It wasn’t enough

When I follow my own advice, life is better.

At the back of my mind, especially with kids, I have a desire for life to be “easy.”

My desire makes me chuckle because my “easy days” are often boring.

Based on eight years of parenting… easy is not going to happen so focusing on “better” is a smarter option.

From time to time my appetites come up with ideas to make my life _even_ better.

  • These ideas might be small — five beers, two burgers, large fries and couple desserts
  • They might be large — a vacation property with a cost of ownership that doubles my core cost of living
  • Many fall in between — clothes, vacations, sports equipment, alcoholic beverages, risk-seeking friends

These desires pop up as an emotion associated with pleasure, excitement or release.

Certain choices, situations and people are associated with bad outcomes.

Despite an association with pleasure, excitement or release… many of my desires are highly-likely to lead me to bad outcomes.

To tame my appetites, I pause and consider the last time I gave into that specific appetite…

I ask myself…

Was it enough?

It was never enough. Not even close!

I remember always wanting more, even while I was getting what I wanted.

My desires are frequent, but my specific desires are fleeting.

They come and they go.

If it wasn’t enough then maybe I should find a better way to live….

…and that’s the system that I’ve been sharing.

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What’s your system?

Is it working?

Too Tired To Change

2017-02-07-08-11-04Picking up from last year

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?

  • Keep it simple
  • Do it daily
  • Set a low bar for success
  • Stretch your limits when overall stress is low

As a coach, I used the above with regards to athletics => better nutrition, sleep and emotional control. Sort those components THEN crank specific stress.

The challenges facing a new parent

  • life stress never feels low
  • we start with no skills
  • we have unreasonable expectations

If you’re facing challenges in your family life then I’d encourage you to acknowledge the above.

Being honest about my limits makes it easier to improve and cope with the inevitable errors.

If I pay attention to my errors, they are most often associated with being tired. You may find this in all areas of your life (emotional control, food choice, substance abuse). You might also have other triggers (hunger, anger, loneliness).

I really like being tired. Fatigue settles my mind and helps me fall asleep.

The trouble comes when I make a big unforced parenting error before bed!

Errors can haunt my consciousness for days.

So this post is about fatigue and change. However, if you look deeper, it is about how I am choosing to invest my emotional energy towards success.

Our values are reflected in where we are willing to make an effort. My values are greatly influenced by peers, environment and media inputs.

So doing a better job at home meant letting go of areas, peers and situations where I used to compete.

Who sees my best self?

2016-12-12-15-26-09Another component of the price I pay is to whom I direct my best self.

The answer cuts through all the BS I tell myself.

What do my kids actually see?

What does my spouse actually experience?

2016-12-14-10-43-23When I was trying to win an Ironman, my coaches and training partners saw my best self. These people were essential to my success and we had a great time doing what it took to improve.

Not coincidentally, I met my wife while training. During the summer of 2004, the only place you could find my best self was training for triathlon.

With the birth of my first child, success was frustrating remote. My internal life was frazzled, angry and exhausted. If I opted out then I would strain my marriage.

So I asked for help and studied experienced preschool teachers.

I paid attention to what was required to present my best self to my kids, and my spouse. [the list I shared]

I paid attention to the conditions present when I fell short (noise, conflict, hunger, fatigue).

Noise and conflict are inevitable with young kids. However, there are many opportunities to get support and stretch my emotional limits gradually.

2016-12-07-06-56-12Like the rest of this series – it makes more sense when we invert the advice.

Good people won’t stick around in the face of our worst selves.

 

Pay The Price

2016-12-01-08-24-06Yesterday’s bullets are the price I pay for my current life:

They are not what-it-takes to be a good husband and father.

The bullets are my “to do” list to have the capacity to improve.

If you invert the list: fatigue, poor nutrition, no exercise, interact with family when stressed, be miserly, focus on external validation… …then I start heading towards a different outcome.

An outcome many consider both normal and highly successful. The alternative outcome never felt right to me.

2016-11-18-08-30-18Before starting down the path of becoming better I had to create the capacity to sustain gradual change.

Telling myself that I was going to stop my “bad” habits didn’t work. Replacing my habits did work.

Salads, exercise, nature, acts of kindness and spending time in my best environments….

…taken together they displace a lot of poor choices. Choices that reduce my capacity.

Sleep and no-compete…

….increase my overall capacity.

Paying the price to change is uncomfortable but not changing is worse.

2016-11-18-07-43-14

What I Learned This Year

2016-11-23-18-33-09-2The #1 thing is to make choices about time allocation based on how it impacts my mood.

Continually, and gradually, phase out sources of stress. I’ve been chipping away since 2000.

Making an effort is worth it — having an exceptional marriage, loving kids and a lot of self-directed time requires a commitment to gradual self-improvement.

Twenty years ago, I was lousy at most of what gives me pleasure today.

2016-11-08-09-33-49What is the system that gives me the energy required to endure the discomfort of change?

  • Sleep
  • Eat huge salads
  • Daily movement in nature
  • Relate to the world in my best environment
  • Perform small acts of kindness
  • Don’t compete

There’s an article in each bullet and I’ll get to them December.

2016-11-18-07-06-50***The stuff we put in our lives is important for what it displaces***

We are really poor at seeing the cost of the status quo.

At 47, athletic competition inserts fatigue, removes me from my children, impairs my sex drive and eliminates my willpower.

If you are a sociopath with tendencies towards addiction, promiscuity and petty crime… then adding athletic competition might be a very wise move indeed!

Pay attention to what works.

Then, pay attention when it stops working.

2016-11-19-20-10-53Finally, I’m a good parent but I don’t always enjoy parenting.

I think we should be more honest about the way things are.

Creating A Life With Meaning

2016-10-15-15-57-57Jonser made flag so I loaded up my Alpha Child and we headed out to Coronado.

I was looking for ideas about about leadership and creating a life with meaning.

2016-10-14-13-48-27We spent the day before at Legoland – a cover story for the trip!

lexi_pinningWe went full “Colorado” for the ceremony – pink cowgirl boots and hat.

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What do models and professional athletes have in common?

By the time they are one quarter of the way through their adult lives, the best days of their careers are behind them.

Here in Boulder, we can pay too much attention to race fitness and body fat percentage.

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2016-10-15-14-10-10So what did Jonser have to offer?

The first thing that strikes me with senior officers is how much they get done.

The trick is being challenged enough to bring out the best in ourselves but not so busy our health, family and marriage suffer.

On the flip side, drive without a socially desirable outlet leads to anti-social behaviors (addiction, aggression, promiscuity).

My Alpha Pup has stacks of motivation, loves rules and respects authority (that’s why she got the trip to Coronado). She also loves people.

2016-10-15-15-08-14Everyone who makes it through Aviation Officer Candidate School, or Med School or an MBA program has motivation.

What’s a key differentiating factor for success?

oathEmpathetic listening.

When Jonser listens to me, it is like I am the only person in the world.

Here is a skill that can be learned, and is often ignored by overachievers.

Listening is a tough one for high-energy folks — how can we get our minds to slow enough to admit external input?

I work on impulse control. Physical first, then spoken word, then relaxing with my thoughts.

As for empathy, my kids started at a buddhist preschool. The school taught the kids, and me, various techniques for taming our inner savage.

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2016-10-15-17-08-18So we have motivated, empathetic listeners, who have tamed themselves. What next?

Lifelong learning and investment in the “person” through ALL levels of the organization.

The military, teaching hospitals, ministry, parenthood — these paths have the opportunity to learn, teach and serve.

Is this a field where I am going to be able to learn for twenty years?

2016-10-15-18-21-13

 

Parenting – Define Better

2016-09-30-16-53-02I was at a wilderness first aid course and a fellow student asked me if I thought parenthood had made my life “better.”

I gave a wry smile and shared that the challenges of fatherhood have made me a better man.

I further shared that it has been hard to detect any improvement in the quality of my day-to-day life.

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However, it gets easier.

Our youngest turned four last month and that marks a key shift in our house. The younger kids (4 and 5) still get worked up but we have the skills to avoid making the situation worse.

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Later, I had the realization that I’m basing my evaluation by looking at a single thread of my life.

You see, we only see the life we live. When I think more broadly, I’m certain that there are many threads that are tougher than living with three loud kids that love me.

For personal happiness, it pays to ask around, get out of the house and serve the community.

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I have accepted that I am a good parent but I might not be good at parenting.

What I mean… I can provide the kids what they need but there isn’t the ease, and joy, that I see with mastery.

I shared this observation with my parenting mentor and she gave me a wry smile!

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After eight years, I’ve come to the realization that my limitations are OK and I pay attention to them.

My motto…

When I am struggling with someone then it’s a sign that I’m spending too much time with them. So, it’s better for me, and them, if I stay under the irritation threshold.

Keeping a little in reserve can be easier for a guy (see my piece on Mommy Fatigue) but my wife sees the benefits (for all of us) of acknowledging limits.