Are All Your Little Stepfamily WINS Passing You By?
Sunday, November 5th, 1989 the Minnesota Vikings clawed their way to victory over the LA Rams — without a single touchdown. They tied it up in the 4th quarter with their 7th field goal of the game and then won in overtime with a safety.
Even if you're not a sports fan, you can imagine what those three hours must have been like for the Vikings. Play after play they just kept inching their way forward. They earned points 3 at a time as they kept kicking field goals - never able to pull off a touchdown.
I'm sure they were exhausted by the time the game was over, but their hard work paid off! Their grit and perseverance of holding onto those little wins throughout the game ended with great results.
So What! :-)
So, you might be wondering, "What does this have to do with stepfamilies?"
Well…let me ask you - when was the last time you celebrated a "little win"?
Did you take note the last time your step-child said "thanks" when you did something nice for them?
Were you able to enjoy it when you and your partner got on the same page around a parenting or discipline issue?
How did you celebrate the last time your kids transitioned to your Ex's home without conflict and stress?
These are "little wins" that often go unnoticed. But the truth is these little wins are how we "win" in stepfamily life. Sure, we all want the metaphorical touchdowns every day - or at least every other week, but that's just an unrealistic expectation.
And the real problem here is that when you're so focused on those "touchdowns" you want to make, you're totally robbed of enjoying the progress you're actually making. "Field goals" are progress and their inching you to victory every single day.
DO sweat the small stuff…
If you want to enjoy your family more, it might be as simple as refocusing on those little wins. Here's 5 simple steps to get you there:
1. Notice When Things Are Good
Sometimes we are so focused on our stress and frustration, we just miss the good stuff. The first step to really being able to celebrate the little wins is to take note when there's a reprieve.
When that moment comes and you can take a breather — stress is down and all seems right with the world. Don't let that moment slip by without focusing on the next 4 steps.
2. Figure out why…
When you hit that moment - think about why things are so good. Is it because you were able to make a connection with your step-child today? Or maybe because your Ex wasn't so combative last weekend. It could be that you realized you and your partner haven't had an argument in at least 2 days.
It seems simple, but these peaceful little moments often slip by getting swallowed up by the next frustration. Then we've lost the positive impact of that little win. It's like we kicked a good field goal, but the guy running the scoreboard forgot to give us the points. That's why the next step is SO important.
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3. Keep Score!
I know, I know…any good counselor or therapist is going to tell you to stop keeping score in your relationships. I actually agree with them, but that's not quite what I'm talking about.
When you notice things are good and then figure out why — it's time to "record the points"! There's lots of ways to do this, so figure out what works best for you.
Some people love to journal. I definitely encourage you to write something down that captures what's happening. Just the brain science alone shows the connection between writing and solidifying experiences in our brain. If you want to hold on to good memories, write them down.
Kim's a big scrapbooker - that's one way she helps our whole family "keep score". She loves experiencing life through a camera and we all get to benefit when we see our lives chronicled on the pages of our family scrapbooks.
Or maybe you have a little gift somewhere that came from your child or step-child. It might be a drawing, a sweet note or that flower that you pressed after they gave it to you. Get that out of the drawer you stuffed it in and put it where you see it regularly. Those are great reminders about the little wins that have already happened for your stepfamily. (I carried a small rock in my pocket for several years that my step-daughter gave me as a gift — just as a happy reminder when things weren't going so well.)
You might "keep score" by posting those good moments on Facebook or Instagram — or maybe you have a trusted friend that you can meet for coffee every week who will challenge you to share with them all the positives from the past week.
The point is, DO SOMETHING to "keep score" that reinforces the little wins.
4. Do something to celebrate the little wins
Now it's time to party! :-)
Okay…Okay…maybe that's too dramatic. But it is time to find a way to celebrate. Most likely little wins call for little celebrations. Clearly you can't throw a party every time the smallest positive thing happens, but you can do something to celebrate that win just to help reinforce it in your mind and tie it to another experience.
Pick up a special dessert for after dinner, watch your favorite movie on Netflix, take a bubble bath and soak in a little silence, or order that book that's been on your Amazon list for the past six months. I don't know what works for you — but you do!
Finding small ways to celebrate little wins will help you stay focused on the positive and help you hold onto the happy emotions you're feeling about it. And the longer you can keep those feelings going, the more you'll discover the enjoyment that's already available to you in your crazy, chaotic…wonderful stepfamily.
5. Be a broken record
The last step is simple: Refer back often.
Just like a broken record, keep going back over your little wins. Read your journal, look at your scrapbooks, scroll back through Instagram — however you kept score, just go back to it and remind yourself that it's not all bad.
In fact, the best time to do that is when stress and frustration are high. Being a broken record for the little wins along the way can help you handle that stress with patience, confidence and calm.
Do Something TODAY
Now it's time to take action. If you've made it all the way through this post and you're reading this, then I'm betting you have another 5 minutes to do something about it.
Grab a piece of paper or open a new note in Evernote and write down the last little win you remember. It may have been this morning or maybe it was last week — whatever it was, write it down and decide right now how you'll celebrate that win.
Don't keep letting your little wins pass you by. The truth is that in stepfamily life — "touchdowns" can be rare. So, let's stay focused on noticing and celebrating our "field goals" instead!
QUESTION: What's the most recent little win you've had in your stepfamily? Leave a comment below…