Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tips for Nurturing Your Relationship

Life with kids is busy, right? You barely feel like you have enough time to get the necessities done (feed and clean kids, take care of house, work, appointments, etc.). For many people, the two areas of our life which have the greatest impact on our overall happiness and satisfaction fall to the very, very, VERY bottom of the 'Life List'.

1) Time to nurture self
2) Time to nurture your love relationship

Let's talk about the relationship piece here.

Of course, over time and with more responsibilities added to the mix (i.e. kids), there is going to be less focus on 'couple time'. However, when we choose to let everything else in life trump nurturing our love relationship, we are asking for trouble.

Parents wonder why the spark has burnt out or why in a few short years they have gone from being connected and in love to not even knowing who they are married to anymore.

It's called a lack of nurturing.

Take a plant for example. A really strong, hearty plant may be able to survive for awhile with no water, attention and nurturing. But that's really all it's doing: it's surviving. And over time it becomes weaker and weaker and less able to handle the tough times (extreme weather, a move, being trampled, etc.). Give a plant with good roots even just a little water, attention and nurturing and that can be the difference between it surviving versus thriving.

However, a less sturdy plant may not last long at all without these essential elements.

So it is for a relationship. A relationship with strong roots (foundation) can usually survive without the needs of both people being met continuously; without active love, attention and nurturing. But you are simply surviving, not thriving.

A relationship that doesn't have strong roots or is already weak may not be able to survive without the essential elements of time, connection and nurturing.

A little, consistent nurturing can go a long way and help deepen the roots of any relationship.

Nurturing is what helps a plant grow stronger.
Nurturing is what keeps a plant alive.
Nurturing is what helps a relationship grow stronger.
Nurturing is what is keeps a relationship alive.

What are you doing to nurture your love relationship? You don't have to spend a lot of time to nurture it, but you do need to give it some heart. This is one of those areas where the idea of "quality over quantity" is really true. Your nurturing acts or moments do not need to take long.
  • It's the small things like little notes to simply remind your spouse that you are thinking of him/her.
  • It's the conversations beyond, "what's going on with the kids?" and "what's the schedule for next week?"
  • It's the few minutes of snuggling before you fall asleep.
  • It's taking a few brief moments to actually look in your partners eyes when they walk in the door and greet them with warmth.
  • It's making one night a week your night, whether you have a babysitter or not, to eat dinner together (alone), sit on the couch and talk, or work on a project together; to connect and interact on a deeper level then the practicalities of life and parenting.
Tips for success:
  1. Set the intention now to nurture your relationship each and every day.
  2. Be open and inspired by what ideas you have (big or small) to support this intention.
  3. When a thought comes to mind ("I want to call Mike and tell him I am thinking of him"), act on it if you can in that moment. Don't over-analyze it or rationalize it away. Take the inspired action. Those are the ones that usually take the least time, are the most pleasurable for us, and have the best results.
  4. Start each day with the reminder and intention to notice and act on small ways to nurture your relationship.
  5. End each day checking in with yourself as to what you did to nurture your relationship.
  6. Better yet, discuss the idea of consciously nurturing your relationship with your spouse/partner and do the checking in with each other at the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Step'n Up and Step'n Out

There's been a consistent theme amongst my clients lately and even in my own life.

It's a calling, nudging and knowing that it's time to own who we are and more fully express ourselves in the world. It's been said that we teach that what we still need to learn. I find it no surprise that as I feel called and moved to "step up my game" and stop "holding back" that those around me, clients in particular, are experiencing the same thing. It's an honor to support them in doing so and it's a reminder for me in what I am still learning.

Where are you holding back? Is there a quiet (or perhaps not so quiet) nudging or knowing inside you that it's time to start living in a more authentic way? In a way that expresses who you are, without apologies or excuses?

If so, consider this:
  • If not now, when?
  • Which will you look back and regret more: step'n up and step'n out and learning along the way...or "playing it safe" and holding back until it's too late?
  • What are you more afraid of: success or failure?
  • What will others be saying about you at your 80th birthday party if you do start living in a more authentic way and owning your power and voice today? What will others be saying about you if you don't and nothing changes?
  • Are you surrounding yourself with others who are building you up and will support you in expressing yourself more fully? Or are you surrounding yourself with others who "keep you in your place" and remind you that you being more in the world is not possible?
  • What one way can you support yourself today in more fully expressing yourself and owning your voice in the world?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Applying Leadership Principles to your Personal Life: Priorities

John C. Maxwell outlines “Priority Principles” in his book, Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know. There are many books and resources which teach us about becoming effective and powerful leaders in our professional lives.

What about taking some of those same principles and applying them in your personal life?

Let’s look at some of Maxwell’s Priority Principles and focus them in the direction of our personal roles as mom, wife, partner, friend, family member and community member.

  • Priorities never “stay put”: Depending on where you are in life and what you want in life, your priorities are ever-changing. On a bigger level, before you have children, perhaps your career was at the top of the list. Once you have a family, perhaps that moves up and the career moves down. If you have health issues, that may move to the top. On a daily level, your priorities also can change based on which family member has what going on, what big work project is in front of you, which friend is going through a rough time, etc.

As Maxwell suggests, there are three pieces to the priority puzzle which can help you determine what priorities need to be where at any particular time.

  1. Evaluate your priorities on a regular basis (weekly, monthly). I encourage you to not only evaluate your priorities on a regular basis, but also get in the habit of discussing and evaluating your family priorities with your spouse/partner on a regular basis. Often arguments arise, resentment occurs, and disconnect sets-in when couples fail to share and discuss their individual and collective priorities, goals and dreams.
  2. Eliminate the items from your list that can be done by someone else. Where can you get help? What are the things you don’t want to do, don’t like to do, or aren’t good at doing? You can have it all, but you can’t DO it all. Delegate what can be done by someone else faster, easier or better then if you try to squeeze it in with everything else on your plate.
  3. Estimate how much time you want to spend of your top projects and priorities—now double that—and then work it into your schedule. As multi-taskers, we often underestimate the amount of time it will take to do things, but we also underestimate the amount of time we want to do things. If you end up saying yes to everything you are invited to on the weekends, thinking that you can just stop by this party for thirty minutes, and then catch twenty minutes of your kids game, and then spend an hour having coffee with a friend, only to find out that you would have loved to have stayed at the party longer, and then you were running late so you showed up at your kids game right when it was over, and then you had to end your great girl time talk with your friend in mid-conversation to make it to your next appointment….you see where I am going with this. How would it feel to say yes to less things so you have more time to enjoy your priorities.
  • You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything: What are the things that you can overlook? What details matter and which ones don’t? Do you feel like you don’t have time for everything because you are spending time on things that don’t really, really matter? Perfectionism and the desire to control everything are two vices that I see working moms struggle with again and again. Breaking perfectionism and letting go of some of the control, especially on the things that aren’t that important, will be your saving grace.
  • Too many priorities paralyze us: You know the feeling. Everything feels important and needs your attention and therefore nothing fully gets your attention. I see this over and over again with high-achieving, professional, successful moms. They are organized and effective at work, but then they get home and let things fall apart. They get home and feel exhausted, thus making decisions based on what's easiest, not necessarily what's best for them or their family. Overwhelm from the rest of life kicks in and chaos unfolds. This is why creating success strategies and solutions in your home and personal life can dramatically increase your overall life success, not to mention your sanity.
  • When little priorities demand too much of us, big problems arise: This is inline with overlooking what doesn’t really matter. When we don’t overlook the little things and they take our time and attention away from the big things, that’s when all chaos breaks loose. If you focus on the cleaning needs of the house in the moment when your children really need a few minutes of your time and attention, often the demand for your attention will increase. Stop. Give your kids (the bigger priority then the house) even just 15 minutes of your attention and love and I promise they will then give you plenty of time later for the house. Ignore their requests for your attention and the bigger their demands will become.
  • Time deadlines and emergencies force us to prioritize: Have you ever noticed that the times we have deadlines looming the more effective we tend to be the more we get done? Then there are those times when you have no deadline in sight and it seems as if the project or priority could just go on and on waiting for you to give it your attention. Deadlines do help make us effective and kick us into gear. However, because work deadlines seem to be more readily available then personal deadlines, I often see clients bump the personal priorities because of the professional deadlines. How can you start setting deadlines for your personal priorities in a way that helps motivate and kick you into gear to deliver on your word? If you’ve been saying over and over again that you and your husband need to start going on monthly dates, set the date and plan an event that requires tickets to be purchased or a reservation to be made. This will push you to find a babysitter and make whatever arrangements need to be made to follow-through with the priority. Same thing with taking time for yourself or your kids. Make a reservation for a day at the Spa and send an email to co-workers immediately letting them know you’ll be out of the office that day. Sit down with your child and look at the calendar. Set a date for your event and start making plans. Use the Law of Deadlines in your favor to help you make time for your personal priorities now, rather then later…later…later.
  • Too often we learn too late what is really important: As Senator Paul Tsongas said, “Nobody on his [or her] deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business [or cleaning the house].’ Unfortunately, for some, emergencies eliminate the chance to make different choices and set different priorities. Don’t wait for the emergencies or Wake Up Calls to occur to start making time for what really matters to you now.