What Keeps Your Love Strong in Tough Times?

For those of you who are new to Life Compass, I write on Spirituality, Faith and Ethics every Sunday.  Here’s why.

Have you ever noticed how tough situations can sometimes make or break a person or couple?

Why is it that in times of crisis, some people just barely hang-on and survive, while others grow and thrive?  Or why some couples come closer together, while others are driven apart?

My wife and I went out for dinner on Thursday night to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  I know, we were a few days early! But it worked best for our family’s schedule.  We had a great dinner out and enjoyed a show called “Grand Rapids’ Got Talent,” which is our [Read more…]

Tips for Work-Life Unbalance

Here at LifeCompassBlog, I’ve given you what I think are some good reasons for pursuing work-life balance.

Today I’m going to give you some reasons why it may be OK to get out of balance in the short-term, and six tips on how to do it in a way that ultimately restores balance, builds your family life, and helps you achieve your long-term goals.

I just read a story at FreeMoneyFinance about The Hildebrandt family of New Richmond, WI, which eliminated $106,000 in debt in five years.  They did it the old-fashioned way, by cutting costs and increasing revenue.

To increase their revenue, the dad took a second job working in a grocery store in the middle of the night.  His schedule was absolutely crazy.  He’d work his day job, then come home, eat dinner with the family, take a nap, then go to his night job from midnight to 4:30, then come home, take a nap, then go to his day job.

A casual observer might look at their situation and conclude that the dad’s life was seriously out of balance and that he was pursuing money at the expense of his health and family life.

But if we look a little closer, we gain some good insights on when and why, I believe, it might be OK to do this. Here are some tips we can learn from the Hildebrandts, along with some others I thought of:

  1. Have a specific goal in mind. This family made a serious commitment to get out of debt.  Other potential reasons why it may be ok:  Start a business (full or part-time), go back to school, or any other major goal or commitment that will help bring more freedom into your life.
  2. Find a way to impact multiple life areas. This isn’t always possible, but you’ll move ahead farther, faster, if you can work on several life areas at the same time.  For example, this family’s decision to pay off debt positively impacted their “financial” life area, but it also was going to do good things long-term for their “career”, “family”, “health” life areas too, by giving them less stress and more freedom to do what they wanted in the future.
  3. Consider the cost up-front. They decided that, to get out of debt, dad was going to have to work more, and they were going to have to spend less on other activities.  In other words, they realized that some things are going to have to suffer short-term in order to achieve the long-term goal.  People get into huge trouble, and stress, when they think they can make a major change in one area while also trying to keep all the other areas moving along at the same speed.
  4. Agree on a specific time frame. They decided to make these changes for a specific purpose and a specific time frame.  They were all looking forward to the day when their goal would be reached.  Once it was, the dad was able to quit his extra job.
  5. Commit to regular check-ups. Whenever we’re making some major change in our lives, we need to do regular check-ups with everyone that is affected.  Make sure everyone’s still on the same page, that they see light at the end of the tunnel, that they’re still working toward the same goal for the reason that was decided on at the beginning.  Without these check-ups, people can lose heart.
  6. Plan rewards at milestones. Set some intermediate goals or milestones along the way, and find a way to celebrate those.  It gives people hope, and helps them see the progress that is being made toward the big goal.

For more tips on how families can make major change and handle competing priorities, check out my review of Pat Lencioni’s book The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family.

Do you have any other ideas or comments?  If so, please be sure to share them!

The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family – Part 3

The Three Big Questions of a Frantic Family

Welcome back to Life Compass, where we’re talking about Patrick Lencioni’s new book, entitled: The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family:  A Leadership Fable About Restoring Sanity to the Most Important Organization in Your Life.

In my last post we covered Question #1: “What makes your family unique?”.  In this post I’ll cover Question #2:  What is your family’s top priority rallying cry right now?

How often have you come to the end of a week, month, season or year and you felt frustrated that you didn’t accomplish some of your most important goals?  It’s not that you weren’t busy during that period…you were just busy doing a lot of other things.

Lencioni suggests that families can eliminate this frustration by knowing what issue or goal sits at the top of their list of priorities in the current time period (he suggests a time frame of two to six months).

Without a top priority, or rallying cry, everything seems equally important and we spread our time and energy across too many worthy but impossible challenges.  At the end of the day (or the week, month or year) we are often left disappointed that the biggest things didn’t get accomplished.

How do you determine your family’s rallying cry?  Lencioni says you need to ask “what is it that we must accomplish by the end of this year (or whatever period) in order to say that it was a productive time for our family?”  Answers will vary greatly from family to family, and from period to period.

For instance, one family’s rallying cry might be to help dad through a difficult career change, while the family next door might be focused on the discipline of their twin boys.  And that same family might decide that their top priority a few months later is to spend more time together as a family, while the neighbors’ might be to cut expenses.

I think it is important to remember here that there is no good or bad answer, or right and wrong answer.  It’s just about figuring out what matters most to your family.  And once that’s done, you have to identify the four or five big things that need to happen in order for the top priority to be accomplished.

Going back to the previous example, in order to help dad through the career change, the family will need to ensure that dad gives up some of his volunteer activities at school for a few months, that the family cuts back on some expenses that are creating financial pressure, that dad enlists the help of a career counselor and that mom and dad have a weekly date to discuss options and progress.  And while this might seem like a goal for the dad alone, it is something that everyone in the family needs to find a way in which to contribute because it affects the entire family. After all, it’s the rallying cry for the family, and nothing else is more important.

“Finally,” Lencioni says, “a family has to recognize that in addition to the rallying cry and the four or five things that accompany it, there are daily responsibilities that need to happen to keep the family moving. Finances. Education.  Health.  Relationships.  Faith life.  These must be acknowledged too, because they do not go away.  However, they cannot become the sole purpose of the family, because every organization needs to know what it is doing to improve itself, not merely to survive.”

Is your family stuck in survival mode?  Give Lencioni’s suggestions here a try and let me know how it goes.  I believe your family can not only survive, but thrive.

The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family – Part 2

The Three Big Questions of a Frantic FamilyIn my last post, I told you about Patrick Lencioni’s new book, The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family:  A Leadership Fable About Restoring Sanity to the Most Important Organization in Your Life.

In it, Lencioni shows families how to live with more purpose, clarity and meaning.  Of course, we’re all about that here at Life Compass too!  The Mrs. and I, with five kids, have definitely needed to strategically think through some things regarding our family life.

Lencioni says families need to ask three big questions in order to restore more sanity to their lives.  The first one is this:  What makes your family unique? It sounds a bit like Pillar #3 from my Ten Pillars of Lifestyle Design:  Clarify Your Life Purpose.  Here’s his point: 

Every family is different, and every family needs to understand how it differs from the one next door.  Otherwise, we become generic and feel unnecessary pressure to be like the Jones’.

He explains that there are two basic ways that families differ: their values and strategies. These can be clarified by figuring out what two or three qualities are at the family’s core and what life experiences make it different.

How do you come up with family values?  Lencioni says a good way is “for parents to ask themselves what it is that they have in common at the deepest level, and what behavioral qualities are inviolable and non-negotiable for members of the family.  If you are a couple, a great way to go about this is to think about what values attracted the two of you to one another, what common qualities you shared that you both admired.”

A second part of uniqueness has to do with your family’s strategy.  He describes this as the big choices you’ve made in how you live your life.  For instance, does one of the parents stay home to be with the kids full-time?  Do you live near relatives?  Do you live below or near your means?  Are you fiscally conservative?  Do you have lots of family friends or just a few?  Ask yourselves which of the answers to these questions, and others differentiate you meaningfully from most other families.

Once you’ve determined your values and strategy, you’ve established a context for making big decisions that should guide your life.

Lencioni explains:

When your neighbor asks if you want to go in on the purchase of a condo at the lake, you can reflect on your values and strategy and easily determine if it makes sense.  When the coach of the baseball team asks if Johnny wants to play on the traveling little league team, you can ask yourself whether or not this is compatible with your family values.  And when your best friends invite you to spend the summer traveling in an R.V., you can decide if that it something that suits your family’s identity or not.  Sure, you will still be required to make a judgment, but doing so will be relatively easy in the context of who you are.

That’s it for Question #1 of The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family: “What makes your family unique?”.  In my next post I’ll cover Question #2:  What is your family’s top priority rallying cry right now?