Finding The Gifts While Navigating Difficult Relationships

balance coaching lifestyle Mar 16, 2022
Father and son disagreement.  Physicians and doctors navigating difficult relationships.




“Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.”
โ€•Ruth E. Renkel



It is incredible to look back at your life and recognize the critical moments that lead you to become the unique human being you are today.  Many people, places, and things needed to come together in just the right way to create your exact personality.  I would venture to say that parents play the most significant role in shaping who we become.  That is probably why so much focus is now placed on becoming the best parent.  We focus on work-life balance (or life-life balance, if you have been paying attention), showing up for all of the events, and providing the best possible existence for our kids.  As I have coached many physicians, one theme has emerged repeatedly:  How do we reconcile our own imperfect childhood with the childhood we want for our children?  How can a strained relationship with our own parent(s) lead to a better relationship with our kids?

I did not have a great relationship with my father.  My parents divorced when I was eight years old, and for the next ten years, I spent weekends and one week every summer at my dad’s house.  It was forced, and the escape did not come until I left for college.  After that, visits were haphazard and only at family events.  He passed away in 2019, and I did not attend the funeral.  It would have been hypocritical for me to have attended his funeral.  His second wife and children knew the relationship was strained at best, non-existent at worst.  There were minor attempts at reconciling in the years before his death, but there was no foundation on which to build, so the efforts fell flat.  

Some might read these statements and think they are cold.  Others might feel bad that I didn’t have a better relationship with my dad.  I have never seen it from either of those vantage points.  It has always been more matter of fact.  However, my relationship with my dad was always in the back of my mind.  It was the type of relationship I have actively tried to avoid with my children.

I will take a moment to pause here to let you know that I did have some incredible dad role models growing up.  My step-father taught me the little I was willing to learn about sports, acted as my driver’s ed instructor, and moved me in and out of every dorm room, apartment, and house without complaint.  My grandfather bestowed more love upon his grandchildren than any human being has ever deserved.  For those two men, I am eternally grateful.  They taught me what it means to be a good man and a loving father.

What does this have to do with coaching?  The answer is in “the gifts.”  If you are like most people, you will find it easy to see the gifts in my relationships with my step-dad and grandfather.  The challenge, however, can be finding the gifts that come from more challenging relationships.  The relationship with my dad was a gift, and coaching helped reveal exactly how that relationship made me the man and father I am today.

Here are some essential lessons I learned about relationships from my own coaching experiences:

  • Everyone is doing their best.  My dad was doing his best.  No one goes into the world with the intention of half-assing it.  They show up as their best selves, giving the most they have to give at any particular moment.  This does not mean that their “best self” is what you need, but it is the most they have to offer.  Recognizing that people are doing their best will help you find compassion for yourself and others. 


  • Relationships come from the thoughts we have about other people.  When we generate positive thoughts about people, we have positive relationships.  The opposite is also true. 


  • We all have expectations about how we want to be treated.  Some people will live up to those expectations, and others will not.  What do you make it mean when people do not live up to those expectations? 


  • You can love someone unconditionally and accept them for who they are, and still choose not to have a relationship with them.

These relationship pearls are the gifts of the relationship with my dad, and I will take them with me for the rest of my life.  I can accept that he was doing his best and that we were not able to have a successful relationship despite that.  It did not work for either one of us, and that is okay.  I learned a lot about myself and how I want to show up for my children from that relationship.  I also learned that I have needs, wants, and boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.  That relationship taught me that good things could arise from seemingly negative situations.  

Maybe you didn’t have the dad you wanted, but you got the one you needed.  No matter the relationship with your father, you received the dad who would teach you, directly or indirectly, about the type of parent you want to be.  Take the time to examine the gifts in all of your relationships.  You are indeed a better person for having had all of those experiences.


How have your relationships affected you?  Have you learned from the positive and the negative experiences?  Never miss an opportunity to learn and grow.  Some of the biggest inspirations can come from places you least expect them.



Are you interested in creating more balance in your life?  I want to invite you to check out my FREE TRAINING.  Click here to get: How Busy Physicians Can Stop Trying To Escape Medicine And Start Living Their Best Life Today.

This training will teach you the five essential techniques physicians need to stop feeling stuck, burned out, and trapped in medicine.  You will also learn how to stop racing toward retirement and start using tools that empower you to practice medicine your way.    



PS.  I get a lot of inspiration from music lyrics.  Many people use inspiring quotes (and I do, too), but music really speaks to me.  I hope you find inspiration in the songs too.


 Everclear - Father Of Mine



Click here for the lyrics.



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