In a few weeks, Mike and I are going to be filmed for a documentary. Recently, we did a preliminary interview during which I suddenly became aware of a clear parallel between raising a blended family and growing a business. You might not think the two are related, but it became very obvious to me how being on this journey with Mike has impacted the ways I cope with both personal challenges and business challenges.
We all have moments where we’re fired up and inspired. I’m talking the jolt of energy that springs forth from hope, desire, and motivation. With it often comes the rose-colored glasses where everything seems possible. And then, all of the sudden, it’s like the rose-colored glasses get smashed, leaving in its place a dark cloud. Everything seems overwhelming and unattainable and you can’t, for the life of you, seem to figure out how you ever thought you could do it all.
This is a wildly popular feeling amongst entrepreneurs. The feeling of, This is freaking awesome! quickly followed by, Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit!
It’s not so different when it comes to blending a family.
There’s this little thing called the honeymoon phase, and it’s a wonderful period of time when things are new and exciting and you feel ready to tackle any and all challenges that come your way. This time exists when starting anything: a business, a relationship, even a new health plan. Problems arise when the honeymoon phase ends, though, and our vision for how we thought things might be has not yet been actualized. Feeling deflated, discouraged, and otherwise demoralized are all common traits when we realize the honeymoon phase is over and the hard work is really beginning.
But don’t despair. Embarking on something new is challenging, but in such a good and invigorating way. You have your eyes on the prize and you are more than willing to do what it takes to get there. At least that’s what you say, until more ideas come to you, which means more things for you to do, which means a fuller plate and less time to do it all. It can be mind-boggling how quickly it all adds up! With so many things grabbing your attention, it can literally mean juggling a phone, a computer, and—if you’re anything like me—probably a bottle of wine. Before you know it, you’re stifled and stuck.
Sound at all familiar?
When you first decide to blend your family, you know there are going to be challenging moments. It would be foolish to think anything else. You’ve seen it with other families and friends. But, you know your family will be different. Or at least you hope. Perhaps you have those moments where everyone is getting along and everything in the world seems right and you pat yourself on the back for a job well done. But, two days later, step siblings are fighting, bio mom or dad is angry with you, and no matter how well-prepared you are the night before, still you can’t seem to get everyone to school on time. All of the sudden, nothing is going right in the world.
If you own or have owned a business, it’s the exact same. You’re pumped up at the beginning. You’ve taken the plunge and you are all in on this baby. As you learn what it takes to grow a business, you realize how little you know. Suddenly there’s all these lanes you never drove in before. Marketing, cash flow, customer service, process, legal, tech issues . . . your plate becomes so full because you want to be awesome at everything! You get overwhelmed trying to do it all and that beautiful hell yeah! excitement gets deflated. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit!
Unfortunately, I don’t have a magical solution that can make your mind stay in that enthusiastic, nothing-can-get-me-down state, but I can offer some advice of how to return to that state when it does break—because it will.
During the interview Mike and I did, we were asked how we dealt with some of the major challenges that come up with raising kids, step kids, and co-parenting.
Here’s what we know. Consistency and commitment are key. Like in business, it involves looking at the results you want to have and knowing it is behavior that will get you there. What’s the benchmark, what are your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), what are the actions/behaviors that will get you there, and what are the obstacles that can prevent you from getting there?
Have a toolbox of things you do on a regular basis. I’ll give you an example: Mike and I want a meaningful and connected relationship with each of our kids. That’s the benchmark. For us, we know that the attitudes and well being of the children are the Key Performance Indicators and from that, we know the action and behavior that will get us the results we want. There will always be something that stands in the way. It can be hormonal teenagers, mean middle school girls, a disagreement with a co-parent etc. Take the hormonal moody teenager. One day it is all laughs and smiles. The next day, the crush they have doesn’t reciprocate the same feelings and now you’ve got a young adult not wanting anything to do with anyone or anything – not you, not a sibling and definitely not a chore you asked to be done five times over. The attitude is beyond uncomfortable for everyone. So you reach into the toolbox and bring out empathy. You open your ears, but more importantly your heart. You invite the conversation in a gentle way and that behavior leads to a change in their attitude. Now, you are connecting. They are feeling acknowledged and the wall comes down. There’s a feeling of gratitude that comes from this because a lesson has been learned through your communication and a bond, strengthened.
The toolbox will vary based on you and your family’s individual needs and desires. But by creating one where we know what actions generate which results and what tools help us with those obstacles, we know that we can return to that state of enthusiasm and gratitude for our family.
Is what you are doing bringing you the results you want? If not, maybe it’s time to do something different. Be consistent with it and stay committed and you might find that those honeymoon phase-feelings have returned, long after you begun.