6 Strategies To Help Get Your Family On Board With Your Passion

“Ollin, I love my family, but they just don’t seem to respect/understand/support my passion. Can you help?”

“Ollin, I love my family, but they just don’t seem to respect/understand/support my writing schedule. Help, please!”

After I graduated from college, I wanted to celebrate. So, I decided to go traveling. Now, I had never been outside of the country before (other than Mexico—but as a certified Chicano I’m not allowed to count that). I also knew that, very soon, most of my time would be dedicated to establishing my career, and I had no idea when I would have another unique opportunity, like this one, to travel.

So, I told my family that I would be traveling to Japan–a country I’d never been to before, where I knew only one friend, and where I didn’t even know the language. (FYI: Japan isn’t as accessible to non-native speakers as the United States is, and if all you know are Latin-based languages, you’re pretty much screwed in Japan if you don’t know Japanese and don’t have anyone to translate.)

It was a pretty crazy idea at the time, I’d have to admit, but my family let me go on the trip anyway.

Why?

It’s simple. My family let me go because I was 21 at the time, I was an adult, and I could do whatever I wanted to do without their approval.

So, for those of you who are struggling to get your family on board with your passion, please remember that whatever hair-brained idea you wish to pursue—I don’t care if it’s sky-diving, or painting murals on the beach boardwalk—you don’t need “parental approval.”

If you want to write, then write. If you want to set aside 4 hours each week to write your novel, then make it happen. Who’s stopping you?

Your family?

Nope, they can’t stop you. Why? Because… er… you’re an adult and you can do whatever the heck you damn well please. Need I remind you?

So, if you’re struggling to get your family on board with your passion, then your first strategy is to put on your big boy (or big girl) pants and…

1. Practice making adult, matter-of-fact statements.

When I told my family I would be traveling halfway across the world–by myself, to a foreign country, where I didn’t know the language–I didn’t ask them what they thought about it. I simply said:

“Hey family, I’m going to Japan.”

I made an adult, matter-of-fact statement. I didn’t leave it open to debate, or questioning. I just made a decision and I followed through on it. I also made it clear in my tone of voice that I was going to go to Japan no matter what they said.

So, please refrain from making half-hearted statements to your family like these:

“Hey family, I think, maybe, that I sorta-kinda-wanna to be a writer.”

or

“Hey family, do you think I should be a writer?”

or

“Hey family, I need more time to work on my novel, can you help by giving me some space?”

No, instead, make adult, matter-of-fact statements like:

“Hey family, I’m a writer now. And you know that thing I did before? Yeah, I’m not doing that anymore.”

and

“Hey family, I’m spending the next four hours writing my novel. Stay out of my space and don’t bug me for the next four hours. Thank you.”

You see the difference? Remember: you’re an adult and whether it’s your parents, or your visiting relatives, or even your kids—you make the rules in your own life. If you really want to do something, then do it.

Don’t ever put your passion up for debate if it isn’t up for debate.

2. Let your family know about your passion and tell them why you’ve chosen to pursue it at this particular time.

When I chose to write my novel I sent an e-mail to all my friends and family explaining the decision and why I was making it at this time in my life. When I started the blog I did the same. I thought they were going to think I was crazy. They didn’t. They all responded with their love and support.

Sometimes we assume that no one in our family will support our passion even before we’ve told them about it. But how can we know for sure until we tell them?

So tell them. Do it today. “Come out” to your family about your passion through an e-mail. You may find that your family is more on board with your passion than you thought they would be—plus, it saves you the time and energy of having to keep explaining your passion over and over again to each new relative who doesn’t know about it yet.

3. If you want to be polite about your passion, that’s okay. As long as you are equally polite to yourself.

The great thing about family is that we love them; the not-so-great-thing about family is that we love them. When you love someone, you really don’t want to hurt their feelings, and you don’t want to lose them because they mean so much to you.

But being polite to our family all of the time can backfire on us. We can lose track of what its is really want, and who it is we really are, if we keep trying to please others but never ourselves.

For instance, let’s say your relatives are visiting and you tell them you have to work on your novel for the next four hours. You assure them that you’ll get back to hosting them as soon as you’ve finished writing. But instead of honoring your request, your visiting relatives keep bugging you, requesting that you drop your novel and spend time with them instead. So, you ignore your writing schedule for the day because you want to be more “polite” to your relatives. But now that you’ve ditched your passion—that thing that makes you light up more than anything else in this world—you’ve become grumpy and resentful. You end up being a big grouch with your relatives for the rest of the day.

In this example, the desire to be “polite” led to you losing your writing time and it led to your relatives losing a more jovial host. Nobody won.

However, if you were polite to yourself, as well as your relatives, then you might have insisted on those four hours of writing time for yourself. Then, when you were done writing, you would’ve been much more eager about spending the rest of the time left over in the day with your relatives.

In the above scenario, being polite to both your relatives and yourself results in a happy conclusion. Everybody wins.

Let me be clear: if you’re not respecting your passion (or the schedule you’ve set aside for your passion) then you’re not being very polite to yourself.

And you’re no longer allowed to be polite to others unless you are also, equally, polite to yourself.

4. Try to make your family understand the urgency and importance of your passion.

If your family wishes to do something during a time you have set aside for your passion, then you can say something like the following:

“You know, I wish I could go on that trip/the movies/the beach with you but I have this deadline I have to meet. Sorry, how about next time? Or how about this Saturday when I’m free?”

Even if your deadline is a self-imposed one—so what? Your family doesn’t need to know that. And even if your family does find out that it’s self-imposed deadline, that doesn’t make your deadline any less important.

If you’re like me, you have an overall goal for your passion, and you know that certain things have to get done at a certain time for that overall goal to be accomplished, right? If that’s true for you, then your passion is something that you deeply respect—and if your passion is something that you deeply respect, then it’s something that your family ought to respect too, right?

If your family doesn’t yet realize how urgent and important your passion is, then you need to let them know, and keep reminding them until they get it.

5. But don’t expect that your family will “get it.”

“But what if they still don’t get it, Ollin?”

If your family still doesn’t get it then, I hate to break it to you, but they may never “get it.”

But that’s okay. Your family does not have to understand your passion in order for you to pursue it. You’re family’s primary job is to love and support you.

Think of all the things that you don’t understand about your friends or family. For example, I have a friend who’s an accountant, another who’s an engineer, and another who’s a math teacher. Do you think I have to UNDERSTAND accounting, engineering, and math in order to be their friends? No. Do they have to FULLY UNDERSTAND fiction writing in order to be my friend? No. All they need is my love and support, and all I ask of them in return is their love and support.

It’s fair to ask for love, support, and respect from your family, but it isn’t fair to ask them to understand everything you do. Because they won’t understand everything you do—just like you may never understand everything they do.

If your family understands your passion, that’s great! If they don’t, then forget about trying to make them “get it” and just move on. Because waiting for your family to “get it” will only stall you from moving forward.

6. On the other hand, if you’re patient—who knows?—maybe your family will “get it” in the end.

Your family may not “get” your passion right now, but trust me, there may come a time when they do. And, as someone who has been in that type of situation before, I can tell you it feels pretty awesome when someone who didn’t understand you at first finally has that lightbulb go off.

much love,

Ollin

How did you get your family on board with your passion? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!

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24 comments on “6 Strategies To Help Get Your Family On Board With Your Passion

  1. Sandee says:

    Ollin,

    This was such an awesome post and exactly the encouragement I needed right now. I give away my power so easily by trying to please everyone else and then have to pay a heavy price in my own life. I love the idea of being polite not only to others but also to myself! Thank you for your words of wisdom.

    • Ollin says:

      You’re welcome Sandee. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it is vital if you are to allow yourself to follow your passion.

  2. Catherine Johnson says:

    You’re making my eyes gloss over. This is awesome! I hope you include blogging in this too🙂 Thank you!

    • Ollin says:

      Yes, it applies to blogging and any other passion you are pursuing. I had a LOT of readers ask me to address this issue. Seems like family not being totally supportive is a common issue. I hope that I was able to help a bit. We’ll see.

  3. Christina says:

    Great post Ollin!

    And a good reminder that we don’t need other people’s approval to be who we are:)

  4. nancy says:

    This is a much needed topic that is rarely addressed. Thank you for that.
    Maybe I missed it, but what about the family who says, “We’ve given you more than two years to get this done. But you’re still slogging away at it, and we really want to save you from yourself. We think you’re wasting your time. Move on.”

    Or what about the family member who sees you writing and sits down to talk anyway. And when you keep writing they get mad at how rude you are. So you make an adult statement like, “I’m a morning person, and I write from 7 to 10. Can we talk after that?” And they pull out the guilt trip with, “FIne. Be that way.”

    How do we set up a guilt-free writing environment?

  5. I completely agree with you on this one. You should never ask your family’s advice about pursuing your passion, because they most likely: won’t get it, will think you’re crazy, and will try to talk you out of what could be a life-defining moment or journey. Everyone wants their parents’, family’s, and friends’ support, but the truth of the matter is that you have to be true to yourself to be happy in life. And those “crazy” ideas of yours that you follow through with will often command your family’s intrigue and respect in time.

  6. Frederick Fuller says:

    The premise of your post helped break up my first marriage. My wife never “got it,” and backed off. I was not loyal to my bliss. Thus, I resented her and our children. None of it was their fault; it was mine. I didn’t speak up and I was not loyal to myself and my bliss.

    My second wife understood and “got it,” but I was afraid and did not follow my bliss because I assumed she would not “get it.” For close to 20 years I did not write seriously write. However, as she lay dying, I completed the first draft of my first novel. I told her days before she died, and to my great shame, she was thrilled for me. How disloyal I was to myself and my bliss all those years.

    My new love is solidly behind me, and whether she “gets it,” I don’t know. She just seems to be thrilled that I am here, so she gives me all the time I need. I’m doing NaNoWriMo at this time, and she says not a word to me until I tell her I’m finished. (I have more trouble with our three dogs who do not “get it.”) I am truly bless now.

    You are so right:Be honest with everyone who crosses your life. If you are not honest, you’re a liar to both your friends and family AND, especially, yourself.

    Great post, Ollin.

    • Ollin says:

      Wow, thank you so much for being so honest, Frederick. This was very moving, and I appreciate you going in to detail. I hope people read your story and learn to be more true to themselves. Good luck to you!

  7. Elise says:

    Oh my goodness. You’re reminding me of how badly I want my family’s approval of my own writing. They’re very accepting in general, which is great, but I know that I can’t write and have that voice in my head that says “Will Dad want to read this?” If I need to write it, I need to write it regardless. Thank you, Ollin.

  8. Christina says:

    I’m so glad you addressed this, because it seems to be a common challenge. Especially when it comes to something like writing, a lot of family probably sees it as “artsy” and impractical. Against my better judgment I followed my parents (and everyone else’s) advice and went for the practical degree and job. It was a horrible fit and created a lot of problems in my life. Now that I’m finally doing what I want, I’m so much happier, and guess what? They’re totally supportive.

    I love your Japan story. I did something similar in my twenties and everyone thought I was crazy. Not only did I not speak any Japanese, but I went to stay with people (parents of my Japanese friends over here) who didn’t speak a word of English. I’ve never had more fun in my life, and forged an incredible bond with some of those people. It’s amazing how well we can communicate when we really have to!

    • Ollin says:

      Japan is great! I LOVED it. No really. I think I fell in love with that country. It was so unexpected. I knew nothing about the customs, culture and history–I didn’t even plan anything. We just went around, and dropped in on stuff. It was the best time I’ve very had!

  9. Julie-Ann Corrigan says:

    Fabulous. So true…do you know my family…?!
    Must say though, my husband and are daughter are awesome regarding my passion – it’s the more extended family that’s the problem!
    Great post!

  10. Adulthood is a strange thing in general. Turns out it’s just like everything else; you fake it until you’ve had so much practice that it seems natural.

    I got lucky, in that my parents supported me from the start–at least once they got over me not wanting to be a doctor. I think, though, that if you don’t want something enough to go it alone, you don’t want it enough, period.

    I could never adequately express how happy I was to have family get behind my decision to leave grad school and pursue writing, but if they hadn’t, it would’t have changed one step on the path. Failure’s nothing. Everyone fails. Wondering, that’s the slow poison.

    PS, in regards to your FB question, I don’t have any specifics for who you should interview, but keep your awesome momentum: Pick someone who will probably say no. Good luck!

    • Ollin says:

      “you fake it until you’ve had so much practice that it seems natural.”

      What a great line Connor and very true.

      I also like “Wonder, that’s the slow poison.”

      And thanks for that recommendation. I shall pick someone that will probably say no. Harper Lee, maybe?😉

  11. M.E. Anders says:

    Ollin – fresh advice for the new and seasoned writer alike. Sometimes, we mistakenly place our passion on the ever-growing “when I have the time, I’ll do_____” list. You clarified how we can take steps to turn that passion into an integral part of our life.

  12. Christopher says:

    I’m a photographer, and my wife completely disapproves of my passion. For the entire year and a half of our marriage so far, she hadn’t worked and I’ve supported us completely, that includes working every holiday and scrimping and saving every penny. Now we’ve moved, I have a much better paying position, and she has a full time job, and our bills are the same or lower than before. I went and bought a DSLR so I can pursue my passion and the thing that I want to do for me and what makes me happy, she has gotten absolutely furious over it and said she will leave me, and go to “every extreme necessary to make sure that you don’t do it” and I still have no idea why. Since being with this woman I’ve given up my friendships and done a lot of things that I wasn’t very proud of and that I don’t feel like match “who” I am. She has picked up my bag which had my camera in it (and my laptop) and thrown it against the wall and started kicking it while it was on the ground, so obviously it’s not money that’s the problem because broken equipment isn’t worth anything. I returned the first camera I bought because of how furious she was, and I agreed to return the second under the condition she would go to marriage counseling with me, I found a counselor and was going to schedule a time, and she said it was “too expensive” and she doesn’t feel like we should pay for help, and all they’re going to do is tell us what we’re doing after we tell them and it won’t help us any. I find all of this to be ridiculous nonsense and can’t think of a time when she’s wanted to do something that I didn’t appreciate or enjoy (even watching horror movies) and I haven’t been 100% behind her wanting her to be happy. I’m scared to leave this relationship and I don’t want to but it seems to be the direction this is heading in. I contacted the company who’ll be receiving my camera back and told them not to process the return and that I want my camera and I didn’t return it, but I’m sure I’ll suffer all hell when it comes back and she’ll try and throw it on craigslist or something. I had talked to another woman much earlier in our relationship and she didn’t act like this when she found out. Why is it such a problem and what can/should/might I do about it? It’s truly my passion and I know that I can go far with it and would love nothing more, why can’t she be supportive of it at all? Help?

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