For me it’s the chase to find that mythological unicorn, a landscaped yard. There is always more that can be done. There is always something left to check off that “to do” list. Knowing we are in a race with no winners, losers or finish line you would think it would be easier to stop and find joy in the everyday struggle, but we all know it simply is not. What if struggles were celebrated and not the cause of such frustration or jealousy? It is an active process that takes time, awareness and practice to cultivate such a life or positive experiences.
Imagine if you obtained or experienced everything you would ever want or need in the world. What would be left? A pretty empty feeling I’d imagine. Humans are born with an inate sense of growth, seeking out challenge and learning. Without access to growth, challenge, or learning opportunities, more accurately defined by some as the daily struggle, life might seem pretty unfulfilling.
In 2015, I competed with the Westminster Chorus for the Barbershop Harmony Society’s International Chorus competition in Pittsburgh, PA. We won. It was such a great and memorable experience and one that I will never forget. But I don’t think about the 15 minutes I was on stage that past by in the blink of an eye. I remember the long car rides stuck in traffic up to Anaheim every Monday night and getting home at 1 am. I remember the great friendships that were developed and continue to grow stronger to this day. I also remember the many stories people have shared of our music and the look on young fans faces when singing a tag together. Yes. it was a ton and ton of work, but it has become one of my greatest achievements.
Parenting is so much harder and challenging than I ever imagined. But parenting has also brought so much more joy and enrichment to my life than I could have ever imagined. I have found a deeper love than I could have ever imagined for my daughter. I hear almost every day, “man she is growing up so fast,” and almost feel like it was yesterday that she was born. If only I could just slow down time (except during tantrums), find balance and enjoy the journey.
Knowing that there is always something else to do. Another task to complete. Dishes to do. Bills to be paid. How do we ever find time for self-care AND work AND finding meaningful moments with our children? There is a way and it starts with YOU!
No. Taking care of you is not selfish or egocentric but essential to finding your own success. Finding balance begins with allowing yourself the opportunity to build a foundation of how you want others to see you. How do you want to show up in your relationships? Have you ever been stuck on an airplane or train ride and had to listen to someone complain and talk at you about their problems? Do you remember how you felt during that plane ride? I bet you could not wait for it to be over. Our own emotional and self-regulated state affects others. I bet you felt pretty stressed out yourself.
I often hear parents yelling at their kids at the grocery store and think to myself, how is your kid supposed to be calm when they are still learning and growing, when their parent isn’t even able to remain calm in the stressful situation that we all know as the grocery store? If we are not in a place to offer our best selves, to grow, to listen, to bring empathy and patience to our work place, family life and community, we will be sending our own negative energy out into the world.
Many parents come into the office and will ask, “How do I make my child do their homework?” Or stop hitting, or eat their dinner, or any number of things. My answer remains the same, changing your own approach will change your child’s response. And it’s a lot easier than forcing them to do things!
It all starts with you. Finding balance in your life is not important, but critical to the success of you and your family. Allow yourself the opportunity to go for a walk, take a piano lesson or cook your favorite meal. Making time for yourself will translate into a healthier approach to work and family life. This is important. Make it a priority. The “to do” list will always be there. There will always be a reason to take time for yourself or an excuse not to.
In RDI, we break activities down and don’t always focus on the results or the final product. We look at the process, or in life, the journey. Life isn’t about how much material possessions you have when you pass. Life should be about the relationships and memories that you created and the people’s lives you touched. That is your legacy. This is broken down into everyday activities with our kids during the RDI learning process. It's not about creating the best painting or making the best tasting cookies. It’s about being together. That’s it. Just be there for your child and watch out for their powerful response. Being there for your child is only able to occur when you are there for yourself.
Slow it down. Be there for yourself. Be present for your family and many of the daily obstacles will take care of themselves, and who knows, you may even find an opportunity to turn a struggle into an enjoyable experience.