When you walk into your home at the end of the day, how does it feel? Are you happy to be there? When you’re at work, do you feel excited to return home to your family, or do you wish you could stretch your day a little longer?
Not so long ago, I lived in some pretty crappy conditions. The house I lived in was quite nice; it had a yard for the kids to play in, there was comfy furniture in the living area and the kitchen was well lit. I’m a neatfreak, so the house was always clean, and there were plenty of shelves and closets to tuck away our belongings. All in all, the physical state of our home was great.
Still, it was crappy.
Although the house itself and our living space was comfortable, my home was not. There were some people living in my space that changed the culture of our home, and the culture was almost total crap.
I hated coming home.
“Home” is not the building you live in, or the space you occupy. “Home” is made up of the people inside, and of the relationships between those people. Collectively, the relationships in your home define your home’s culture. The culture of your home can be good or bad, positive or negative, common or foreign, but it is as unique as the people that create it.
I read somewhere that every culture has an aroma. A scent. Not necessarily a scent in the literal sense, but more of an aural one. Like a perceived, faint glow around someone that’s smiling, or a figurative rain cloud over a person that’s depressed. I LOVE THIS IMAGE, because I know exactly what aroma is associated with so many of the homes I’ve visited and lived in throughout the years.
The home I live in now is whole. I love, love, love my home, even though the living space is small and kind of falling apart in places. The aroma of my home smells like freshly baked bread. And warm stew on a rainy day, and warm, clean blankets. It smells like pillows and freshly washed, warm skin, the smell of my kids behind their ears as they snuggle on my lap after bath time. It smells safe. My home smells like joy. And Christmas morning, and coffee and laughter. It is incredibly easy to be happy in my home.
It wasn’t always that way.
The home I lived in before, the one I first mentioned, had an aura of stale death. And decay, and toxic, pungent, cloying, sticky fumes. The culture of that home was sad and depressive, accusatory and poisonous. I hated going home, because that home was sucking the life out of me. I was not a pleasant person. It was easy to be angry, because it FELT angry all around me. I was depressed, I binged a lot, I slept a lot. I engaged in a lot of unhealthy, destructive behaviors while I was in that destructive environment.
So let me ask you again. When you walk into your home, how does it feel? Are you happy to be there? If you had to define the aroma of your home, how would you describe it?
More importantly, do you want to change it?
I can show you how.
Changing the aroma of your home is what Forging Depth is all about. The aroma of your home is created by the culture, which is established by the relationships, which are formed by the people. AND PEOPLE WE CAN CHANGE. We start with changing the people and the relationships, and the rest follows suit.
[“Change my home? Yeah right. No one in my house will even change the toilet paper when it runs out, changing the aroma of our home is impossible.”]
It’s really not. TRUST ME, I’VE DONE IT. And I can show YOU how to do it, too.
Starting now and through the next few months, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts with practical, actual, action-step applications to help you change your relationships, your home, and your life. It will take some time, but it can be done. IT IS POSSIBLE TO MAKE CHANGE. It is possible to do anything we set our minds to. We are capable, and resourceful, and we have the will to move mountains.
…I honestly think that getting someone else besides me to change the g.d. toilet paper roll is the in-home equivalent to moving mountains, so BRING IT.
To start making any sort of change, we have to set some ground rules. To change the aroma of your home, to change the relationships inside of your home, we have to set some boundaries. Some non-negotiable, best practices for us to follow.
After working with a lot of mothers and families, I’ve come up with this list. It’s not exhaustive, by any means, and I’m sure that different people would have something to add, but I GUARANTEE YOU that if you do these ten things, your home will change. It HAS TO. (I’d even offer a money back guarantee, if I could. I’m that sure of this list.)
Here we go:
1. If you’re the mom and your kid lives in your home, everything is your fault. If you’re the wife, at least half of all the things in your home and in your relationship are your fault.
[“Wow. Straight out of the gate, and you go THERE. Nice. Now I feel like crap. I hate you so hard right now.]
Yeah, I know you do. And that’s okay, but keep going. Please keep reading. We really have to talk about this. If it makes you feel better, I started with the hardest rule to accept. It gets easier from here.
I understand why this is hard to take. BELIEVE ME. I have three kids. Accepting that “everything is my fault,” from the pre-teen sassy backtalk to the kinder screaming tantrum to the toddler poop on the walls, was suuuuper hard to do. Accepting our own faults is difficult as it is, but accepting the faults of others? TOO MUCH.
We have to, though.
In order for us to change our kids, in order for us to change our world, we must first accept responsibility for it. We cannot change what we do not own. We cannot change what we do not hold in our own two hands, and in order to change our family and home we must first be accountable for it.
2. You are not and will never be perfect, so stop trying to be.
More than anything else, to create a long lasting, rock solid, infinitely Deep relationship with another person, you must be authentic. You must be REAL.
REAL PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES. Accept that, and stop trying to be perfect. Stop trying to appear perfect for your kids, stop trying to attain perfect beauty, a perfect body, or perfect behaviors for your spouse.
Real people fart. And burp. Real people have accidents in their pants. They say things when they’re angry they probably shouldn’t say, they throw tantrums, the yell and scream and pout, they cry and hurt and grieve. Real people of all ages make decisions that later they look back on and think “huh, maybe that wasn’t such a great choice.”
Real people, children and adults alike, are full of trial and error, mistakes and learning, accidents and irony. We are crooked, cracked, patched-together creatures with bodies that function in ways we barely understand, and even then sometimes our bodies freak out and do things that make zero sense. To expect that or behave as though you will never make a mistake is unrealistic, and detrimental to forward progress.
From this moment on, you are no longer allowed to expect perfection from yourself or others. From this moment on, you have permission to make as many mistakes as you can possibly make in a lifetime. Isn’t that a relief?
In this process of Forging Depth, we are going to try some things that don’t work. When that happens, we stop, take stock, evaluate our system, identify ways we can change our method for the better, adjust our process, and move on. Easy peasy. When we approach change with the understanding that we will not get it right the first time, and maybe not even the second or fourth or eighth time, we leave ourselves room to breathe. We expect to make mistakes so that we can be prepared to pick ourselves up when we do.
3. To change your relationship, you will first have to change yourself.
THIS WILL BE HARD. This will make you want to quit. You will hate things about yourself you didn’t even know were there. You will be angry, you will lash out. You will want to run and hide, you will try to avoid dealing with certain things because you will not want to face them.
FEELING THESE THINGS MEANS IT’S WORKING. Feeling these things means you are changing, that you are growing, and you are getting better.
Making change is hard. Accepting change is hard. It takes time, and it takes practice. If you don’t believe me, move the garbage can in your kitchen (the place it’s sat for the last howevermany years). Take it out of the cabinet, move it six feet to the left or right, then count how many times you throw garbage on the floor where the can used to be. We are biological machines, programmed by our own hand to behave a certain way, entrenched in habit and protected behind mental filters. To change any “it’s not seriously broken don’t fix it” system, like a relationship with your child or your spouse, it is going to take conscious, deliberate, intentional, consistent work. FOR A WHILE.
This change will not happen overnight. It will not happen in a week. If you apply yourself, you will see significant difference in your life after 21 days of hard effort. In a year, if you have continued to grow and push and try, you will not recognize the relationship you’re in as the one it is right now.
It will be epic, because YOU will be epic.
We change the world by changing relationships by changing ourselves. It starts with us.
4. You don’t know everything.
The first step to true understanding in any relationship is to assume you know nothing.
This was the most important lesson for me to learn, and this lesson changed all of my relationships forever. When this rule really sunk in, I became a better mother, a better lover, a better boss, leader, sister, and friend.
This lesson was also super hard for me to accept. It took time to sink in. It took LOTS of practice and lots of arguments to really fold this mental shift into my every day behavior.
I am proud. I am stubborn. I am also very smart, and I have always felt that my brain is my best feature. To accept that “when it comes to other people I have no idea about most things” was humbling. And infuriating, and kind of embarrassing. It was not second nature to me to ask questions first, especially when I felt that I already knew the answer to everything. I had to learn how.
To Forge Depth, to make change that we want to stick, we will stick equally as hard to the rule “seek first to understand before attempting to be understood.” Ask questions first. Assume you know nothing, first.
Assumptions are obstacles to understanding. Stop making them, especially those that are fueled by emotion and history. Ask questions, then react to what the person actually says to you, not to what you assume to be true, not what they did before, not what you’re afraid they’ve done or what you think they’ll do again.
IT WILL BE HARD, but this mental behavior is vital to changing your relationship. Assumptions derail communication. Communication is pivotal to understanding, understanding is the basis of Depth, and Depth is the key to change. Start all talks, even the heated ones, with the thought “I don’t know everything.”
5. No more guilt. No more shame. No more feeling like you’re a bad mom. No more feeling like you’re a bad wife.
[“Wait. The first thing you said was “it’s all my fault,” then you said “you’re not perfect.” Now you’re telling me to not feel bad. How does THAT work?”]
Yes, I can see how it all seems backwards. It’s not.
Just because you make mistakes does not mean you’re failing, worth less as a person, or bad at what you do. Just because things are your fault does not mean you’re failing, worth less as a person, or bad at what you do.
Accepting your faults and mistakes, taking responsibility, is what makes you great. It is what makes you BETTER.
Feeling responsible is good. It feels weighty, like the pressure you feel in your back and knees when you pick up something heavy. It feels abundant, significant, and challenging. The burden of true responsibility motivates us to action. It pushes us forward, it makes us move. Responsibility makes us better.
Feeling ashamed or guilty is bad. These feels are heavy, like the way your own body would feel if you had to pull yourself out of a waist-deep puddle of slick, black mud. Guilt is cloying and binding. It holds you back. It slows you down. Guilt and shame will derail and impede your progress more than any other negative experience, mistake, choice, action, and emotion put together. There is no place in a progressive life for guilt or shame. We have no time to waste, wallowing in those life-sucking feelings.
To move forward, we must let go. We must accept that what we’ve done before is over, and where we’re at now is all that matters. We’re going to take what we’ve got where we’re at, shoulder the productive weight of responsibility, and MOVE.
6. No more comparing.
No matter how other people parent their children, what so-and-so does with their kid is irrelevant. No matter what your kid does, what that-kid-over-there accomplished does not matter. No matter what marriages look like all around you or how those people run their homes, what you do inside your relationship is YOURS. How other people feel about your life, what other people tell you about what worked for them, and “do you know how much better your life will be if you just ___” are all pointless.
The only two people that matter in the relationship you’re trying to change are YOU, and THE OTHER PERSON. That’s it.
The Depth I’ve found with my daughter is not the same Depth I have with my son, because they are two different kids. What works for me to get results from my youngest does not work for my spouse to get the same results from the same kid, because we are not the same parent. We are different.
All kids are different. All parents are different. All PEOPLE are different, so stop comparing.
Comparison encourages guilt, shame, and pride, three emotions and mental states that inhibit progressive growth. Avoid looking outside the relationship you’re trying to fix. Turn your eyes to the face of the one you love, and keep them there. In this relationship, they are all that matters.
7. Support is vital.
Find some. Church, school, online. Special friends, Facebook groups, local clubs. Find people that believe in the change you want to make, then talk to them about it. Find your own cheer squad. Find some “yes men.” Surround yourself with people that see your Greatness, even before you see it yourself.
Seeking support is super hard for a proud, stubborn, introverted person like myself, but the support I found has been fundamental to the changes I’ve made. I could not have done what I’ve done alone. I would not be the person I am today if I had stayed alone. “I can do it myself” was quite literally the first full sentence I ever spoke, but if I had maintained that philosophy I would currently be someone else entirely. GET HELP.
8. Also, haters are no longer allowed.
Of all the rules I’ve had to apply to my own life, and of all the rules you’ll have to apply from this blog to yours, this will likely be the hardest.
Getting rid of fair-weather friends is pretty easy. Cutting out people that get in your face and yell and scream will be a pleasure.
Removing haters that are carefully disguised as family, long time friends, and loved ones is pure torture, no matter how you cut it.
YOU STILL HAVE TO DO IT.
Your life is yours, and to make serious change in your life and in those relationships you want to fix, you must remove all interference. If you’re a mom trying to connect with your hyperactive kid, a loved one that tells you at every turn “just give him meds” is not helping. If you’re a wife trying to save a broken marriage, trying to forgive lies and cheating, and you have a family member that tells you “he’ll never change, you’re wasting your time,” they are not helping.
We have so little time to live, using even one minute to appease a hater is one minute wasted. Haters have to go.
9. Once you actually decide to instigate serious change, for a while your life is going to suck. Be ready, and bring on the suckage.
In all the right ways, the days after you make a relationship-changing decision or start to enforce a new rule in your home, your life is going to suck. If you’re doing it right, you are going to live, breathe, eat, and sleep around the change you just made. That one change (because we’ll only make one change at a time) will be the only thing you think about, because once you decide to make that change, constant, never ending, OCD focus is how you will make it stick.
Do it right the first time, fold the change into your family’s culture, and you won’t have to make the same change again. You may have to revisit it and maintain it, like a standard oil change for your car, but you will not have to instigate the change from scratch again.
The Depth and focus and priority you give the change you want to make will depend on the importance of the change. Conversely, a change will only be taken by those around you as seriously as you make it. A seriously important change, like “kid will not stop stuffing food up his nose,” a change that must happen to prevent harm to self or others, is going to need your total, full, undivided attention until it stops. A mild change, like “kid will not put dirty clothes in the hamper,” a change that must happen to teach a long-term lesson but is not harmful, will need focus, but not constant attention.
10. HAVE FUN. Choose hope and joy. (That’s an order!)
[“Again with the contradictions. You just said “this is going to suck.””]
Yes, I did. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun while we’re busy making mistakes, and it doesn’t mean we can’t laugh as we push through the suckage.
Chuck Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it.” Truer words were never spoken. Choose joy. Choose to find happiness in your work, for that is our lot in life.
Things are going to be hard. Things are going to be confusing, a little chaotic, and sometimes sucky. The reality of life is that crappy things are handed to us over and over again, and we are always taking them.
How we choose to conduct ourselves as we journey through life is what defines our character, and what people will remember long after we’ve gone.
When your kids reach age 50 they will likely not remember the cleanliness of the bathroom floor, but they will absolutely remember the culture, attitude, and “aroma” of your home. They will look back on their time with you with joy or sadness, depending on how you choose to conduct yourself right now. When your husband is at work, he will look forward to coming home, or he will feel a sense of dread.
The attitude you put forward as you Forge Depth and make change will decide the future memories others have of your home. Choose intentionally, and choose carefully. Choose a positive attitude. Choose light and love, and lighten up. Have fun!
Dig in, read this list, think about how they will change your life. Think about how you’re going to have to change in order to follow them. Comment below with one way you’re going to apply one of these rules TODAY to make your home more comfortable and inviting. (I thought of three ways I could change things myself, just in the time it took me to proof read the blog.)
Thanks as always for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you!
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Live every day like it’s your last one. Turn the relationship you have into the one you want. Forge Depth, and never stop digging!