I’m crazy about my kids. Our daughter, Mackenzie, and son, Jackson are both starting their final year of school and busy planning their futures. My husband and I are proud of them and love being with them.
But I wasn’t always so sure they would love being with me.
There was a time when all I thought about was winning at work. This was several years ago, when I was busy building my company and putting nearly every bit of my time and attention into that. Things were going well at work, but my relationships at home were suffering.
The either/or lie
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve heard this story from countless other leaders around the world who think it’s an either/or decision. Either you build a successful career, or you have a happy home life. But you can’t have both.
Wrong. The either/or choice is a lie. It isn’t the only option. “Yes and…” is a much better choice. But that requires you to make different decisions about how you spend your time. You can’t just lean into work. You have to lean into family when they need you, too.
Thankfully I learned this lesson. And as you probably know by now, I became a destination leader with a journey mindset – someone who still strives to reach her goals, but someone who has also learned to savor life.
As it turns out, when I invested more in my family, my business thrived, too. In fact, we grew more than 500% over the next five years. I eventually sold my company to a global corporation, which brought us opportunities and benefits we could never have imagined.
Enjoy the ride
One of the ways we can enjoy the ride of our lives is by having and keeping fellow journeyers, first and foremost our family and friends.
But relationships don’t just happen. You must nurture them, or they won’t last. Here are six ways you can show others you care.
1. Dashboard conversations
When Mackenzie was a teenager, our most meaningful conversations happened when we were riding home late on Sunday nights from her weekend cheer competitions. I kept the radio turned off and my phone on mute. The quiet, along with the glow of the dashboard lights, allowed her to open up and ask me questions about life, love, friends, faith – whatever was on her mind.
I treasure those conversations to this day, and I learned the importance of being available so we could connect when she was ready. Relationships grow one conversation at a time. Be sure you are ready to stop, listen and engage when someone special wants to connect with you.
2. Planning regular time together
Many people plan a “date night” with their significant other. This is always a great idea, but here’s another suggestion too. My father used to take me for a “root beer float date” every Thursday night when I was a senior in high school, and I loved having his undivided attention for just a few hours. If you are a parent/aunt/uncle/grandparent, try scheduling one-on-one time with the young people in your life. Let them pick the place or activity. Be sure to tuck your phone away so you can be fully present – unless you’re taking a selfie with them!
3. Showing up
No one wants to be around someone who works all the time, or thinks about work all the time. You can’t just be physically present; you have to really SHOW UP.
This means resisting the temptation to look at your phone throughout dinner, or making work the topic of every conversation. You can’t arrive at your child’s soccer game yet spend the entire time on the phone behind the bleachers.
Arrive, be present and stay focused on the moment, or you’ll find you’ve missed all the moments that mattered.
4. Slowing down
As a destination leader, you probably move at a rapid pace most of the time. You must slow down and live life at others’ pace every once in a while, or find a happy medium you can all live with.
This looks like taking time to read with your children. Or going for a walk in the evenings with your spouse. Or cooking a meal with another family member and delivering a plate to an elderly neighbor together.
Whatever others enjoy doing, carve out some time to do it with them at their pace.
5. Making sacrifices for others
Many times in life you must scrap the map and go with a detour that is better for your family members than it is for you.
Some husbands move for their wife’s job without knowing what’s in it for them. Children care for their elderly parents, even when their mom or dad no longer knows who they are. Some wives support their husband’s desire to switch careers, in spite of all the uncertainty that goes with that.
Detours in life are hard. But they always lead somewhere new, even if it’s not exactly where you thought you’d end up. Know that whatever sacrifice you make now, it is an investment for the long-run in a relationship that matters to you. And will always keep the journey interesting.
6. Appreciating unexpected joys together
When you make the journey matter in life, you don’t ride so quickly that you miss the scenery along the way.
I learned this while riding motorcycles with my husband. We often pull our bikes over to the side of the road, put the kickstand down, and take time to drink in the sights and sounds around us. Some of my best memories are from moments like this.
The lesson is clear: we must pause to enjoy the little things with those we love. So take a few moments this weekend to marvel at the sunset on a walk with your husband. Run through the sprinkler with your granddaughter. Work in the garden with your nephew. Relish your son’s chance to get in the game. Tell your daughter how nice she looks when she’s dressed for a special occasion. Enjoy old family photos with your mom.
It scares me to think what could have happened to my relationship with my kids if I hadn’t changed when I did. I’m a far different person today, but far from perfect. I must constantly remind myself to live with a journey mindset
Let me encourage you not to give up on yourself if you fall back into your old patterns. For those of us who are driven souls, it’s an ongoing battle.
But the good news is, you will always be someone’s son or daughter, mom or dad, aunt or uncle, grandmother or grandfather. Even if things could have been better in the past, be there for them now. Turn off the radio, put your phone on mute, and listen for the voice of someone you love whose ready to connect with you.
People matter the most. Relationships are the greatest gift we have. Invest in them, and others will know you care.
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