Most people under approximately thirty years of age are terrified of becoming just like their parents. Seeing your mother’s reflection when you look in the mirror could be a just cause for a midlife crisis or twenties-tailspin. We constantly catch ourselves using the same phrases or acting the same way as our parents, and it can be horrifying. But the good news is it’s not completely unavoidable. There are a few steps that you can take to avoid becoming exactly like your parents.
1. Make a list – on an actual piece of paper with an actual pen – of your parents’ characteristics that you never want to see in yourself. Make a few copies, and paste them up around your house. Unless you still live with your parents, that is. They might take offense. But keep the list where you can see it quite often, and keep what you’ve written in your head constantly.
2. Take some advice from Benjamin Franklin. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the list of values he wanted to exemplify, and how he reached his goals. He said that you should take just one item from your list and work on it for a week or two. Every time you mess up, take note of it. Once you get through your list, start at the beginning again.
3. Consider all of your parents’ accomplishments. Then try to do better. This works especially well if you’re naturally competitive. If your dad earns $50,000 a year, set a goal to earn $75,000. Your mom got a bachelor’s degree? Shoot for a master’s. Try to knock their record out of the park.
4. Think of this as a global effort. After all, what’s the point of procreation if the new generation isn’t better than its predecessor? Make it a goal to do your part in making your generation more evolved than your parents’.
5. I know this sounds appalling, but it might actually help to talk to your parents. Ask them what they regret, and what they would have done differently if they had the chance. Then actually use the advice they gave you. It might be absolutely torturous to think about, but try to learn from their mistakes.
6. If all this sounds like too much work, you can focus on not doing what your parents did. If your mom is a teacher, don’t become a teacher. If your dad drives an SUV, don’t buy an SUV. Obviously, your parents had children, so you shouldn’t. If they went on a semester abroad, then steer clear of the honors program.