A friend of mine posted the following question today, which got me thinking about the transformation I’ve been going through the past few years. I wanted to share it here in detail.
How do you balance work and time with your kids and your wife or significant other? What do you do in the time that you have (not at work) to make that time special with your family. We’re talking day to day, not special occasions.
In thinking through this, I realized it all comes back to values. As dads and husbands, we know that our value SHOULD be our wife and children. As religious men, we know the values should go God->family->work. Cut the crap for a moment though! How many of us actually live like that? If someone watched us for a week, how would they rank our values. Maybe Work/Career/Money———————————————————–>Wife——->Kids—–>God?
I’m certainly not about to say that I’ve got this all turned right side up or working properly, but one thing I’ve learned. If I try to “do” time with my family but my values still say work/career/money is most important, these times with family become fleeting moments, where I’m only half engaged, and I’m trying to create a rule to force me to get off my phone. On a good day, I’d be there on the floor wrestling with my kids in between things, but my brain is still processing something for work. On a bad day, as soon as the phone goes off, dad’s done.
My values, thoughts, and actions started to flip when I sat down and did a series of powerful exercises aimed at uncovering your truly most important values and beginning to truly structure your life to achieve goals in these areas. This is a combination of exercises that I put together from Bob Harrison (www.increase.org), Lifeonaire (https://lifeonaire.com/), and Lance Wallnau (unfortunately I don’t recall which series it was from).
First, you write down the top 10 most important things that you’d like to see in your life. The way I generally do this with people is say “If you could take your whole life, throw it up in the air and rebuild it from scratch, what would life look like?” The answers start flying: living in a certain place, married, raising kids a certain way, type of work, health, etc. In a sense, this is the easy part. Then, I ask them to rank order these by importance by comparing the importance of each. This is questions like “Which is more important the dream beach house or being married? Or taken a different way…if you had that dream house on the beach but weren’t married, would that be better or worse than if you were happily married to the woman of your dreams but living in a modest house?” It’s amazing as I walk through this exercise with people how surprised they often are by what values float to the top. Finally, once these values have been rank ordered, assign goals to each (a goal must be written, measurable, and have a distinct timeframe). Then, begin to rebuild your life to align to your values. Goals cause you to release time and money, and it’s amazing how quickly they come to fruition.
When I did this exercise, my top four in order were:
- Loving happy marriage, working side by side to pursue our dreams and visions – best friends.
- Raising children who are able to do whatever God calls them to – emotionally, financially, etc.
- Having quality time as a nuclear family – weekly game nights, quarterly weekend trips, etc.
- Being healthy enough that I don’t have physical limitations that prevent me from doing what I’m called to.
After these four, I had a variety of other values that encompass my work in politics, our business, coaching, extended family, our home, having tech that works, community, etc.
After I did this exercise, I was listening to a teaching about releasing time based on your values, and only then did I realize that my attitude towards roughhousing with our kids had changed. Before, when my value was career and then family, roughhousing was something fun to do when there wasn’t something more important. Now I’ve realized that my #2 goal is to raise and empower my children. To do that, I need relationship. One of the best ways to get that is to let them beat me up on our living room floor. Now, all of a sudden, this isn’t something to do in between things, maybe this is one of the most important activities of my day!
As I said before, I’m certainly not doing this perfectly, but I’m trying to change how I’m thinking and how I’m prioritizing. To come back to my friend’s question, once you decide that it’s important to have the time with family, the “what” turns out to be much less important. The “what” might be reading to my family from The Chronicles of Narnia, getting beaten up by my kids while my wife smiles and takes pictures, playing a board game and teaching the kids how to think more strategically and get better, or chasing them around the block while they practice their bikes. The “what” really doesn’t matter. What matters is the “why”, and what my children will remember is that Dad was there, they were important to Dad, and Dad chose to invest in their lives in little ways and big ways, every day and on special occasions, but most importantly Dad was present and they were a priority.
As an aside, I focused this article on what I’d seen shift in my attitude towards my children, because I’d noticed such an extreme shift in my own life, but the same principles apply to your relationship with your spouse.