Want to do something truly memorable and life-changing this Valentine’s Day?
I mean, whatever you usually exchange with your spouse on Valentine’s Day, cards, flowers, chocolates, sports event tickets, a special candlelight dinner, are great! But let’s face it; they don’t last long. I bet you couldn’t even tell me what you exchanged most years.
What if you exchanged your dreams and goals for your future as a couple instead, for the long term? Plus this won’t cost a thing, only your time and your reflection.
Research on successful marriages conducted by John Gottman, PhD, for more than thirty years, indicates that working toward mutual goals and dreams is key to a good relationship.
Sure you’ve talked about what kind of car you want to get next, or where your next family vacation might be, or even what assignment you want to list on those military dream sheets. But have you talked about life goals? In all areas of your life?
Here’s the deal. If you don’t have a plan, you are part of someone else’s plan. If you don’t know where you want to go on this journey, it is pretty darn likely you’ll never get there. You’ll find yourself thinking, “How did I end up here?!”
When we present this idea to military spouses in our workshops, we often hear the same things.
“How can we plan anything when so much is out of our control in this military life? Why bother?”
Granted, there is a lot that is out of your control moving with the military, but there is a lot that is in your control. Figuring out exactly what it is you want for example. Once you have that description, there will be ways you can move forward. Yes, even in military life.
It’s easy as military spouses to get into sort of a “holding pattern” mode or a “pause” mode, waiting for something else to happen before we can move towards what we really want in life. Waiting for a specific assignment, waiting for a deployment to be over, waiting for retirement. Basically waiting for someone else to do something before we move forward. NOT a good idea.
If you aren’t careful you can end up waiting twenty years or more, not doing the things you really want to do. And we can tell you from talking with spouses who have done exactly that, it’s a recipe for resentment and bitterness. Plus you deprive the world of your unique specific gifts.
You want to live YOUR life NOW, not when.
Here’s one way to get started to figure out what you want, what your passions are, where your purpose lies, how you want your life as a whole to look. It’s called the Ideal Life exercise. We spend a chapter of our book on this concept, giving examples of what has happened, often what seemed like magic that happened, because a military spouse started with this exercise.
The exercise is free so download the Ideal Life exercise today; make sure to download one for you and one for your spouse. Do them separately before you share and discuss them together.
The key to doing the exercise is to unplug; take reflection time, time off by yourself with no distractions. Send everyone off to the movies, or get a sitter, or trade childcare with a neighbor. Go off to a cafe or the library (someplace where your laundry piles won’t scream at you). Turn off your cell phone. Open yourself to possibilities. Don’t limit yourself in any way. The Ideal Life exercise is an exercise in dreaming, so DREAM BIG!
No two people’s ideal life descriptions are the same. My description runs four typed pages and changes as I discover new things and change my mind (you’re allowed to change your mind). My husband’s is two-thirds of a page. My coauthor Holly’s is ten handwritten pages. Holly’s Army engineer husband has his on index cards in bullet format! The format doesn’t matter. Just get it in writing.
Holly and I have spent years researching what makes people happy in life, and one key factor is identifying what you want and working towards it in some manner. Here’s the most important fact from the research. It’s not achieving your big dream that brings the joy. It’s the fact that you’ve identified what you want and are taking steps, taking action, to move towards it. That’s what brings the joy. Engaging in life.
For now, don’t worry if your dreams seem impossible due to some aspect of military life. Just get the dreams down on paper. I’ll be sharing ideas of how to work around any obstacles you see in future blogs. I’ll share tools and resources to turn your dreams into action steps. We’ll be brainstorming some of your dreams through the blog and by Skype. For now, just do the exercise. Give it to your spouse to complete too.
I bet if you do that this year, this years’ Valentine’s Day gift exchange will be the one you always remember.