Welcome to The Parenting Dare Blog! On Monday I encouraged you to take the time and think about your current family culture. I asked you to think about what you’d really like to achieve this year within your family unit.
If you did not have time to read that post, here’s a link: Creating a Beautiful Family Culture. Then answer this question: If you could use one word to describe the current state of your family culture, what word would that be? (The rest of this post is about how to create change in regards to your response to that question.)
As I pondered what one word would describe our family right now, I was a bit saddened. Why? Because the word that came to me: disconnected. My husband and I have been living in a state of disconnect. In a way, it’s been fine. I mean, in a way. He does his thing, I do mine. We get together on the important things.
Yet when the parents embody the “Married Singles Life” the kids pick up on it. In fact, my 19-year old son, Matthew, asked me about two weeks ago, “What’s off in our family?” My first reaction, “Nothing, honey.” But then I stepped back and analyzed. Yep. The kids can feel when Mom and Dad are disconnected. That primary relationship is a massive barometer for the atmosphere of the family.
Note: It surprises and delights me just how quickly we can get back on track. Russ and I have had two big discussions about our relationship, what we felt was off-kilter and most importantly, what we both needed to do to be a fabulous couple again.
Okay, back to you. What word would you use to describe your current state of your family? Write your word down. And then think of the opposite.
Our word: Disconnected.
Opposite word: CONNECTED.
So the primary goal for my year is to create a life where we are more connected to each other.
What is your primary goal for the year? If you don't have five kids hanging on you, right that goal down.
At this point, you and I both have a nice ideal written down on a piece of paper. And on most years, that is about as far as I got. I saw the pain point, I acknowledged it and maybe even wrote it down. Then life would get in the way. By this, I mean children. My children would have all of these needs, can you believe it? And I’d go into Mom Mode and promptly forget any goals about the New Year until about Halloween, when I would panic and then throw up my hands and declare, “I suck at this proactive parent thing.”
I knew that was my M.O. or “modus operandi,” which means the way I work/operate!
I knew that if I wanted this year to be different, then I’d need some different INPUT. I sat down and looked through my favorite parenting book of ALL TIME: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families” by Stephen Covey. Every time I read from that particular book, I become a better parent and frankly, a better person.
Stephen Covey helped me see (once again) that I, as the mother, have incredible influence in my family. I don’t have to just sit back and be miserable if this or that situation is making me feel miserable. I don’t have to accept crazy or lazy. I can DO many, many positive actions to create a better culture in our home. (I always highly recommend this book!)
But even with my favorite Covey working his magic in me, I knew I needed specific help on how to actually attain my desired goals. So I went to Amazon and began looking through books on goals. I settled on “Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones,” by James Clear. It had about 3K five star ratings, which helped my decision to buy the book.
As I read, I promptly fell head over heels in love with James Clear. Oh my. He has a great writing style. Plus he is humble and kind. (He reminds me of my husband.)
He shared his story at the beginning, of how he was hit in the face with a baseball bat when he was a high school sophomore. His recovery was long and grueling.
When James went to college he made it onto the baseball team. Barely. And he began to work on small improvements every day. Little by little. More and more and more each day.
By the end of his senior year, he was selected as the top male athlete at his university and he was one of the few elected to the ESPN Academic All-Star Team. As I read that, I was impressed. Then he stated that there wasn’t anything legendary about his accomplishments but he knows he accomplished something extremely rare: He fulfilled his potential.
People. I sat with that for a long time. The question I’d ask you: Do you feel like you are fulfilling your POTENTIAL as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee, child of God?
My answer ( a “Nope, not yet,”) propelled me to take this notion of HABITS more seriously.
The genius behind James’ work: he takes what you and I are already doing and he helps us make little gains in each area of importance. Our world says we must blast out onto the scene with massive action and be a huge success. He says that improving by 1% every single day is far more meaningful, especially in the long run.
Now that’s when I wanted to sit James down and look him in the eyes and say, “Small wins get lost amid all of the emotional upheaval of Family Life!”
If you have kids, you know what I am saying! If you decide to practice patience and decide to truly breath and smile through your child’s tantrums, it doesn’t stop the tantrum and it can seem like you aren’t really progressing. The end result doesn’t seem to magically appear (A Perfectly Patient Mother) so it’s easy to slide back into yelling and getting that hit of control.
In the same way, the snail pace of transformation makes it incredibly easy to LET GO OF YOUR BEST INTENTIONS! One fun evening of “Chutes and Ladders” or “Scrabble” doesn’t seem to make that big of a difference so why even have Game Night?
Do you feel me?
Yet James states that creating a change in our habits is similar to the effect of shifting the route of an airplane by just a few degrees. If a pilot adjusts the heading of his/her plane just several degrees at takeoff, when that is magnified across the entire U.S. (and if they don’t adjust during the flight), they will end up hundreds of miles from their desired destination.
“Similarly, a slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination,” James Clear, page 25, Atomic Habits.
So even though the daily grind of LIFE seems to get in the way of living life well, it’s actually TIME that helps us create a life that we love. By implementing good habits we can make time our best friend. Small wins truly accumulate over time.
Ignoring the family culture (by disregarding any type of good habit) makes time our enemy.
It’s important to note that James likes goals but he states that goals won’t actually get us to where we wanna go. If you’ve ever read a business book, you’re familiar with S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timed). Now, I love me some SMART goals. And I’ve written many through the years. But if I am honest, the SMART goal system usually just stayed that: goals.
James helped me see that basically everyone has goals. Two sports teams both have the GOAL of winning that particular game. Yet only one team will win. Instead of focusing on a result, we must create a system that actually LEADS to the desired results.
“Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves,” James Clear, page 36, Atomic Habits.
Now, his definition of “input” is basically a habit. Every day, you and I do the same things over and over and over. I’ve never really considered this before, but habits are simply automatic “solutions” to the challenges we face every day.
So the one thing that creates BIG change in the FAMILY CULTURE: forming intentional habits.
On Monday we will look at how to use habits to design a life you love. YOU get to be the architect of your life! You will love this!