I read a lot of self development books, blogs, and courses. A common theme is being present. It’s pretty easy to find all sorts of definitions for what that means, and I’m not going to give you another one. Instead I am going to share an experience that happened to me this morning.
I love Sunday mornings because they come with the illusion of having some time to myself. It’s a powerful one. That is my expectation when I get up in the morning. I am so set on being able to sit down with a cup of coffee, read a book, do some writing and enjoy watching my kids play without interruption. This of course is often a self delusional fantasy of how I want the world to be. Sometimes I get it, but today’s reality is I got as far as my coffee before the needs of the family started eclipsing my own. The schedule for the day gets hijacked by the needs of the group. This is simply what it is to have a family. This is what I wanted and yet here I sit resenting it. Does this sound familiar?
I find myself not being able to have some dedicated free time to myself. The intensity of the resentment fades over time as like all things, you get used to it. That becomes your new normal. Depending on your personality, this is where the emotional tools come out. You know… guilt, sarcasm, passive aggression, and sometimes an outright fight. The more family members you have, the more likely these episodes are to occur simply out of the ever increasing matrix of potential conflicts of interest.
These are critical points in determining how your family will work or not. It is in those moments of arising conflict when we must overcome our instincts and force equitable communication. I’ve found those crucibles of family conflict to be inflection points. They are where you make your relationship stronger or weaker. They are where your kids make rules in their own minds about how to deal with you. Especially around the ages of 4 to 8, the rules they make may stick for a lifetime. So when those moments arrive, you are probably going to be in your lizard brain defending your Id. It will feel very hard to not defend yourself. Your inner 5 year old will come out but wrapped in adult mannerisms. This is exactly when you need to let that go and remember that this is what you wanted.
The Loop of Wanting
Often when I have a ‘day off’ with the family I find myself thinking, man I wish I could just go back to work building my businesses and striving for that next level of success. If I ask myself why do I want to build businesses and achieve financial independence, the answer is always to spend more time with my family. But that’s where I am on a Sunday morning. So why am I wanting to be building a business instead?
This circular logic plays out in a couple of other scenarios. In my twenties I spent a lot of time chasing girls, going out on the weekends, partying and trying to get laid. This usually ended up with eventual success where I would find myself with an amazing girlfriend. She would of course take up time. To maintain ‘the girlfriend’ put me back the mindset of wanting to be free of the responsibility and time requirement. This left me right back where I was before, chasing girls until I ended up in the same spot all over again. This loop is fundamentally the basis of the phrase, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Yet we’re always going back and forth.
Imagine where you are now. What are you yearning for? Our head never seems to stay where we are at the time. When you are building a business you might always be thinking about taking an extended time off, yet once you do all you can think about after the first week is the next business you want to build. Here are some loops that I’ve been in. Being in each state has me thinking about being in the other.
Family Time <–> Work that you love
Girlfriend / Boyfriend <–> Flying Solo
Building a Business <–> Extended Time Off
Consulting <–> Full Time Work
I’ve stayed in these loops for many years of my life. The loops just change. I try to be more aware of them now, and decide to enjoy being where ever I am. My wife is amazing at calling this behavior out and asking me to step up and break the cycle. If you have a significant other, this can be a great source of strife if you don’t recognize it for the contribution that it is. I truly think that the ability to call each other out on each other’s moods and moments of negativism without getting into a fight is the foundation of an amazing relationship. It puts you on the same side. You work as a team. However you have to be able to let your other half call you out on your bullshit and not get mad about it. Rather you should thank them for it.
We give ourselves a few minutes of grace period because changing your head takes concentrated effort. You have to give up everything your head is telling you to do. That feeling of indignation and being so self assured is very strong. It feels terrible to let it go. It’s like surrendering who you are, even if it what you’re doing is being a real jerk.
The bad news is that it’s never going away. At least I haven’t been able to beat it even after being consciously aware of it. I still slip into resenting what I wanted and now have. The good news is that you can catch yourself and let go of your resentments. Being able to identify the loop alone can be strong enough to break the cycle.