Happy October everyone! It is the start of a new month and exactly three months away from 2019. Does it feel like a big deal or what? Since my first health, wealth and happiness post on August 1 Danny and I have been working hard to figure out how to live the purposeful, focused, and joyful life we know this season can provide. It started with a hard conversation, where Dan asked for his wife back. But his approach was so his honest, while still being firm and loving, it really spoke to me. This wasn’t about having the perfect life – it was about honoring the season we are in for all its beauty (even if it isn’t exactly what we want right now), and finding a rhythm to achieve the life we know we want to build. What a gift we have been given with Dan’s new lungs and our whole new life, but even though we are constantly in awe, are we really using it well?
To get us organized we focused on three areas: health, wealth and happiness and committed to making this an effort with true accountability. What we found after outlining what we wanted was the need to take time and really figure out how to make this work. It has taken 2 months, a lot of conversation, some investing of resources, and even more serious conversations/moments – but we think we have gotten to the right place. The reality is we do best when we have a plan (as my gal Rachel likes to say, “Hope isn’t a strategy”) and it made the most sense to really launch into our efforts on October 1 – even though we have been practicing for the past 8 weeks.
Today I am sharing what we have discovered works, what doesn’t work, what had to change to make this work, each of our motivations, and defining success. If you are interested in getting inside our world or maybe even figuring out how to make the end of 2018 really count for yourself and stop waiting for the new year… keep on reading!
This category is focused on both: exercise and how we are treating our bodies (food, drink, sleep). What has worked for us: making a schedule for both exercise and grocery store visits, creating a food plan, completing food prep, accountability to each other, and allowing for some flexibility. What has not worked: making lunches in the AM, letting workouts fit in when they can, hard and fast rules, and weekends in general. After comparing these two lists we realized that being laid back only leads to judgement of one another (I went to the gym and you did not ), last second food decisions that aren’t good, and continuous disappointment which would lead to “we will start again on Monday”, which was often said on a Thursday. However when we tried to go extreme – there was just a lot of annoyance at each other (whoever felt like enforcing the rules rubbed the other person the wrong way) and a constant view of each other and ourselves as “good” or “bad”, when honestly the “bad” could be confusing. For instance, yea we should not be going out for chips and guac with a margarita or two on the side on a Wednesday – yet it was a chance for us to relax, enjoy each others company, and laugh. How can that be all bad? That is where the idea of flexibility has to come into play.
So we figured out the formula: create a schedule that is realistic and easily replicated, food plan and prep, and be open to change without it leading to complete destruction. Then all we needed was the motivation and definition of success. In our world motivation had to go beyond “its good for us” or “we always wanted to try and be better” , and we had to find the true reasons we would make this change. Danny: an amazing new career opportunity and Jackie: creating a strong mental and physical foundation for her next chapter. These are goals that are long term, measurable, and at the heart of what we both really want. Weight loss feels amazing, stable lung scores are so valuable – but they just haven’t been able to get us off the couch for exercise or meal prep. These goals, that have some very deep and personal layers, are things that actually call to who we are now, who we want to be in the future, and the people are partners believe we can be. These are the goals that allow for the hard conversations between us, the ability to stand on a scale in front of each other and not be embarrassed – but empowered, and maybe most important: goals that will still matter to us in 10 and 20 years …. encouraging of a new lifestyle. It has been an amazing experience finding them and we are leaning heavily on the joy of that journey to ignite the excitement for the next phase.
As a couple that has faced a medical crisis since the start of our marriage, finances have been our devil forever. Just like any couple there are different ideas on how to manage money, when to spend money, and what to prioritize for future goals. Unlike other couples, we had hundreds and thousands of dollars constantly needing to be spent on medical bills. Even with our charitable group, we still faced a mountain of financial strain and only one consistent earner for many years. As Danny gets back to work, both of us are further ahead in our career paths, and with our changing goals – it is almost like we are starting over…. but with the benefit of knowing the pitfalls our different personalities bring to this conversation. So we have made this a focus area too.
What has worked: meal planning and a schedule have reduced the number of take out meals and we even share the responsibilities of shopping and/or cooking (everyone being part of the solution created a strong team mentality). What has not worked: weekends we are way more tired and lazy, we have more money now, so actually paying attention hasn’t been as needed, and the rule “just no spending” is not realistic. What needs to change: we want to be more purposeful about our spending and also our saving (future goals, retirement, vacations). Motivation: the obvious is to save more than we have ever had before and really clear out the reminder of our debit – but again the digging deep and finding the motivator for everyday led to this idea: get the most out of our life as it is today and what it will be tomorrow.
For this section I think an example is the best way to describe how we are approaching the wealth piece. We have been blessed enough with the ability to have a professional house cleaning monthly. Is this a necessity: no – so why do it? Both Danny and I desire more time to focus on our goals and enjoy time together – that is the season we are in right now and taking toilet scrubbing off the list does just that. Having it just once a month is a compromise because we still need to maintain the house – but there is no need for a whole Saturday dedicated to cleaning. Plus as we cook more and try to spend less time on activities that cost us money – we want to be in a clean house. Suddenly this once a month visit is motivating us to not only work hard to afford it – but work as a team dividing chores to maintain it. A cleaner, organized house requires less maintenance, makes us both happier, and we are ok with being home more often. So there you have it – we spend money when it meets several of our goals, contributes to the well being of our family, and encourages us to be better.
This is money well spent and has given us a base line for all other spending. No one has to feel we can’t spend, but it slows each of of us down before hitting “buy” online and allows for conversations about using our money, instead of harsh no spending rules. And again – it has encouraged some of those tough, marriage rocking moments to be made easier: Danny needed me to clean up my book piles that I thought looked clean and organized but drove him crazy. And I needed Danny to combine his medicine to three select areas so I can stop feeling like a live in a pharmacy. In previous years we had had these conversations and they have landed each person in separate bedrooms…. this time there is no mess and each of us is happy to respect the other’s request.
Since this post is getting to be pretty lengthy and happiness is really the goal of ALL our efforts, I am going to review just a few of the things we have been doing to increase happiness.
Quiet time: both of us have put a value on quiet time for prayer, schooling, research, reading etc. and continue to encourage each other to practice this as much as possible. It is always the first thing to go when life gets busy, yet the thing we likely need the most. We have even made dates to a local coffee house to do this together – even if we are both doing our own thing. If you are looking for big changes in your world – start here, you won’t regret it.
The words we use: as you saw above “good” and “bad” behaviors and choices is how the human brain is programmed – or at least as anal retentive folks. With all this change going on over here, there is no room for that judgement of each other or ourselves. We just won’t do it and it is often an hourly effort to STOP thinking those thoughts or uttering the words. We are seeking our best selves, we are clear on our motivators which align with what we believe, and we are constantly learning – as long as we stay earnest in those efforts, no need for any words of judgment.
Surrounding ourselves with the good stuff: Danny and I are both reading some great books on change/growth, following awesome blogs, regularly watching motivating You Tube clips (here is my current daily one), researching exercise and diet information, and volunteering in areas we are passionate about. If you surround yourself with this sort of good stuff, its like giving a plant water and sunshine – it is going to flourish! Plus we are constantly sharing new info with each other which makes it fun. I know self help isn’t for everyone…. but I can’t begin to tell you how important it has been for us – and we had no idea that it would be. In fact at separate times we each made fun of the other persons efforts (really kind…) in this area. But if that self help isn’t really your thing, then I would at least encourage the volunteering. Both Danny and I are doing a few different volunteer things that remind us how far we have come and how blessed we are to share our journey. It has been intoxicating and neither of us can get enough. Plus – as my mom always says: “the more you have to do, the more you get done”…. so far the that has proven pretty darn true.
And last: a couple challenge we are doing together. It is personal challenge and Danny would like to think I don’t put our whole lives on the internet…. so I am not going into those details, but I will say one of the dangers of our lifestyle is that technically we hang out together all the time. We don’t need date nights like parents who need to plan something out, and we have the flexibility to just fit it in when we can, translation: if something better comes along we can defer our date. This does not work….. it is vital to go on dates, share something you can communicate about that doesn’t involve to dos or schedules, and everyone needs to feel pursued. Our challenge was something we both did research on, reviewed a few options, and selected together based on concrete reasons why we chose this particular version. We spent a few weeks planning and officially started it yesterday – and guess what? We already had to get crazy purposeful due to work, family, and volunteer commitments that are asking for our time. It was a big eye opener on how much we need to carve out time together and it is only day 2!
Alright – if you are hanging with me still – thank you! This has turned into a long one…. which really just goes to the whole summary of the Health, Wealth and Happiness effort – it takes a lot of time, commitment and is a whole life change. Yes, we are participating in some concrete efforts that have goals and timelines, and of course the season of life we are in right now really allows for total immersion – but the truth is we have gotten a taste of a life we really like and now have a lot of motivation to keep it going. We know this isn’t going to be an overnight solution or suddenly life is going to be perfect, however we have found enough joy and peace from just the learning process as a team – we are committed to bringing every new experience, goal, and season of life back to this process. Plus we learned their are aspects of the life we have known that just can’t be part of the future, if we want to experience growth: we have to have a schedule, we have to turn off the TV, we have to be morning people, we have to constantly communicate, we have to get sleep, we have to be able to have the hard conversations (you need to get more sleep, you need to eat better, I want to spend more time together) – without getting defensive…. and that only comes from a foundation built on teamwork and communication. It has been so much more than either of expected and so far all we have done is a bunch of trial and error! So stay tuned and we will be happy to share what we learn in the coming months!
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!