I want to share a little story.
I hope by giving you an idea of where we’ve been in our marriage, you’ll see why I’m so passionate about the opportunity I wrote about in our last post.
More than that, I hope you’ll see what’s possible in your own life as we head toward the New Year.
A few years back, I was living the typical modern American lifestyle in all the worst ways.
I was 35 pounds overweight and walking around feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I wasn’t sleeping well and my unwelcome companion was a constant state of stress.
I was working long hours at a job that didn’t appreciate my talents and spending more than we brought in in two professional careers. I’ll never forget the day we decided to add it all up to realize that we were $54,500 in debt, not including our mortgage.
It was scary to think that we’d amassed that much of a financial burden, mostly before our first son had came along.
I’m sad to say that I was a little fearful of what we would do when our next child came along. The sad truth is that I spent more time worrying about “what-ifs” than I did appreciating our new baby and all the wonderful blessings in our life.
Bethany and I had always had a great relationship going all the way back to our high school days. Yet, even that was starting to suffer under the weight of the stress we were feeling.
We were not communicating well, and it was not unusual for our conversations to end in tears. We rarely spent any quality time together as a couple and our intimacy suffered. This was not the marriage we wanted.
In short, I was feeling overwhelmed and out of control of my schedule. I felt like I never had time to make any meaningful progress in any area of my life – we were just too busy.
The idea of “self improvement” seemed a little silly, like a luxury to be enjoyed by those with plenty of time and money.
Fast forward a few years to now – I’m writing on a popular marriage blog to teach others how to get more from life and I’m a huge proponent of self-improvement for busy couples – how’s that for crazy?!?
I shared a list of accomplishments in the last post, but simply listing “goals achieved” like writing books, paying off debt and teaching at a university fails to capture the real change we experienced in that time.
If you could quantify the emotions in my life and my marriage as a snapshot, the before-and-after would look like night and day.
Stressed, out of control and worried gave way to happy, fulfilled and content. When you consider that this change happened in both Bethany and me, it’s easy to see how it impacts our kids as well.
(By the way, in that time, we went from having one child to three and certainly have more activities on our schedule – so it’s not simply about “doing less” as you might assume).
As you may know, I’m an engineer by training – to the point of getting a Master’s degree and teaching engineering at a university. I like to solve problems.
Well, you can imagine how frustrating it was to feel like I had no control over my life – my time, my money, even my emotions at times. Engineering FAIL.
In the wake of adding up our debt burden, I decided to do something about it. I started off devouring everything I could find on paying off debt and quickly fell in love with the message of Dave Ramsey.
I love his baby steps approach to financial peace, and I realized that what I needed was a baby steps approach to improving my life and my marriage. I needed a real, practical way to get control of my time, get more of what mattered done, and enjoy a high quality of life.
I’ll spare you the details (I don’t need to write a third book here), but after reaching that low point, I spent more than two years researching, reading and investing in coaching and mentorship. I became obsessed with learning and testing methods for time management, productivity boosting and achieving meaningful goals in very limited time.
It was only after I combined all of my new learning with my engineering background that I started to see a process emerge. And it became clear that the same small, simple steps could be applied to pretty much any area of my life with minor tweaks.
I started with my fitness and saw great results and new healthy habits that actually stuck around. I then decided to focus on improving the communication in our marriage, which is outlined in the introduction of my first book 15 Minute Marriage Makeover.
I found that this change was repeatable in my life, and I guided Bethany through the process as well.
She first focused on enjoying more exercise, then more social time with her friends, then a better parenting experience. Her focus changed over time, but the process did not – she simply followed the same five steps and applied them to the area of her life she most wanted to improve at that time.
Eventually, our friends began to notice how much fun we seemed to be having (despite our super busy schedules) and asked what was going on. So, I shared my approach with several of them and answered their questions as they got into it.
And it worked!
From saving more money to getting more engaged in their faith life to starting a side business, our friends were following the system and reaching big goals in as little as a month.
Once they had been through the process once with my help, they were able to repeat the five steps and improve another area of their lives. A few people told me I should be a “life coach” and help busy people achieve big goals.
However, I wasn’t interested in a career change. I love my job as an engineering manager, and I already have an outlet for helping busy couples through both Engaged Marriage and Fit Marriage. The idea of full-time life coaching just didn’t appeal much to me.
You’ll see that I don’t publicly offer coaching anywhere on this site, actually. But I’ve had several private clients who have reached out to me that I’ve helped on a one-on-one basis.
Honestly, I have led them through the same process to achieve whatever outcome they desired. They paid a lot of money, and it required a lot of my time to lead them individually through the system, but it worked really well.
After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to share this process with you by leading a group from our community through the system to kick off the New Year. The program will be called Go Improve Yourself and I’ll have more details to share very soon.
In closing, I want to be sure that I’m totally transparent here.
The truth is that I still struggle from time-to-time with losing focus on my priorities, which leads right away to stress and a lower quality of life. When you’re busy, it can be a bit of a slippery slope.
Fortunately, I now know the cure, and I can quickly get back on track by following the 5 Simple Steps I laid out in my previous post.
Here’s the real beauty that I found through working with my friends and private clients – which area of your life you choose to focus on improving at any given time isn’t nearly as important as the process that follows!
So, as part of Step 1 (Assess & Choose), you might decide to focus on increasing exercise or adding more romance to your relationship, and your path forward would certainly be different based on that choice.
Your specific outcome would be different, too, since you’ll accomplish the goals you lay out in Step 3. But the fact is that following the Five Steps focused on any one area will actually improve every part of your life, especially your marriage.
And it’s totally repeatable.
Once you’re satisfied that you’ve met your exercise goals and made them a healthy habit in your life, you can choose to focus on romance for the next month. These actions build on each other, and the system is designed to ensure they don’t take too much time.
Anyway, the best way to learn the system and ensure that it works for you is to be lead, step-by-step through it the first time. I’ve seen the dramatic results that follow, and I’ll share some examples in our next post.
In that post, I’ll also share more details about the group I’ll be leading through Time to Thrive to kick off the new year. And be sure to stay tuned because I’ll also tell you how you can get in.
I am excited to let you know that our new course “Time to Thrive” is now available for you! You can click here to go check out all the details for yourself and get signed up to learn how you can enjoy an extra hour of quality time each day.
Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.