Do you remember those first, heart-pounding moments of playing hide and seek?
100, 99, 98, . . .
As your friend began the countdown, you raced for the best hiding place you could find.
Sometimes, just the blink of an eye would pass before you’d hear, “3, 2, 1. Ready or not, here I come!”
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You knew your goose was probably cooked at this point.
There was always someone, though, who was the last to be found.
You know why? Because they were ready before the countdown began.
Life is a lot like that.
We don’t hear anyone counting down our moments, but it is happening nonetheless.
Sometimes, it is for the wonderfully exciting: finally meeting the one, or welcoming our bambinos into the world.
Other times, however, it’s those seconds that feel like hours as we wait for a proverbial shoe to drop, that long In-Between.
And every once in a great while, we round a corner, and WHAM!
We run smack dab into an unexpected life event, those experiences that carry the potential to dramatically and negatively change our circumstances.
Money Magazine reported that 78% of Americans will have a major negative financial event in any given 10-year period.
Being the optimistists—or ostriches—that we are, however, we often carry happily on, sure that everything is and will be just fine.
Who wants to think about dark times ahead while the sun shines so brightly?
Well, Noah did, as he built his ark. Joseph, too, took action. Over the course of seven bountiful growing seasons, he gathered so much grain it was beyond measure.
They were ready when the difficult times began and thus softened the blow considerably for their families.
Granted, these are extreme examples, but you, too, can take small and regular preventative steps to help sustain your marriage, family, and four walls during stormy weather.
Where to look to solidify your defenses
Consider the main areas that make up your life: Financial, Family, Career, Personal Growth, Physical, Spiritual, and Social.
The quality of your life, and the resulting ability to hold things together when faced with adversity, comes from careful tending to each area.
When an area is full, Murphy is less likely to come knocking at your door.
It also means you can draw upon other areas when he does.
For example, if you are hit with a medical emergency, you can rest in the knowledge your finances are in great shape, including your emergency fund.
If you lose your job, you can gather comfort and support from a solid and healthy relationship.
You want to be free to focus the full measure of your attention solely on the main area of need.
We are going to talk about each section, particularly in relationship to the whole, as a pie.
The question is this: How much of each slice do you regularly keep on hand?
How to measure where you are
If you look at the diagram, you will see full and equal slices in each area.
That does not represent real life, by the way.
The more attention you give to an area, the fuller that slice of life is.
For instance, let’s say you are spending sixty hours a week at your job. Your Career slice would definitely be full-size. If you are the reigning Olympic Couch Potato Gold Medalist, your Physical slice of pie will be just a few crumbs in the pan.
That’s pretty fitting when you think about it.
Sketch out a quick seven-section pie-chart on a piece of paper, using the areas I’ve noted. You can add others, or rename any, too. Do what works for you. And remember this does not have to be perfect.
For each slice, color from the center out. The more area that is colored represents the greater amount of attention being paid to this area. Make a judgement about the percentage of attention given. Use a scale of one to ten, one being almost no attention, and 10 being a lot. Color that amount in on the slice.
Spouses, you can do this exercise together or separately: it’s up to you.
How to decide what needs adjusting
Once you are through assigning a value to each slice, take a look at the entire pie.
Do any slices jump out at you as dramatically fuller or emptier than others?
Do you or did you have a sense that certain areas were out of balance, and this diagram confirms it?
Remember that what is required of you and your spouse ebbs and flows depending on your season of life. When your children are infants, your family may require a great deal more attention. If you are building a business, your career may demand many more of your hours.
You have to regularly assess and reprioritize all areas.
There is no single, right formula, and no perfect, one-size-feeds-all pie.
It’s about what keeps your family happily and steadily fulfilled, prepared, and moving forward.
How to strengthen areas
1. Financial. Get your finances in order: Do a budget, create an emergency fund, get out of debt. Dustin has lots of great resources here. Did you know that having better control of your finances gives you a greater sense of hope and improves your marriage?
2. Family. First and foremost, keep your marriage strong. Find simple, frugal, and enjoyable ways to fill your family’s love buckets. Remember that small things can bring big satisfaction. A close family and strong relationships provide great shelter in a storm.
3. Career. Choose to be happy where you are, or find somewhere you can be happy, because a happy mom and dad are a precious gift. Do the positives of the job outweigh the negatives? Is it a means to an end? Do you want to move into something else? Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, maintains a supportive and uplifting community of over 12,000 entrepreneur-minded individuals. Check them out. Loving what you do pays priceless dividends to you and your family. I speak from experience: I went from Scaredy Cat to Too Darn Happy.
4. Personal Growth. Growing in your skills and knowledge can help with a new career, advancing in your current one, and your general overall satisfaction. Plus, being a lifelong learner is a great role-model for your children. Sign up for a class, attend conferences, learn how to do something new. Remember the kids will be leaving home one day, and then it will be just the two of you again. It’s great to continue to grow so you are both still interesting. 🙂
5. Physical. Just get up and move. Take walks. Play tag with your kids. Eat wisely. Sleep well. Meditate. When you don’t take of yourself, you won’t have the strength or immunity you need to handle a crisis. Plus, if you don’t take time to be well, you will take time to be sick. Check out Dustin’s helpful links here.
6. Spiritual. Grow your relationship with God. Pray, especially before you are knocked down to your knees. Refresh your spirit by going to church, joining a small group study, reading your Bible, devotionals, or websites that enrich and challenge you. There are a multitude of resources available-check with a friend or on the web. Your faith will sustain you through life’s most difficult times in a way that nothing else can.
7. Social. Make friends, join a club, attend concerts in the park, have other parents over for potluck game nights. You do not need to become a hermit just because you are married and possibly have little ones. Neglecting this area is easy to do, especially as a parent, but be intentional about creating and maintaining these relationships, both as a couple and singly. They will fill an important space in your life, as well as that slice of the pie.
There you have it: A plan to identify and fortify the main areas of your life so you will be as ready as possible when life pounds at your door.
I encourage you to spend time and attention to creating the right mix for your family.
Then, when those hard knocks come, you will be able to stand strong and leave the hiding strictly for fun.
Now it’s time to go play: 100, 99, 98, . . .
Question: What slice of your pie is most in need of filling?
Image credit: Eran Sandler
This is great advice. I definitely need to work on the financial and spiritual slices. Career is kind of N/A at this point, and I’m pretty good in the other areas. At least for now! (Here’s to hoping that doesn’t change any time soon!)
Glad you found this useful, Alexa. I think each of these areas are constantly evolving. Some will start to empty, you’ll get those back on track, then focus on something else, etc. You sound like you are working with a solid base to start. That’s great!
I love this so much – because I know how true it is! We can’t let our pies get too out of balance. When I am feeling down, it’s usually because there is an area I have been neglecting. I have often used a similar pie when thinking about my kids: how are they doing emotionally, intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially? What can I be doing to help them in these areas. But I can’t help them if I don’t take care of balancing myself.
You’ve really hit an important point, Leah. We can’t do our best for our kids when our own lives are out of whack. When we are filled up and refreshed, not only can we pour into our children, but also we are showing them what’s important by doing it.
Thanks so much for sharing!
Thanks, Kim…I think we need to work on more regular dates as a couple…I just heard a radio talk on the topic this morning…The photo of your granddaughter is too adorable 🙂 Are you all done with your move?
Ooh, you’ve hit the same slice I need to fill. We just don’t make or take the time. I suppose a 17 hour drive to TN doesn’t count, especially since we’ll be in separate cars this time. 😉
Thanks-we are loving this new grandparent thing! We are still packing, and hope to leave New England the week of August 26th. Yippee!
I had written something somewhat like this awhile ago, but it wasn’t as informative or helpful. It was just about how there are all of these life hats I wear, and sometimes it’s hard to keep everything in balance. I need to fill my physical and career slices a little more.
Tamara, you are so sweet! I’m glad you found this really helpful. Having little ones and your own photography business—which is AMAZING, btw—makes your life more complex, and definitely in more need of setting priorities and boundaries. I’m with you on the physical. I spend way too much time in front of this computer. Thanks for taking the time to share.
This is wonderful advice. I think I probably need to sit down and really think about it all…I am sure I could improve everywhere!
Your comment made me laugh, Michelle, because those were my initial thoughts as I was putting together the pie. “Oh, right, add this note…and this…and this to my to do/want to do list.” Let’s agree to be more intentional about just one bite, how about that? Thanks for coming on over!
Kim — the important reminders, and then the TANGIBLE action plan — awesome stuff!
Succinct and well said, Meredith! Take these steps and fill that pie!
Kim, thank you for providing such am applicable set of steps for us to think thrugh and implement. Nothing makes this little married heart happier than a plan! We have definitely found that staying engaged spiritually, and having financial options due to some advanced planning are two that keep our marriage healthy. Today’s culture if buy and do aren’t always conducive to those sorts of steps. I’m thrilled to see them being advocated here!
I am definitely on the same page as you regarding plans, Missy! Don’t just tell me about awesome, show me how to get there! I adore what you wrote: “Nothing makes this little married heart happier than a plan!”
Be sure you subscribe to Dustin. We are all on similar ground financially and spiritually!
Hope your new church and study are going well. Looking forward to seeing you at Allume in the fall.
We are still in summer mode, which means a lot of time spent with kids and not much alone time. As such, my spiritual life suffers a bit because I don’t have as much time to spend with God. I try to get up early and sometimes even that is interrupted. While I am grateful for time with the kids, I also really like being alone in my house! 🙂
I can only imagine how difficult it must be to fit in that quiet time with little ones!
I love having the house to myself in the mornings. My prayers are that slices of time will be freed up for you. Thanks for sharing, Jen! Hope you are well rested from vacation!
I love how you break this down into manageable pieces and how you advocate that we be proactive so to be prepared for the times that we need to reach into those buckets. Great message as usual!
It’s so nice to see you here, Ilene! Yup, small bites, small steps, small fistfuls of the right choices from our buckets full of life. Thanks for coming on over and taking the time to share.