Changing Everything

A favorite question:

What one thing, if it happened, would change everything?

It can be uncomfortable to acknowledge that our current life experience is a result of the (mostly mental) habits that we’ve created to date.

When I ask myself the above question, I compare my answer to where I spent my time over the last week. I often find myself lacking focus.

Creation of Habits + Time = Life Situation

With the above equation, I consider my habits of thought, action and speech. Listen quietly to any person and they will tell you what they think of themselves (by the humor they share about others).

Because we are mostly operating on autopilot, Free Will is found at the margin of our lives. So, to change EVERYTHING, we need to figure out our ONE THING and focus our Free Will.

Some things:

  • Getting fit
  • Family income and expense balance
  • Gaining control of my schedule
  • Losing weight
  • Being able to ride outside in good weather
  • Being able to eat and drink as much as I want
  • Finding love
  • Publishing a book
  • Winning a special race
  • Finding a sexual partner

I’ve had many “one things.”

So many that I joke with my wife, “Honey, I think I’ve finally found THE answer.”

I joke but there have been several things that have proved transformative:

  • A kind spouse that motivates self-improvement
  • Capital to support freedom of occupation and location
  • Weight loss and exercise leading to wellness
  • Shedding disharmony – in my own mind and in my choice of peers
  • A willingness to own, and share, my errors
  • Living in a beautiful place where I enjoy an outdoor life

Right now, I have two things:

  • Reducing the fatigue that I experience from parenting
  • Achieving income/expense balance

What’s your thing?

Awareness is the first step towards transformation.

Sustainable action consists of building the habit of one small action, done first each day.

An Exercise in Generosity

My wife and I have a game going where we are racing to give away $100. The trick is we need to give $1 at a time to 100 different people. We’ve found it far tougher than we expected.

We’ve learned a lot about our attitudes towards generosity. Here’s what we’ve noticed with our internal chatter:

It’s not enough – we hold ourselves back because we are worried that we can’t give enough. This fear permeates all aspects of my life – particularly within family relationships.

What if they get mad at me – because “it’s not enough” there is a fear that there could be recriminations. My antidote is to remind myself that I’m giving what I can and something is much better than nothing. That said, my irrational mind is still afraid and it easier to avoid involvement than risk by helping a little.

To counteract the above, I use my (wildly outgoing) four-year-old daughter to insulate me! She doesn’t have my fears, or chatter, and loves interacting with people. She’s been a positive influence and looks for situations where “we” can give money.

My wife’s been experiencing the same dialogue in her head. Her antidotes have included explaining the exercise and apologizing for not giving enough.

When I reflect on my reasons for closing off – not enough to give, person doesn’t deserve help, fear of rebuke… they don’t hold up to scrutiny.

Without a doubt, my community would be better from lots of consistent little gifts. Going further, I’d certainly feel better.

Based on the gifting rate of our Dollar Game, which is embarrassingly slow, it would take us close to two decades to get through our annual gifting target…

…either we need to increase the bill denomination or change our attitude.

Once I relax and give to everyone, I find myself more open. I don’t need to choose, judge and rationalize.

To give an extra dollar in every interaction I have in a year would cost me less 1% of my net income.

If you see me then hit-me-up!

I have a stack of ones that I need to share.

Only One Childhood

If I knew the changes that would be required before I had kids then I would have probably not had kids. The irony is that would have been a mistake because I didn’t know the scale of the changes that were coming, regardless.

In my life there wasn’t any real impact until my oldest was two-years old then I was faced with a decision:

  • Let my wife’s mental health suffer and risk the health of my marriage
  • Get involved

My choice, somewhat reluctantly at the time, was to get involved. At first I didn’t notice much change but it became clear that to be at my best as a parent, I had to avoid being tired. Here’s the dilemma of the parent-athlete:

  • Parenting is misery when exhausted
  • Fatigue is an essential component in the journey towards improved athletic performance

So, you’re likely to find yourself at a crossroads for a period of time. I suspect that time will last until our youngest is about five years old. Within my own family, I’m guessing that 2010 to 2017 is going to see a reduced focus on athletic performance. I have many ideas about being an athletic parent that I’ll share in an upcoming article.

At the end of my family’s preschooler phase, I’ll be faced with another choice, ramp my training back up (perhaps Monday to Friday during school hours) or put that time into an area that benefits my family directly.

When my youngest starts her formal schooling (2017) will be the same time that my oldest has the intellectual capacity to begin to absorb the lessons that I’ve picked up outside of school. My teaching style is instruction via “hanging out.”

I suspect that my children gain more from having a healthy and engaged father than a parent who chooses winning over spending time with them.

At the other end of a spectrum, a famous parent once shared that his #1 focus is being the fittest masters athlete in the world. I felt for the children in that family.

The rationalizations elite athlete-parents spin in their heads color their judgement in all aspects of their lives. For me, the likelihood of regret: for my marriage and for my kids; makes that path unappealing.

That said, I have a passion for sport and sustaining a personal passion makes me a better parent.

As a group, the actions of elites and elite AGers show that we value winning over all else. My kids learn far more easily, and deeply, from observing my choices, rather than listening to my words. Don’t let our twitter feeds convince you otherwise – look to our choices and our daily actions.

Our children only get one childhood – opportunities for personal glory will remain far beyond their school years.

What’s Going Well

When things get a little tense at home, I know that I can wait a couple days and my wife/kids will forgive me. In fact, they do an excellent job of forgiving me each morning when they wake up.

For me, forgiveness is one of the best lessons from little kids.

I’ve been carrying the past into the present with my daughter. Monday’s blog is a good example.

My life experience is created by where I focus. It’s July and I continue to focus outside elite sport. Too many lies, and secret lives, for me to enjoy the present.

To balance the past at home, I went for an easy run and thought about everything that’s going right with my daughter:

She helps others experience love
She has a ton of energy
She tries new things
She makes me laugh
She can swim all four strokes
She can stay in my bike trailer for four hours
She travels well
She’s polite to all my friends and family
She’s non violent
She rides a bike
She eats healthy and almost everything
She’s healthy
She’s intelligent
She’s kind to other people
She’s outgoing

I’m at a park listening to a Dad scream at his little girl and swear at his son as I write this. We’re getting a lot right at home.

So much to be grateful for.

Speaking With My Daughter

I’ve been teaching my daughter lessons that would have helped me as a young person:

  • Treat others how you want to be treated
  • Use people’s names when you speak to them
  • Ask people questions so that can talk about things that make them happy

As a young man I had a disregard for the opinions of others and viewed manners as a sign of personal weakness. While I enjoyed success despite these weaknesses, it could have done a lot less ‘damage’ if I’d been more considerate.

My daughter is four and has been yelling in my face, daily. I’ve been thinking about how I might help her smooth the rough edges.

The first tactic was to teach the three lessons above.

The second tactic was to acknowledge that we’ve been taking pride in certain elements of her aggressive speech – finding humor in the fear she stokes in other kids and the ease of travelling with a four-foot tall extrovert.

The last tactic was to identify, then improve, my own verbal shortcomings. This was tough for me and I had to ask Monica for tips. She didn’t come up with anything directly so I turned to the ancient texts (links to Buddhist teaching on right speech). Here I found something to work on…

Right Speech

  • …is spoken at the right time
  • …is spoken in truth
  • …is spoken affectionately
  • …is spoken beneficially
  • …is spoken with a mind of good-will

If my children were mind readers then would they be justified in yelling at me?

The question made me smile and I’m working on my “mind of good-will”.