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.

 

Effective Thinking

2016-11-10-10-45-33What type of life am I looking to experience day-to-day?

I’m going to wager that you’re not aiming for grief-stricken, miserable, sad or angry.

If you can feel a desire for happiness within your self, then perhaps you’ll be able to see it in your adversaries.

If you’re still having trouble then get to know the children of your enemies.

I’ve yet to meet a preschooler lacking basic goodness.

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2016-11-09-16-39-44-1I’ve also found that, regardless of the merits of my beliefs, a negative attitude has strong effects on the people around me:

  • Negativity fatigues the loyal
  • Negativity repels the positive

Loyal, positive people are jewels in my life.

It’s worth a lot of effort to keep them in my circle.

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2016-11-10-20-49-55It’s not always easy to see the source of my negative attitudes.

So I flip the question and ask myself, “Which actions generate a positive vibe within me?” and pay attention when I laugh out loud.

I have a good idea about my playbook.

Do you know your own?

2016-11-12-09-40-50Then it’s up to me to do the work necessary to live the life I want to experience.

Do good work.

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.

Reaching For Success – Young Families

2016-08-20 10.51.46

What makes a successful family system?

If you ask around then you might hear love, kindness, tolerance and forgiveness. All good but, with a room full of youngsters, these “higher states” often seem unattainable.

Let’s focus on specific tactics.

2016-08-17 17.20.34Renunciation – As an elite endurance athlete, this was a strength of mine. However, what serves a high-performer’s goals is unlikely to serve one’s family.

What happens when deeply help beliefs get in the way of being a good father, a good parent, a good son?

Most of us have past habits living inside of us. Feeding these desires as a single adult have limited repercussions in our lives. As a father, self-indulgence leads to misery.

What beliefs/habits are holding me back from being a better man?

The difficulty of change is completely worth it.

2016-08-17 10.52.28Intangible Assets – What is peace of mind worth?

What price are you willing to pay for a happier spouse?

How much is it worth to teach a three-year old conflict resolution skills?

I promise that you will undervalue the intangible benefits of greater serenity and you will greatly overestimate the pleasure you receive from hard assets.

In my family budget, “luxury” spending is focused on two areas:

  • Pre-K for the kids
  • Childcare for your marriage

At the end of 2012, we downsized our home to ensure we could fund the above.

2016-08-16 11.24.53One-On-One Time – It takes one-on-one time to get inside your child’s world.

Spend the same amount of time (overall) with your spouse.

Hold sacred your daily quiet time with yourself.

With kids, spouse, self, job, PTA, laundry, parents… we have endless demands on our time!

It is “ok to say no.”

Get more comfortable doing enough for the family, rather than your best for yourself. You might never be fully comfortable with time compromises. Discomfort is OK.

2016-08-14 12.26.58Patience – it will take work, over time, to learn skills to maintain your sanity, within the natural chaos of a new family home.

Give yourself 1,000 days to see where you need help.

Go get help!

Experienced preschool teachers have a wealth of knowledge you can tap to become skillful at home.

Most my “problems” are created when a lack of skill meets my emotional habits of anger, retreat, sadness, aggression and revenge.

2016-08-13 21.00.46Renunciation, self-care, connection and patience.

 

Family Leadership

2016-02-08 10.36.04I’ve written about the concept of the good-enough parent — a combination of showing up and not retaliating. It is a simple strategy but quite challenging in the face of a disgruntled preschooler!

Seven years in, I’ve managed to make non-retaliation a habit. If you are still working on it then remember to practice all-the-time…

  • Yield in traffic and queues
  • Breathe into tension
  • Slow down

New habits are most easily created when we are capable of self-control — away from the kids, in low stress environments.

I’ve been at it for over 15 years.

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What’s next?

I’ll start by sharing what’s definitely not next.

A habit of constant correction will make you, and everyone in your house, miserable.

An easy way to make this visible… track your positive-to-negative interactions with your kids, spouse and friends.

Another way… ask a close friend… When I talk about myself, what do I say?

If this is an area for improvement then it’s already obvious to everyone around you.

It was shocking when I did this with my oldest. I became so aware of my error in approach that you can get a quick rise out of me by constantly correcting her in my presence.

Correcting less, in ALL areas of my life.

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2016-03-09 15.27.20What about next-level positive habits?

De-escalationbecome skillful in draining the energy out of situations.

Most of us didn’t grow up in an environment that taught us these skills.

Becoming an effective family leader will require education, motivation and daily practice.

Two things helped me here:

  1. learning the methods of outstanding preschool teachers – if they can teach preschoolers to de-escalate then they can certainly teach us!
  2. reading the secular writings of spiritual masters

2016-03-12 10.34.52Opening To Experiencethe most valuable experiences shared with my family serve no purpose, other than sharing an experience with my family.

Often, my shared experiences are activities that I would not choose for myself. Recent examples, collecting sea shells, swim races, downhill skiing and art shopping.

2016-03-12 10.31.31Most of the leadership we were shown as children was about saying “no.”

Constantly being told what not to do.

Consider becoming the embodiment of what to do.

Is it any wonder many of us rebelled and left as soon as we could?!

Is it any wonder that many of us continue to hold resentments about events, and people, that haven’t existed for 20, 30 or 40 years?

To break this cycle, I say “yes” as much as possible. Yes to beachcombing. Yes to downhill skiing. Yes to painting. Yes to card games.

Stay open to experience.

Stay open to love.

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Survival Tips For A Sad Parent

2015-09-18 19.23.04A father with two young children asks, “Is there anything you could recommend to make my family life less awful?”

I can’t wave a wand and make it enjoyable. However, I take comfort in the knowledge that there are many people that enjoy young children.

Let’s start with some tips for maintaining your personal sanity and your marriage.

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2015-09-09 18.36.01Perspective

Listening to parents talk about their kids, and the scars of their own childhoods, it’s universally reported that little kids are challenging people to live alongside.

My current experience is one day out of ten is very tough. If I want to get dramatic, then I can extrapolate to 40 days a year that are awful… more than a month a year in suffering!

However, if I look deeply then it is closer to 100 hours a year, and I’m with my kids a lot.

Looking even deeper… I break it down to a couple “moments” each day where I need to resist my urge to retaliate and settle a sensation of internal panic.

Five years ago, it was closer to ten “moments” a day, and I spent far less time with the kids.

It’s important to recognize the positive trend line in our lives.

So what seems like constant bedlam (to my remembering self) is, more accurately, twenty moments a week when I need to be skillful, or simply not make the situation worse!

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2015-09-10 11.40.34A Hard Truth

From the time your oldest turns two until your youngest enters first grade — it’s not about you.

If you were the prettiest girl in high school, the captain of your varsity sports team, or the highest achiever in your firm then this reality will come as a shock.

I understand that you are shocked by your situation.

I was also shocked.

We should both set a date to get over it.

Your kids are going to present you with an opportunity to become better than you are.

Take the opportunity because a self-serving attitude will become one of the key regrets of your life.

Ask around.

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2015-09-12 18.48.03All We Have Is Time

Most of the pain I felt in the early years had to do with a conflict of choice => further external validation versus doing what’s best for my family.

So I jettisoned the easy stuff – anything that cost significant time and money – went.

What has worked is redirecting the additional spending towards childcare that enables me to spend time with my spouse and alone (in nature, in silence).

You might find it tempting to let your spouse get overwhelmed – losing health, embracing addiction, breaking down mentally.

Make a pact that you won’t let each other go that far. The kids will grow up and neither of you will want to be married to that sort of person.

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What You Control

What changes can I make to offer my family a better version of myself?

  1. Say no to non-core
  2. Practice not-response

I work on a small scale and life consistently gets better.

Give A Minute

minuteA simple way to reduce the noise in your head.

  • When you can feel yourself closing off,
  • or anger rising,
  • or have been asked to do something that you’re rather not…

…give a minute

2015-08-30 18.20.58

  • When my kids aren’t listening to me…
  • or I think they aren’t complying…
  • or they are arguing with each other…

…give a minute

2015-08-20 17.02.24By giving bits of time, I immediately removed half the conflict out my life and was able to leave the past, in the past.

It’s wonderful.

2015-08-30 19.43.37

You are going to tell yourself that you don’t have the time to give a minute.

I can feel rushed as well.

Perhaps you can start small.

I started by giving seconds away when driving.

Yield.

If you start then pay attention.

Pay attention to what happens after.

By giving time I feel less pain.

Yes, I am a little slower when we are together but this is more than compensated by peace of mind when we are apart.

You’ll be surprised at how little time it takes to transform yourself.

Stay open.