter retreat, where young girls show how they already feel the pressures of having a life mapped out. As parents, what should you do? How can you guide your daughters to a fulfilling life? In this episode, Tim gives some advice on how you can support your daughters as they navigate this crucial time in their lives. With stories and insights from remarkable people as well as resources you can use, Tim equips you with the tools to help your daughters as they figure out who they are. Tune in and get the guidance you need to mold our future generation of strong women charging towards their calling!

For more in-depth information about helping your daughters find their calling and trust themselves to zigzag their way to it, read these four books:

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Empowering Young Girls: How To Guide Your Daughter To A Fulfilling Life

In this episode, I have an interesting topic, which I’ve touched upon off and on a little bits and pieces in the past. I thought I would hammer it away because I got triggered by some work I’ve done with some girls. My wife and I ran two father-daughter retreats with girls in grade school, 1 in California and 1 in Pennsylvania. We also were in 2 schools working with 2 different classes, 2 different schools, and elementary school girls.

We did an exercise called Cross the Line, where all the girls went on one side of the line and we gave them a topic. It’s like, “Cross the line if you have a dog.” If you have a dog, you cross the line. If you don’t, you stay there. Everybody notices how many people have that in common. Also, more vulnerable things like, “Cross the line if you’ve ever been left out by a friend. Cross the line if you have ever been excluded. Cross the line if you’ve ever been teased.” The class has to learn about each other.

The interesting thing is when we put out the topic, “Cross the line if you ever worry about your future.” Guess how many of the girls crossed the line? These are grade school kids. There were 25 in one group, 32 in one group, and then the other group was about 20. I can tell you that about 90% of the girls crossed the line being worried about their future.

A lot of them talked about being worried about college and the job they’re going to get someday. These are grade school girls. They’re already getting a message from the culture that says, “You should have things pretty well figured out by now.” That’s not true, yet that is what your daughters are absorbing from all around them, the educational system, sometimes in their homes, and the culture.

Our kids are getting this message that when they’re young, in grade school, middle school, for sure by high school, in college, and/or beyond, they should know their life’s path, what their calling is, what their major is going to be in college when they’re in seventh grade, and their whole life story by the time they’re in senior high school because they should have it all planned out. They should have a long-term plan. That is not how life tends to work.

My wife and I years ago got to go to Venice, Italy. I’m half Italian so it was a great trip. There’s one of the pieces of advice I got from a man who was one of my patients’ dads. He was from Venice and a very Italian man. He said, “Let me give you some advice. I would get a good map of Venice. Start someplace and then throw the map away. The best way to see my city is to meander and poke around. Go around the corner. There are little streets and bridges over the canals. That’s how you’ll see the best of Venice. You’ll find more little cafes and shops. That’s the way to see Venice. Allow yourself to meander and zigzag through.”

There’s a famous line from The Lord the Rings and The Hobbit. Bilbo Baggins, the main character, said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” I don’t think we live by that credo. We believe that when young people are not certain of their futures when they’re 18 or 20 and they take a semester off, their labels are lost and they’re going to mess up their life. One of my favorite stories is about the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. He remembered that one time when he was a young boy, he was walking on a snowy day with his uncle.

They were going through the woods. They came to this large clearing and walked across the clearing. When they got to the other side, his uncle knelt and said, “Look back over our paths. What you’ll notice is that my path went straight across the field from the beginning to the end. Whereas your path, look what happened there. You zigzagged over there. You went over to the woods and threw rocks over here. You stopped for a moment and went to this side. You zigzagged all the way. I want this to be a lesson to you about how you do your life.”

Frank Lloyd Wright said that it made a huge impression on him but not the way his uncle probably would’ve wanted. His uncle wanted him to go straight across the clearing but Frank said, “What I decided then there was I was not going to do my life like my uncle. I was going to do it my way and allow myself to have experiences.”

Give Your Children Autonomy To Choose

One of my questions to you is, are you going to allow your daughters and sons for that matter? Are you going to give them the autonomy to choose their activities and follow their interests? If they’re getting burned out from their sport, are you going to allow them to quit and try something different or different activities? I saw a girl in my counseling practice not too long ago who was getting burned out from her sports. She’d been on a club soccer team for several years, 12 months of the year, and all that stuff. She quit because she was burned out and the coach was so intense.

One of the things that she did was she joined the school play. She said, “I loved it because it was a whole different set of people and a different kind of team. I made friends with people I’d never even seen before in my school, even though I’d been going to school with them for three years. We all ran in different circles. It was awesome that I could do that.” Every time you allow your kids to do things and sample new things, it builds circuits in different parts of their brains.

I saw a study one time about Nobel Prize-winning scientists that said that all of them were much more likely to be involved in things besides the scientists, especially the arts. People who won Nobel prizes scientists were 22 times more likely to take up things like acting, dancing, writing, doing some kind of art, and music. They used that as a balance to using the other part of their brain.

I read a story one time about Albert Einstein who said when he was working all night and he would get stuck on one of his theorems, he would stop and play the violin. For him, the violin stimulated and activated the creative parts of his brain. He lets go of the problem. New creative ideas would pop up into his head and the answer would come.

I read an interesting book called Range by David Epstein. I would highly recommend it to any of you. One of the things he found was he was looking at people who were good at what they did, masters of their craft, and all kinds of places in life, whether it’d be athletes or musicians. One of the things that he said was he had found that the culture was way overvaluing a narrow focus on 1 sport, 1 thing, 1 instrument in music, do a lot of deliberate practice, early hyper-specialization, and had this linear path towards a particular career in mind.

Kids are told that changing directions is dangerous and worse if you make a mistake. You need to choose early, focus narrowly, never waver, and practice repetitively and often. Kids are pushed to decide what they should be doing before they’ve even figured out who they are. That’s a huge piece of this. How can you make a decision about what you want to do when you don’t know who you are yet?

In the book Range, David Epstein, and this is me included, we would encourage you to encourage your kids to do early sampling and have a diversity of experiences, interdisciplinary thinking, a delayed concentration in one thing, and develop an ability to think broadly. Go through a long sampling period where you try things, broaden your experience, and forge your path in search of what fits you and what feels right for you, not the prescribed path.

Learn To Live With Uncertainty

The famous author, Sebastian Junger, is a nonfiction writer and also a filmmaker. When he was 29 years of age, he was an arborist. He was a person who cut down trees. One time he was harnessed in an upper canopy, way up high in a tree. When he was cutting down the tree, he slipped with a chainsaw and it tore open his leg. He was in the hospital for a while and was getting repaired. He then got the idea that he wanted to start writing about dangerous jobs. A couple of months later, he remembered that a fishing vessel in Massachusetts where he lived was lost at sea. That gave him the idea for his book, The Perfect Storm.

He did a film called Restrepo, which was about soldiers. Sebastian Junger said, “That cut was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. Every good thing that’s happened in my life can be traced back to a misfortune. You don’t know what’s good or bad when things happen. You have to wait to find out.” I don’t think that we are encouraging kids to have that kind of patience. We’re not teaching our young people to live with uncertainty and allow their lives to unfold. Everything has got to be in this line all planned out.

We're not teaching our young people to live with uncertainty and to allow their lives to unfold. Click To Tweet

I have talked to hundreds of very successful people all around the world in my travels. I always talk to them about their paths. I can tell you that 90%-something of them, almost all of them, zigzagged their way to their successful career. None of them knew when they were 14, 16, 18, or 22 that they’d be doing what they’re doing at age 45 or 50 when they’re doing their thing. That’s not what our kids are learning.

There’s a very eminent sculptor and painter. His name is Lonnie Holley. He’s a self-taught artist who grew up very poor in Alabama. When he was nearly 30 years of age, his sister’s 2 kids died in a fire. It was very sad. He was devastated. They were so poor that they couldn’t afford to buy headstones. What he did was gather a bunch of discarded sandstone at a nearby foundry and carve them himself into headstones. He remembered how good it felt for him to use his hands in that way. He started carving gravestones for other families and started making sculptures out of anything he could find. Thus, a career was born.

All of our kids need opportunities to be able to do experiments. It’s hard for them to try new things because it’s a little bit out of control. There’s a lot of uncertainty. Sometimes what they want to do or try goes against the grain, their family’s grain, or their culture’s grain. Girls, especially those whom I work with, are oftentimes afraid of disappointing their parents and teachers because they may be doing something that’s out of the ordinary. That’s not the prescribed path. I want them to learn to live with uncertainty and change and get out of their comfort zones.

I met a woman not too long ago. She’s a junior in college. She’s been getting anxious already about what she’s going to be doing when she graduates from college with a degree. She has a Fine Arts degree in Fashion Merchandising. She’s so worried about, “Am I going to be able to get a job that pays enough to pay my rent so I can live on my own and not have to rely on my parents?” She has been full of uncertainty. She’s getting anxious. She thinks she’s crazy for feeling all of that. As opposed to saying, “There’s uncertainty.” It’s great when you have all those choices in life.

We’ve been telling our girls for years, “You can be whatever you want to be. The world is your oyster.” When you have that many choices sometimes, that can bring some anxiety like, “What should I choose?” Girls have been listening to the culture that says, “Don’t make a bad decision with your career, your major in college, or even where you go to college. If you make one mistake along that path, your whole life is going to be screwed.” That’s what girls absorb. You may say, “I would never tell my kids that,” but that’s what they tell me they’ve been hearing. They’re so worried about making decisions. Instead of making a choice, learn from it, and move on to the next choice. We need to teach them how to do that.

Dark Horses

Our kids are going to have lots of jobs in the future. Not just because technology and the job situations are changing. That’s part of it. It’s because your daughter’s going to be changing. There was another book called Dark Horse by Todd Rose. I also recommend that book. He was talking about people who are dark horses, people who we never would’ve thought were going to be successful but became very successful in their fields. Almost all of those dark horses followed a meandering path. They did a winding career path.

What those successful people did was focused on, “Here’s who I am in this moment. These are my motivations at this moment. Here’s what I what I like to do now. Here’s what I want to learn. Here are some opportunities that have been presented to me at this point. I’m going to pick which one seems the best match. After a while, I may switch if I find something better, if there’s a better match for me.” What these dark horses tended to do was not have long-term goals and long-term planning. It was more short-term planning.

The definition and formula for success in this culture have been about attaining wealth and status by climbing the institutional ladder. You should know your destination, get a job, work hard, and stay the course. There’s one best way to fit the mold and climb the ladder. Do the same things over and over again but be better than other people. It’s following one straight path that bothers me because that’s not what successful people tend to do.

Kids are learning that there is that one way. The rewards of social status, money, and financial security are given to people as long as you abandon your individual pursuit of fulfillment and do what you’re supposed to do. Suppress your earnings. Delay gratification and happiness on your long march to retirement. Someday, you’ll feel happy and fulfilled if you keep following that one path. If you commit yourself prematurely to that straight path, unfortunately, you’re oftentimes going to close off a lot of other winding paths that could have been more satisfying in which you would’ve been more successful.

Dark horses who are successful people in my experience and the experience of these authors tend to value fulfillment and following their interests, not just their passions but things that they’re passionate about that caused them to feel fulfilled right from the start. They chose things that were fulfilling to them so they became more deeply engaged in what they were doing. It was the pursuit of fulfillment that led them to success. That pursuit of fulfillment was crucial for their success. The payoff for attaining excellence was to find their thing, as opposed to not being fulfilled until the end of the prescribed path.

That pursuit of fulfillment is crucial for success. Click To Tweet

It isn’t like you work hard, notice the grindstone, and then someday, there’ll be a sense of fulfillment. No, you pursue fulfillment from the start. Embrace the winding path. To do that, your daughters are going to need to know themselves. You need to be able to access their intuition and gut. We tell girls, “Follow your heart and passion.”

Some girls are like, “How do I know what that means? What is my heart saying?” You need to learn to get quiet, go inward, check in with yourself, and start to learn how to hear that voice inside that’s telling you something, those urges that you get but only if you’re paying attention. You need to know yourself, not the destination.

The first step is to follow and prioritize fulfillment. On your deepest earnings and aspirations, ask questions and dig deeper to find real motivations. In the Dark Horse book, he calls those micro motives. Pay attention to what you like and dislike, what turns you on, and what fulfills you. At every step, redefine who you are and your micro motives because they’re going to shift. Be aware of those. Your motivations will shift over time because you shift over time.

Let go of other people’s expectations and not want to disappoint people. Every step of the way, you can keep asking yourself, “Now, what fulfills me? What do I want? Who am I?” Everybody within them has a novel journey that’s ready to be played out. It’s more of a test and learn, like a life path versus a plan and implement. Your work and life preferences will not stay the same because you won’t stay the same. The only certainty is going to be change.

Your work preferences and your life preferences will not stay the same because you won't stay the same. The only certainty is going to be change. Click To Tweet

Know Your Element

There are another two books by the same author. The author is Ken Robinson. The first book I read of his years ago was called The Element, meaning you’re calling. It’s when you’re in your element, doing what you love to do, you’re into it, and fully engaged. The second book was called Finding Your Element. It has lots of good suggestions and exercises about how you figure out the next step. What Ken Robinson has found looking at successful people was that three features needed to be there for people to know they were in their element.

1) Aptitude. “Do I get this thing? Am I good at it? Do I love doing it? Is it something that seems right for me?” 2) Attitude. “I want this. I’m willing to go after it. I’m willing to have the perseverance, optimism, ambition, self-belief, and ability to grab opportunities when they come my way. I need to have that attitude.” 3) Knowing those opportunities when they come. Be aware of those like my Dot Theory. “Where is this opportunity? What’s next on my path?” Aptitude, attitude, and opportunity are the three things that Ken Robinson found with people who had found their calling.

He also lists some interesting questions. Those are good questions to ask yourself when you’re looking for, “What’s the next place on my path as I meander my way to my calling?” Let me read you these. “If left to your devices and there are no worries about making a living or what other people think about you, what would you do? What are you most drawn to? What lifts your spirit and feeds your energy? What do you love to do and what do you love about it?”

“What kind of activities do you engage involuntarily and that engages you the most, the ones where you get into that zone thing? What helps you get in that zone and allows time to disappear? You love doing it so much that you get so wrapped up in it. What are you doing when you feel the happiest and the most inspired? What fulfills you the most? When do you feel like you’re being most true to your spirit? What kind of aptitudes do you possess, things you’re naturally good at?”

“Are there any patterns in those things, things that they have in common? Are there other ways to apply those aptitudes in ways you haven’t done yet? Do you have any talents that you’ve been discouraged from developing because they didn’t fit the mold and that you haven’t developed because of that but you wished that you had? What would you want to try that you haven’t tried yet? Who do you associate with your element and what do you find interesting about them? What kind of medium excites your imagination that you love to play and work in?” Those are some of the questions that Ken Robinson poses that you should pose to yourself as you’re trying to figure out what’s next. “Where do I want to zig and zag next?”

Ridley Scott is a famous director. He was in art school for a while but he left with no thought of making films. He thought he’d wanted to be an artist so his next job was he worked at a printing shop. He did some moonlighting at the BBC in England as a designer. He took a director’s course after two years. He got into advertising because it was fantastically fun at that time in his life. He had an opportunity to start directing some commercials for TV. He loved that. He had an opportunity to get into movies and he loved that. He loved every step and every job along the path. That led him to become a movie producer and a movie director.

Gordon Parks is a producer and a director as well. His mom died when he was fifteen years of age and he took to the streets. He taught himself to play piano to make some extra money. He learned about writers and film from observing. He had an intense intellectual curiosity. He was always asking questions and checking things out. He always had this ability to see into other people’s lives.

At one point in his late teens, he bought a cheap camera at a pawn shop. He loved taking photographs. He got into it even though he was discouraged by it from all the people around him. He kept taking photographs. When he got married, his wife and his mother-in-law discouraged him. Gordon Park says, “My life is like a disjointed dream.” I love that. That’s a zigzag thing. “Incredible things happen to me. It was a constant effort and feeling that I must not fail.” He kept plugging away. He became a producer, director, poet, and photographer. Eventually, he founded Essence Magazine.

We need to allow our kids to have the autonomy to choose what they’re interested in and what fulfills them, even if it’s different from their peers, family, or culture. I tell girls in my camps, retreats, and counseling practice, “Sometimes the people around you, even your family, won’t understand or validate your journey but they don’t have to understand because it’s not their journey. It’s your journey. You don’t need to buy into the one-size-fits-all cultural mantra or this one-narrow path to success that every kid’s supposed to follow.”

I want our girls to learn to live with uncertainty and change and be willing to get out of their comfort zones. We need to teach them coping skills. Allow them to embrace all those emotions and use them. Allow them to make mistakes, get frustrated, and go through periods of feeling a little bit lost or uncertain. That’s how they’re going to learn perseverance and resilience. That’s how they’re going to gain confidence and keep pursuing what fulfills them. That’s what leads them to their mastery.

I tell girls all the time that if they don’t believe me as far as my beliefs about how people zigzag their way to mastery and fulfillment, to interview every adult that they bump into, relatives, aunts, uncles, and their friends’ parents. For any adults that they bump into, I would ask them questions like, “Did you know when you were my age that you’d be doing what you’re doing now? If not,” which is probably what’s true for most of them, “How did you get there? Tell me about your path. Tell me about the mistakes you made along the way.” I want them to educate themselves so they believe that’s okay to meander, embrace change, and zigzag their way to their life path.

Empowering Young Girls

Let me leave you with some good quotes about this topic. Bob Goff said, “Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.” Judith McNaught said, “There will be a few times in your life when all of your instincts will tell you to do something. It’s something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to other people. When that happens, do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, odds, and complications. Just go for it.” I like that.

Franz Kafka said, “Don’t bend. Don’t water it down. Don’t try to make it logical. Don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be truly happy and productive, you have to tune out the crowd and listen to the voices that we hear in solitude.” Steve Chandler said, “Listen to the clues. The next time you feel real joy, stop and think. Pay attention because joy is the universe’s way of knocking on your mind’s door. Hello in there. Anybody home? Can I leave a message? That’s great. The message is that you are happy. That means that you are in touch with your purpose.”

This is what I say to kids and this is my quote, “The moment you decide that what you know and intuit is more important than what other people think or what you’ve been taught to believe, then you’ll be on the road to success in your calling and fulfillment.” Remember to tell your daughters that not all those who wander are lost. This goes against the grain. Think about this show. Tune in to it with your daughters.

RADA | Guide Daughter

Open up discussions about their thoughts about their path and how they’re going to find their thing or calling. Encourage your girls to read biographies. Have them have a cup of coffee with different people. Ask them questions about their careers and paths. It’s so important that they broaden their vision. Otherwise, they’re going to be forced and conditioned to believe that there’s this one narrow path and that’s the only way that they’re going to find their calling.

That’s not the way life works for most people, especially people who are fulfilled and successful. Thank you so much for reading this show. Go to my website at www.DrTimJordan.com so you’ll find the episodes from the past. I’ll be back here with a brand new episode. I appreciate you stopping by. I’ll see you next time.

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