Marriage Material

I blew up my first marriage in a year.

If you asked me about it then, not only would I have blamed my ex-spouse, I would have blamed the entire concept of marriage.

Roll forward a couple decades (!) and here’s a lesson that I’m seeking to pass along to my kids.

Sibling bickering is exhausting, painful and universal.

Rather than focusing on “fixing” my kids – who seem healthy, loving and normal – I use conflict as an opportunity to teach.

I wait for the energy to go out of the situation.

Hey, I want to teach you a Jedi mind trick.

When you are upset…

Watch your mind.

 

It is going to fix on something outside…

…Bella’s voice

…Axel’s question

…Lexi’s tone

…my face

 

Your mind is going to trick you into thinking that the problem is out there.

Not helpful.

Because you can’t do anything “out there.”

 

What you can do is pause and ask, “What do I want?”

And you’re going to find something to helpful to do.

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Simple, not easy.

What We Don’t See

Twenty-five years ago, I heeded a call to be a better person.

Just a bit better.

Frankly, at the beginning, it would have been tough to see the “better.”

My changes were, essentially, being less unhealthy and less of an asshole.

Even small acts of improvement are not easy.

They are challenging because, inside my head, I only “see” one side of life.

In the moment, my only experience is discomfort.

They are challenging because, I had created a life that supported my poor decisions.

Remember, what we don’t see.

Avoided Setbacks and Unforced Errors.

We never experience avoided health problems, relationships not falling apart, sidestepped addictions, bypassed financial ruin…

I’m grateful the 20-something version of myself was sick of being sick and decided to go for a walk.

 

 

The 30-Day Test

The first principle is you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.

— Richard Feynman


If you self-medicate with drugs or alcohol then you’re going to have a story wrapped around your usage.

My story is beer helps me fall asleep. It’s easy, and wonderful, to knock myself out with a couple of beers. Across 2017, I noticed a habit forming.

As two beers became four, I remembered Doc Evans’ video about alcohol and health. I also sensed that my reason for drinking was weak.

So I decided to make changes, for 30 days:

  • wake up 30 minutes earlier (5:30am is my new normal)
  • ditch the beer
  • pay attention

Similarly my earplug usage was up to 100+ hours per week and a sense of panic would arise when I found myself without plugs. I’d been using plugs for years and they helped, greatly, with not lashing out in the face of my kids’ whining.


How’d it work out?

I lost 8 pounds.

The earplug adjustment happened so quickly I forgot I needed them.

I haven’t forgotten about beer.


We often have habits that hold us back and forever seems daunting.

30-days was:

…long enough to expose my faulty thinking

and

…short enough to get me to start.


One final sleep tip, I lie beside my son for 15 minutes when he goes to bed.

No agenda.

Just breathe.

Our favorite part of the day

Default Emotions – parents dancing with anger

A mother shares a story about her struggle with hate. Specifically, she is troubled by the thought that she hates parenting and, possibly, her preschooler.

She’s not alone.

Living with someone from birth to high-school graduation, I expect to feel every emotional state.

Hate, anger and rage are powerful, and unpredictable, emotions. In Boulder County, they are socially taboo when directed at children.

Therefore, as a parent, you’re likely to remember when you feel these emotions around children.

You are feeling everything.

You are remembering hate.

What’s your default emotional state?

Thinking about the five people closest to me. We default to…

  • Tears (flight)
  • Confrontation (fight)
  • Fear (flight)
  • Emotional shutdown (flight)
  • Anger (fight)

Within a preschooler, I can see all of the above within a ten-minute span!

Combine a rainbow of powerful emotions… with a lack of sleep… it’s easy to drop into my default emotional state.

In my case, I tend to pause and address later, when the energy has left the situation.

Take stock of your consumption of external emotions.

  • Media
  • Situations
  • Peers

How do the above make me feel?

Replace the negative with self-care.

  • Are you sure?
  • Are you sure you are feeling hate?
  • Are you sure your child is the reason for the emotion?

Frustration at my lack of skill can feel like anger.

How do skilled teachers feel about my child?

Negative emotions (hate, anger, rage) indicate a need to up-skill for the essential and out-source the non-essential.

Your mommy-guilt might be leaving you tapped out.

Being tapped out means your children, and your marriage, never see your best self.

Tapped out is a tough way to spend a decade.

 

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.

 

Managing Exceptional People

2016-11-18-15-12-34While certain personality types tolerate constant correction, it’s corrosive to a relationship with an Alpha Child.

Here’s what works…

One Thing – What one thing, if it happened, would take performance to a new level? Pick your battles (or you will be constantly battling).

Default Position – When managing the highly competent, what’s your default position? Is it frequent, small doses of approval backed by admiration? It should be.

Skill Acquisition – Your Alpha Pups are keen to please by learning skills and completing tasks. ABC => Always Build Competence.

Mistakes – Make mistakes visible, teach a different approach with better outcomes then get back to your One Thing. Learning to forgive your own mistakes will help you forgive others.

If in doubt keep my mouth shut and work on my own one thing.

2016-11-22-07-14-18If you were taught constant-correction management (particularly in childhood) then it’s going to be tough to change.

Keep It Simple!

Pause.

Ask yourself…

What’s my One Thing, here?

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With my oldest…

  • One Thing – reading
  • Default Position – let things happen
  • Skill Acquisition – swimming, camping, sailing, enjoyment of nature, aerobic capacity, strength, reading, math, writing, persuation
  • Mistakes – teach via mantras AFTER the energy of conflict has left

The main thing people need is love.