How To Create the Family Life You Want
Sometimes Silliness Is Required!
Four Steps to the Thriving Family Life You Want
What did you imagine family life would be like? For most of us, the present state we find our family life in is somewhat far away from our imagined ideal. How can we build the warm, fun, and enjoyable family life we imagined when we were younger?
Step 1: Begin With the End in Mind
Success in so many areas of life requires we begin by thinking of the end we want to produce. Your ideal family life may look different than the ideal life your good friend (or your mother-in-law) imagines. What kinds of activities will you do in your home with your family? How will your kids treat one another? How will you interact with your kids?
As simple as it is, we often overlook the importance of investing time thinking of the future we want to create. Is it any wonder that we struggle to create the family life we love? I encourage you to take time today, sit down at the kitchen table, and really think about what an ideal family life would look like for you. Devoting this time, actually writing out what you'd like your days, evenings, and weekends to look like will immediately separate you from the vast majority of people.
It's been said that if you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time. You want a fantastic family life: let's commit to taking the time today to write down what we mean by, "fantastic," and give ourselves something to aim at.
Step 2: Start Where You Are and Define Where You Want to Go
Now that we know what we're aiming at, the next step is transferring a good theoretical idea into practical, bite-size action. Compare your ideal family life to the life you have today, and do NOT let yourself be overwhelmed! Give yourself some grace: this will take time, it will be hard, but you can get there!
Maybe your future imagined state has nice pleasant conversations between parents and kids, where kids come when they're called and do what they're asked. Maybe today consists of you yelling commands at your kids that they ignore or defy. Ok, that's ok, that's where we are today. The key to this step is recognizing and defining the gap between your ideal and where you are.
What can I do today to move my family closer to the place I'd like us to be? Reminder again: be gracious to yourself! Most of us at this stage will overwhelm ourselves with an impossible number of changes, trying to grow in fifteen areas at once and achieve some super-human results in two days. Resist this temptation!
Identify one or maybe two areas that you most want to see a change from where you are to where you'd like to be. In our example above, perhaps you want to focus on reducing the amount of shouting that goes on in your house. Brainstorm some practical disciplines you can do today and write them down. For example, maybe your step today will to find three times you want to scream at a kid, and intentionally lower and soften your voice.
That sounds small, doesn't it? Especially if your current habit is to scream at a kid nine times a day, reducing it by three today still leaves six screaming sessions. Ok, that's ok, the goal here is progression, not perfection!
Step 3: Stick With It Even When It Gets Tough
To achieve progress in anything, sustained attention is required. And for many of us, starting an improvement program—be it a new gym regimen, learning a new language, or improving our family life—is often easier than following through with it. By day four, what was exciting and fresh has become a grind, and we question if it's worth it.
Further, after four days of taking intentional action in our new habits, we may see little progress, even backward progress! Few people bother to set the goals and habits to even reach this stage, but of those who do, so many end up getting taken out at this stage. You can make it through to the other side: it's going to take grit.
This is where you find out how much you really want the ideal you imagined at the beginning. Just like an Olympic medal, everybody wants it; few are willing to be at 6:00 AM practice every day for three years. As you hit the doldrums of your new habit, you may find you don't actually want the result bad enough to actually do the work required. Remember to give yourself grace! Make the decision to move forward by choosing one of the following:
- Stay steady and push through
- Go back and re-set your ideal
- Try a different way
In some cases, you may just need to gruel it out. It's tough, it's real, just keep swimming!
Other times, you may realize you've set a goal that's really not that important to you. You thought the idea sounded nice, but when you learn what's actually required to achieve it, it's not something you're willing to do. It's ok to go back to the beginning and re-imagine your ideal. To set a goal that's a little less lofty, or just different, and begin again in pursuit of that goal.
Still other times, it may have been the right ideal, but the discipline you choose to seek to accomplish it wasn't the right one. In our example above, maybe counting the times you choose not to yell was a poor choice of discipline. Perhaps the better idea would be to focus on how many intentional pleasant interactions can I have with my kids today? I set a goal of four interactions lasting ten minutes each. This is an example of a good goal, where my initial approach (application) was a bit off. By stepping back and trying a new strategy, I'll find my way to the result I envisioned in the first place.
Step 4: Make it Fun!
In all this talk of intentional planning and discipline, we may forget a vital key: making it fun! We are not robots, we are people! And when we embark on a new program to improve our lives, particularly over the long term, we need fun and rewards to keep us going!
Use your creative side, and enlist your kids for their creative ideas. Like Mary Poppins made cleaning the bedroom fun, you can make the pursuit of a happy family life a fun venture for your kids. Connect the behaviors and disciplines you planned and wrote down with rewards for yourself and your kids.
If you slip and fall, do something you shouldn't, it's ok. Laugh at your mistake, get up, and try again. You are fighting the good fight, you are creating a great future, and the lives you are touching will impact a generation.
© 2017 Lydia Grace