We all know the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, but if you’ve ever watched the 1964 TV-special by the same name, then you’re well aware of the effects that not finding your purpose can have on our children. The special is a classic, and though parts haven’t aged well, there is one lesson that shines through—that denying someone else’s talents, or letting others keep us from seeing our own talents, can prevent each of us from finding our true purpose.

The part of the story that I’m concerned with goes like this. Donner and his wife have just given birth to a little faun and name him Rudolph. As they admire their newborn son, they notice that he isn’t like any other reindeer they’ve seen. Rather than look for the potential and uniqueness in his son’s glowing, red nose, Donner worries instead about his reputation as Santa’s lead reindeer and covers Rudolph’s nose with mud.

He would rather have his son be someone he’s not than risk him not making the sleigh team and failing to live up to his legacy. When Rudolph is old enough to try out for the team, he does really well, flying faster and higher than all the others. However, the mud covering his nose falls off, revealing his gift (though they don’t see it as a gift) to all the others, which prevents him from making the team.

The truth is all of us are Rudolph at one time or another. Perhaps your busy schedule—work deadlines, children’s appointments, caring for a sick loved one, the general hectic nature of everyday life—has kept you from slowing down, taking a breath, and noticing the gifts that you possess in life. We get caught up in the whirlwind trying to stay one step ahead, and we often push our children to do the same.

Finding Your Purpose: The Importance of Slowing Down

It’s actually pretty common. I see many of my clients pushing their kids to be the best, and though their intentions are often good, the effects can be damaging if they don’t slow down to listen. Some parents push their kids into certain activities for the wrong reasons. For instance, I’ve seen fathers push their sons into soccer just because they are Latino. The same goes for other activities—parents often want their kids to do what they did when they were younger so they can live vicariously through their children’s accomplishments. Or perhaps they see potential and want their kids to pursue something so they can win a scholarship and go to college. But finding your purpose is difficult to do when someone else is telling you what your purpose should be.

What is missing from each of these scenarios? Slowing down and listening.

Because the prefrontal cortex essentially shuts down during times of high stress, an overly busy life can prevent self-reflection and impair decision-making. More importantly, a busy life can keep us from noticing the gifts that we and others have.

You see, each and every one of us has a gift, something about us that makes us special. It’s possible that when we were younger, we were taught to be ashamed of our gift. Perhaps we are doing the same to our children. But all is not lost. If we simply slow down, take a breath, allow our brains to return to alpha waves, and look for the gifts we and our children possess, each of us can find what we really want out of life. And it’s never too late to reawaken the prefrontal cortex to discover the genius within us.

Finding Your Purpose: Be Like Rudolph

We all know how the Rudolph story ends. When Santa can’t see to fly his sleigh, he asks Rudolph to lead it with his bright nose. Rudolph, now able to be himself, saves the day. It is in slowing down, in considering different possibilities, that our brain sharpens our problem solving skills, expands our creativity, and helps us discover what was always inside us. When we identify our talents and decide to share them fearlessly for the good of the world, that’s when our greatest gift comes to fruition. That’s when finding your purpose becomes real. My goal—my purpose—is to help you avoid these common problems with your child.

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