Hopefully many of you have taken the time to do the Ideal Life exercise described in last month’s column… if not, please read up now so you can participate with the following exercise.
Now that you have your ideal life description, what do you do with it? In future months, I’ll share ways to put your goals and dreams into action.
This month, let’s start with taking action to keep important things you already have in place: items in your ideal life description that exist in your current life.
Count Your Blessings
Step One. Get a highlighter. Highlight everything in your description that is already in your life. First, be grateful that those things are in your life. As my co-author Holly says, “How can we expect more blessings in life, if we aren’t first grateful for the ones we have.”
Research shows that gratitude is important to your overall well being. A study by the University of California–Davis found that people who reflected on things they were grateful for, either through journaling or by making lists, “were healthier, less stressed, more optimistic, and more likely to help others.”
In Robert A. Emmons’ book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, the author bridges scientific research with the works of philosophers and theologians to confirm that being grateful leads to a happier, more satisfying life.
There’s another reason to give gratitude for what you have. Gratitude is the opposite of “taking things for granted.” Sometimes when we take wonderful things for granted, they go away. Whether it’s our health or our good relationships, if we do nothing to sustain these, they can disappear.
Create a Plan
So…Step Two. Make a plan of action for each of those items you highlighted; identify steps you can take to keep those good things in your life. For today, write down two of the things you are grateful for and create an action plan of what you will do to keep these fresh and vital.
For example, let’s say you are grateful for a good relationship with your spouse. What will you do to make sure the relationship stays strong, especially when you throw in all the challenges of military life, like frequent, lengthy deployments and the potential for “cardboard box poisoning” moves?
Don’t panic — here’s some easy ideas with clear, actionable steps you can utilize to strengthen your relationship.
I’d suggest starting by reading a recent article published in the Spouse Calls column. In it Terri Barnes shares a letter from an Airman in honor of his 20th wedding anniversary, which he spent separated from his spouse due to deployment. It’s like a “military-relationship-book-in-a-column.” Great tips for all of us. Ask your spouse to read it too. Hey, it’s short!
There’s a number of great relationship books out there:
- The 5 Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary D. Chapman and Jocelyn Green
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert, by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver.
You can also sign up for relationship workshops (some based on the books above) offered free through the military or CREDO in the Marine Corps.
I know I came away from one workshop based on Gottman’s work thinking, “This should be mandatory training for all military marriages!” We can all learn things that will strengthen our relationships…you don’t have to figure it out on your own and especially don’t have to learn things the hard way.
Looking for that one thing that can buffer that “cardboard box poisoning” or extreme tension due to moves? Read Sandee Payne’s book That Military House: Move it, Organize it & Decorate it. I read her book right before our 20th move and learned new things to streamline our next relocation. I also realized several tips that would have saved our family from the extreme stress and arguments of earlier moves.
For your own journey, highlight the items from your own Ideal Life that already exist and come up with your plan of action to make sure they stay in your life. Stay tuned for next month’s column!