I’ll give you an experiment to try: The next time somebody asks you how you’ve been or what you’re up to, answer without using the word “busy.”
We use it as a default word to describe our lives but what we really mean is that we aren’t in control of our time or our life. Because of that, we’ve developed all sorts of bad habits in our marriage.
- We don’t go to bed at the same time.
- We don’t cultivate common interests.
- We don’t check in with them to see how things are during the day
Maybe you feel this way, too?
Maybe you feel so underwater with all of your obligations that your wife and marriage is not only not your first priority, but it barely makes the top 10 list.
Let’s fix that…
YOUR “ONE WORD” FOR 2017
I’m a big fan of setting my intentions. What I’ve proven to be a great way to do that is to choose a single word to govern my decision-making for the year. In the past, I’ve chosen various words and all of them have had dramatic, positive effects on my faith, family, and business.
For 2017, your “one word” must be…
Your word for 2017 is “No.”
What you’re able to do depends on what you say no to.
In order to say yes to your marriage, you’re going to have to say no to the things that are detracting from it, if even just for a short season.
First, decide what is most important to you in order of priority.
We often say that we want a great marriage, but our actions don’t reflect it.
Actions indicate priorities.
I remember early on in my marriage, I felt like my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training was in competition with my relationship. So I took a break from Jiu Jitsu. I tested it. You should test everything in your life at one point or another. What you’ll realize that is things are never as bad as you think they’ll be.
I took a break, focused on my relationship, and was able to get back to training with the support of my spouse.
Win – Win.
The harsh truth is, however, that you are going to have to get rid of some of the things you’re currently doing. The good news is that there’s some really easy ones you can purge first…
So this isn’t exactly a law, or science, but Austin Kleon turned me onto one of the most important quotes I’ve ever heard when it comes to doing what matters:
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert
As a husband, you know there’s a lot of strength in the routine. This is why you hear about people like Steve Jobs and Zucks wearing the same outfits over and over again. Less decision fatigue = more creativity.
Business, like family, is won or lost in the number of easy decisions and debates you can eliminate.
We have a finite number of decisions we can effectively make every day before we start to exhaust ourselves mentally.
My friend, Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur, is a master at this because of, in part, his military background. I don't know anybody else who can focus on the important quite like Dave.
Want an example? How many dinners out with your wife have been stressful because of the pre-dinner discussion (read: argument) about where to go eat?
Eliminate that decision point and you’ll have a much better time out. I promise.
Eliminate even more by saying “no” to the things that don’t matter and you’ll have a better marriage (and be a better dad!). That, too, I promise.
Here’s a “Yes” shortlist (based on Kleon’s writing) that I’m using to decide what to say “No” to in 2017. If it doesn’t align with these goals, then I’m not doing it.
- Take care of yourself.
- Stay out of debt. Live within your means. Save.
- Keep your day job… for money, connection, routine.
- Take jobs you can learn from, for your art.
- Do your work every day, no matter what.
- Get a calendar. Fill the boxes.
- Body of work = slow accumulation of little bits of effort over time
- Keep a log book. (Chart of past events.)
- List what you do every day… good resource for later.
- Marry well. (Choose who you want to be around.)
DISCIPLINE EQUALS FREEDOM
Whenever I’m struggling to say no to something, I decide to be tougher. I’m tougher than this conversation. I’m tougher than this decision. I’m tougher than this email. In whatever way I have to say no to something, I can choose to be tougher.
“If you want to be tougher mentally, it is simple: Be tougher. Don’t meditate on it.” – Jocko Willink
Operating within parameters always gives us more freedom and happiness in life. By deciding what we will say yes to and what we will say no to far in advance, give our focus on our marriage, we can have so much more freedom when decision time comes.
For instance, here are things I’ve said no to in the last 24 hours so that I could say yes to my marriage and my family:
- No, that doesn’t fit with my goals right now.
- No, cool person who likes my podcast, I can’t grab coffee.
- No, League of Legends, I can’t play you right now.
- No, squat workout, I can’t skip you.
- No, iPhone, I can’t check you.
Notice my use of “can’t” instead of “won’t.” Since I have a decision, it should be that I “will not” do something. However, by making it a moral imperative to say no to anything that doesn’t align with my goals, I am mentally, physically, and emotionally unable to do those things. Hence, the use of “Can’t.”
If you’re like me, you’ve gotten to where you are by saying “yes” to most things and being “voluntold” to do countless others.
If you want to improve your relationship this year, you’re going to have to disappoint a lot of people. Here’s a few examples of what I said “no” to in 2016 in order to focus on my family and my photography SEO business:
- A leadership position at my church
- An assistant principal position at my school
- Coaching other entrepreneurs
- Training jiu jitsu regularly
- Going out with friends
- “Connecting” or “catching up” over coffee
- Hosting local meetups for teachers, entrepreneurs, and podcasters.
- Being on other people’s podcasts
- Writing for magazines
- Reading Facebook (I blocked my entire news feed – you’re welcome!)
Lots of people were bummed for various reasons. Even today, people don’t get why I don’t read their Facebook updates.
But it’s worth it. I promise.
Photo Credit: Shane Cleminson Family Photography