How to Avoid the Chaos of 'Winging It' by Leading with Intention
Over the years, I've had a mind-set shift about what it means to lead our family forward — with intentionality.
I'll admit that my natural tendency is to 'wing-it', doing whatever seems best in the moment. I tend to deal with stuff as it comes up. I'm not much of a planner.
Mike is the opposite.
He's a skilled planner and he likes to be one step ahead — especially when it comes to the challenges of parenting. Even though I'm the opposite, I've learned a lot from Mike around the benefits of intentionality, leading our family forward and keeping the end in mind.
Start with the End
Starting with the end in mind helps us to visualize where we want our family to end up down the road. It helps us remember who we'll eventually become and how our kids will respond to life when they're grown.
We want family connections to be strong and supportive. We want to raise our kids to be caring, responsible and capable adults.
Visualizing what you want the future to look like will help guide the parenting decisions you make now — decisions that will teach, inspire and lead your family forward, toward your mutual goals.
But visualizing it doesn't actually make it a reality.
Intentionality is the key to reaching your family's goals. We like to call those goals your "Desired Destinations".
Weigh the Cost of 'Winging It'
I've got something else to admit…I can easily become comfortable with complacency.
Even when I see the value of our intentional plans and I understand how important consistency is with kids, I can still get complacent. I slide back into my old habits of 'winging it' and I end up making parenting decisions that I later regret.
But with Mike's help, I've made some imperfect progress here. I've also been motivated and inspired by what author, speaker and leadership coach Patrick Lencioni has to say about planning out the long term success of our family. Listen to this quote:
"What is the most important organization in our lives?" Is it the companies we work for…or the schools our children learn from? As important as many of our organizations are, none compare to our families. Your family is the single most relevant, impactful and precious institution in society, and yet, as an 'organization' it is largely ignored."
Patrick isn't saying we don't care about our families or that we literally ignore the health of our family — but compared to the energy, focus and time we put into planning out the long term success for our workplaces, our schools, our governments and non-profits — many of us rarely consider our family from an "organizational" perspective…one that requires thoughtful planning in order to be successful.
More often we tend to drift forward…just winging it as challenges (both big and small) come our way.
As a result, Patrick suggests that, "The cost of winging it is huge. Chaos, stress, regret, missed opportunities, frayed relationships. All of these are byproducts of lives lived without context and clarity."
So if Patrick is right (and I believe he is), how do we live our lives with context and clarity? You may not think of your family as an organization, but how can you plan for the long term success of your family and avoid the 'wing it' approach?
Create Context for your Home
Listen to this definition of the word Context: The circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place.
It's common for the adults in a blended family to experience a lot of pressure. It's up to us to make the family work, right? It's our daily decisions that create the context (circumstances or events) that will form the environment in our home.
And the environment is where it all happens…or doesn't happen.
How do tasks and responsibilities get completed?
Is there mutual support and respect for everyone?
Are the expectations fairly balanced and clear?
What are the values that your family reflects?
Are healthy character traits and life skills developing?
I could go on and on with questions that define the context of a home. But if you're just 'winging it', the context is probably inconsistent and maybe even wishy-washy.
When you're intentional about the environment you're creating and where you're headed as a family you'll start to experience continuity and teamwork — as a couple and a family. Plus, you'll see those future goals come into view!
PRO TIP: I used to get really stuck here because I couldn't think of creative ways to impact our family and teach the character traits we wanted to develop.
One of our goals is to shape an 'attitude of gratitude' in our family — we don't want to raise entitled kids. But demanding the kids to say "thank you" all the time wasn't really what we were after.
Rather than getting stuck, we searched for some fresh ideas. Parenting resources (magazines, books, websites) are a great place look.
That's where we found our 'Thankful Shapes' tradition that we enjoy every Thanksgiving and we've been using it for years. Our kids get really excited about writing what their thankful for on fun, colorful cutouts. Then we display all the thankful shapes on a window in our dining area for everyone to see!
This yearly tradition has helped our kids (and us) to focus on how blessed we are and to express appreciation for each other. It's really fun to revisit our thankful shapes from previous years and read through them too.
Clearly, we're reaching our goal, but only because we didn't stay stuck…we got intentional about finding something that would work for us and then we put it into action!
Clarify and Communicate with your Family
This is a two-part step and blended families need to be mindful in their approach.
First, as a couple it's critical to identify what you each want for your family and then decide to focus on what's most important in this season. Step-couples who fail to clarify goals with each other, will naturally move toward their own separate objectives and could sabotage their own parenting teamwork — leading to disconnection for the whole family.
Clearly defined priorities and goals as a couple will get you on the same page and set you up for the next step, which is also critical…
Step two is about setting the expectations with all the kids and communicating your goals by having family meetings. This step will help to get everyone united and it'll safeguard your home from double-standards.
Think of these two steps as an investment into your family's future. There needs to be ongoing, continual communication around how everyone is progressing and where you're at with each of your family's goals.
So many step-couples tend to skip these conversations (with each other and with the kids) because they want to avoid conflict and push-back. The truth is that intentionally leading your family takes courage and perseverance. Avoidance will have you backsliding into 'wing it' mode and prevent your family from moving toward your goals.
Move Forward with Intention
Often, the busy-ness of blended family life keeps us stuck down in the weeds of daily responsibilities and chaos. It's easy to drift into complacency with snap decisions and inconsistent parenting.
But, this leads to disconnection in our partnership and mixed messages for the kids. And eventually our families miss out on achieving the goals we really want for them.
Getting your mindset up and out of the weeds and instead focusing on the bigger picture is something you can do today.
You can look ahead to your 'Desired Destinations' and clarify what you really want your family to experience. You can take steps today to get there…and you've got to get intentional if you want to avoid the chaos, stress, regret, missed opportunities and frayed relationships that comes from 'winging it'.
It might seem overwhelming. Maybe you're thinking, "…sure it's a great concept, but how do we actually pull it off? Where do we find the time, energy and patience to make this investment into our family and how will it all come together?"
If that's you, don't worry. We've got you covered…
We're here to help you experience BIG WINS in your family just like we have. We discovered how to use an intentional process to move our family forward…and it's really simple.
We've got the step-by-step process available for you and it's easier than you think. You can get on the same page — united in your goals and intentionally leading your family forward. Just click here to learn how you can get intentional TODAY!
QUESTION: How will you be more intentional this week? Leave a comment below…