3 Reasons You’re Feeling Stuck (Episode 189)
What do you do when you have a dream that is out of reach, or you feel like your life isn’t quite where you want it to be? What do you do when you see all this opportunity out there, but it seems way too insurmountable to tackle because of the life you’re already living in?
How do you handle pursuing your dreams when you have a mountain of responsibility at your door?
How do you move forward? Do you live in the pain, or do you create a plan?
Last week, we talked about how change is inevitable. While some of it is inevitable just as life evolves, some is unexpected, unwanted, or that unrest that has just gotten too much. When we’ve been stuck in a pattern for a while, we may be moving rusty parts that resist change, yet, we can’t expect anything different (or for everyone else to remain still) while we stay stuck in the mud.
The Big Vision
We have big visions and ideas on what we may dream of for ourselves and our families. Last week on the podcast we talked about taking that big vision and breaking it down to create that next single step to move forward. And for every step forward, is a new opportunity to learn, gain insights, and re-assess that big picture vision and ensure it’s still the path we want to go down.
Ultimately, it’s breaking it down to little simple action steps
you can do one at a time to make it happen.
When you’re running a household, it can be hard to figure out when you can work in anything else new, when you’re already running at full steam!
In our own personal story, Nathan and I have experienced working traditional jobs. We’ve experienced being renters, first time homeowners, new parents, shuttling kids to preschools and activities, volunteering in the neighborhood, and so many aspects of a typical family home.
We’ve also experienced dropping everything and switching our whole lifestyle; spending a month in Costa Rica and learning a whole new language, and then changing everything we knew to hit the road in an RV full time and explore the states for over 4 years with our kids.
I've personally gone to public, private, homeschool, and group classes. We have lived variety in so many ways in our lives, and so, when I’m sharing these insights with you, it’s not just ethereal from some book, but real life application from our own personal experience. As we share our story, we invite you to create your own.
The Road Trip That Started It All
Our big adventures really started with some dreams that came up when our oldest were about 2 and 4. Yes, let’s take a minute here and recognize that, pre-children, life looks different. When you first have children, there is quite a learning curve and adjustment period on being a parent. Give yourself some grace. We, like many, had seasons of pure survival mode of just making it through sleepless nights, sicknesses, and just the craziness of infants and toddlers.
So we talked and dreamed about traveling but with our young babies and work demands, we just hadn’t made anything happen beyond the inevitable filler of every vacation for young families, apparently - making every trip to go see family. So our trips were always going to places we knew, seeing people we knew, and not the adventure of experiencing something new.
This trip was a two-week road trip, traveling from Nashville, TN to stop over in Holmes County Ohio to see my aunt and uncle, and then go on our way all the way up to Guelph, Ontario, Canada! We visited with new friends we’d never met in person, and spent two epic weeks learning new things - seeing new places (like Niagara Falls, which was incredible on the Canadian side), meeting new people, and really establishing our nuclear family - not just the extension of being in our families of origin.
Like A Bird
It was a big and daunting task for us to embark on that trip. It was intimidating, a bit stressful to plan for, and we weren’t sure what we were getting into. Yet that road trip was beautiful. It was on that trip we started dreaming about creating a life where we didn’t just read about things with our children; we went and explored them hands-on, together. This is when we first came up with the handle @FieldTripGypsies, that is our travel handle today.
That trip was such a sense of accomplishment for us. We went from “can we do this” to “oh my gosh we’re doing this” to “we did it, and we rocked it!” It was like watching a little bird fly for the first time - it’s not only exhilarating; sometimes it’s a shock to realize what all you really can do once you create a plan and act!
That Canada trip was the first time for us to really stretch our wings as our own nuclear family, not dependent on other family members, but creating something for our family, just for us. No one else was making plans, paying for it, or adding in their input. That was a big clarifying moment, remind us that we were the parents, and we were in charge of directing what our family was going to look like, feel like, and do.
Off To Cancun...
That first road trip really started that idea of dreaming. Yet we came home and quickly fell back into our roles as the “hero children” who were always there to help out everyone in the family. We were stressing about finances, so Nathan got serious about real estate and building up a nest egg.
So fast forward to 2014, when we took our 10-year-anniversary trip. Yes, our first trip without children, ever. That was another complete life-changing moment for us, as we really had the space to talk and dream, and I read the book, The Fire-Starter Sessions, and we started talking about those big vision dreams and goals we had.
We flew to Cancun for some much-needed time away from the responsibilities of parenting, and plenty of opportunity to dream and plan for the story we wanted to create together with our growing family.
We were pretty maxed - we, by many respects, looked to “have it all” - yet the stress of maintaining that lifestyle was a bit much. We can add so much to our plate that we trap ourselves into the lifestyle we feel stuck in. You bring in the stuff to fill the house. You add another child. You get a job that pays well yet takes up all your time. The more we add to our lives, the more complicated it gets to switch anything up.
The busier your life gets, the heavier your feet can feel on the ground.
It can be hard to shift when we feel so stuck in one place. Yet just like it’s quoted in the Bible:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
There are seasons in our lives for everything...including the hustle, the survival mode, and the super busy. So even if we are in the thick of it, recognize there is a season for everything.
Yes, it is important to build up a foundation that can help carry you and sustain you - to build up a nest egg, get out of debt, and be good stewards of your money. And, when you find yourself on that mountaintop where you’ve accomplished something, recognize the value in that to lay the groundwork to get you where you want to be.
What Is Success
But what, really, does success look like for you? Not just the goal of accomplishing x, but what is the feeling behind that goal? Not just what do you want to do, but who do you want to be?
How do you want to feel as a person, one, three, five years from now?
For us, we have found that removing ourselves from the daily routine of life and forcing ourselves to shake things up was really important. We learned to get creative and explore more, and it’s been a great way to reframe and shift our perspectives and the possibilities that can ensue. When we were in Costa Rica, we felt the connection of togetherness and having US become the safe place as we navigated new places where we only knew each other.
As we learned to navigate new things together as a family, we reframed what home really means to us. Home, to me, is not a house. It’s the family in it. It’s the people that are your comfort, your delight, and your foundational support. Honestly it may not all be blood relations. Home, to me, is that safe place of connection to mind/body/soul...and for me, the biggest element of “home” is inside of me that I carry everywhere. And the next biggest...my loved ones I choose to walk through this life with. Nathan, Clara, Ellie and Juliet are home to me, along with our big crazy zoo of animals.
Creating A Family Vision
When we started to see how valuable it was for us to simply prioritize each other in our own little nuclear family, it really started to shift for us. We started to prioritize that time to simply be together with our own circle of influence and encouragement, not dependent on what was going on outside the home we created.
We started, first and foremost, with a family vision. We sat down with our girls and we dreamed together as a family. Even with young children, we included everyone, even down to the 3-year-old. We narrowed ours down to six key words: Explore, respect, listen, connect, learn & love.
The Football Analogy
I’m not a sports person. Yet, when we think teams, this is the first thing that comes to mind. So, in football, the common goal is to win the game, right? The quarterback doesn’t get mad and go pout because he doesn’t get to be the center, and the running back knows the specific play they have to do to be ready to catch the ball. Each person plays a significant role in delivering the ultimate goal, and everyone fighting to be center would not equal a touchdown.
When you create a family vision, you’ve created your game plan. You’ve laid down the strategy and the goal, and then you key in the players, based on what they can bring to the table. When kids feel they are part of a team and we’re counting on them to do their part, it’s amazing how they can rise to the occasion.
So, for us, we created a family vision. We looked at what we wanted success to show up in our life. And we created a plan. That plan included moments of hustle, and moments of regrouping, yet we had a plan with an end date - a time to launch into our next adventure.
We couldn’t just drop everything and go right away. We had to do some hard work. So did our kids. We cleaned out and cleared out our home. Our kids were with babysitters way more than we wanted long-term. We worked our butts off and definitely fell into bed a few nights. But we knew it was just a short season to get to our goal. It’s amazing what all you can accomplish when you know there is an end in sight.
Don’t get stuck in your drudgery -
put a date on when it will end, or you simply perpetuate in your life.
Letting Go To Gain More
What happened, in the process of us moving toward our “next big thing” and looking at all we thought we were adding to our life...we actually were hard at work simplifying it!
When we pulled back and we scaled out three critical components in our lives, the flow came so much faster and we were fueled and ready to move toward our goals. We recognized that, in order for us to pursue those big dreams we wanted to do, we had to work our way backwards and look at what needed to happen right now to take a step in that direction.
3 Reasons Your Stressed:
#1 - Obligation
Oh boy is this a doozy for so many. We definitely wore the cloak of obligation well in our first years. I was so determined to be “Suzy Homemaker” and make all the grandparents happy, make all our gifts and food from scratch, and have that extra time to volunteer at all these great causes along with working and raising kids.
Something as simple as Mother’s Day would turn from me getting a day off to a stress-induced rodeo of visiting two grandmothers, two mothers, making gifts for everyone, eating all the meals, thinking of all the friends who were new moms that needed support...and Mother’s Day moved from a time to celebrate motherhood to me celebrating every other mother by myself!
Guess who made me do that?
If you thought of any other evil person other than me, guess again. Obligation is something we put on ourselves!
Obligation, by definition, is a debt of gratitude or moral commitment. I’ve decided to be debt-free in this. I don’t owe anyone gratitude or to be an upstanding good person. That is not a debt that has been laid on me. I choose to be grateful, and I choose to be committed to what is important to my big vision goals. And, those big vision goals include others, so this isn’t a selfish “my way or the highway” approach. As we work forward as a team, I know that when I treat someone with gratitude and respect, they respond well. When I feel obligation, that’s not genuine gratitude and respect - that’s the pressure of “should” and has no part in my vocabulary anymore.
When I talk about letting go of obligation, that doesn’t mean I don’t celebrate Mother’s Day or go out of my way for people. There are definitely still times we do something just for the sake of another, and go the extra mile making a special gift or an act of service. But it’s not under the weight of obligation, but a genuine desire to explore, respect, listen, connect, learn and love. No obligation needed.
Are you saying no to your sanity? Your bandwidth? Your kids? Your partner? Pay attention to what you are saying yes to, and what you may be sacrificing for that yes. And, get comfortable with simply saying no. You don’t not have to justify every move you make. It’s okay to simply say no because you can’t take on the energy of it, it’s not in your wheelhouse, or simply to just say “I have another commitment” - even if that commitment is to yourself and learning to say no.
#2 - Feeling Responsible
I’m a big believer in personal responsibility. I definitely do not advocate for a victim mentality, or not stepping up and owning what is under your control. However...what is not under my control is someone else’s emotions, someone else’s business, someone else’s relationships, or someone else’s life. So while I may support and encourage, challenge and navigate, the responsibility of someone else’s choices is not on my shoulders anymore.
If you are cheering someone else up in the spirit of joy and contentment, that’s different than feeling responsible for their happiness in life. That’s simply adding some joy. Yet if you’re feeling the weight of a responsibility that simply isn’t all yours to bear, allow others to step in as well. Those of you with children with special needs, elderly parents needing care, navigating mental health with family members - these are all super heavy, and we can quickly take on all of the responsibility of their lives in addition to our own.
Yet there isn’t much shame or people balking at a family getting a babysitter for a night out. Those of you caring for people who aren’t still babies...you still deserve a night out. You still need a break to recharge, refresh, and remember the rest of your life beyond this person. And there are others who aren’t living in it every day who have more energy to step in when you need to refuel.
When we take on so much responsibility, we not only risk burning ourselves out; we also rob someone else of the opportunity to step in and help. There are people who are passionate about special needs, mental health, elderly care and more - there are people who have made it their focus to be a support to the ones who live in it day-to-day.
The weight of the world is an awful lot for any one person to carry. Yet oftentimes we trap ourselves into thinking we are personally holding the world up. If we dared to take time off work, not show up at the family event, or not be there for that person at that time, then all will surely perish. Yet sometimes, when we move back and take that much needed break we need, we empower someone else to rise up into their greatness and what they can offer.
We learn the house doesn’t burn down; it just gets a fresh coat of paint. The family dinner actually happened without you, and your family is still talking to you. The colleague at work not only handled everything so well while you were gone, he figured out a new system for that process that was driving you crazy. That person who called you every single time they had any emotion other than joy...they found a support group, learned to be alone, or finally took the step toward getting the help they needed. I know first-hand how hard it is to pull away when you see loved ones spiraling into a dark place of addiction and pain. And I also know firsthand that the ones who’ve walked through to the other side of that pain all had a personal journey they had to take that was not all me.
Just because everyone relies on you...doesn’t mean they have to.
I recognize this when it comes to working from home. When I’m present, it doesn’t matter if Daddy is just a few feet away watching paint dry on the wall. Our kids will bypass him and come straight to me with a question. They are human, and they love Mommy’s attention! Instead of constantly shutting them down, I learned to draw some clear boundaries and physically remove myself from the situation. Working from home can be completely overrated. What I found, however, is that, when I removed myself, the kids figured things out on their own, Nathan was actually capable of finding his coffee cup, and the house really didn’t burn down without me there.
Be careful not to become someone’s hero so much in the world that you become their crutch they lean on. There is a lesson in the struggle. Just like not forcing a butterfly out of its cocoon or a chick out of its egg, it’s the growing pains - and dealing with the consequences of it - that really develop us as humans. Embrace the struggle. Especially with your children, when you pave the path for ease all through their life, they lose the character and emotional resilience that forms from the struggle- and they won’t get that same cushion in the real world.
When you aren’t there to cushion the fall,
have you equipped your children to know how to get back up on their own?
#3 - Clutter
The third thing that oftentimes holds us back from moving forward with our dreams is all the clutter that weighs us down. And I’m not just talking about your house here, either. I’m talking about the clutter in your home, your head, and your heart.
First is the physical clutter you have in your house. The toys, the books, the piles of things you may get to for something crafty, the clothes you hope to fit back into one day… Then, add in the clutter of the online world - maxing out your storage with the 5,000+ pictures on your phone, your computer bogging down, and so. Much. data.
Then add in the clutter of the head - the to-dos, the lists of responsibilities, daily household tasks, our work… Are you holding on to the drama that’s going on around you, carrying it home and stewing on things that are out of your control?
And finally there is the heart clutter. The wounds, regret, resentment, anger and fear you may be holding on to. Sometimes we hold our pain so tightly we don’t even realize our grasp - we’re so ingrained in our own trauma we don’t realize what it’s doing to us - or to our family.
How much are you carrying around? Is it a light enough load you have a bounce in your step? Are you carrying an anvil of stresses, and, at this point, it’s become your badge? Is the badge of martyrdom or machismo what fuels you best? Is that really your best self? Are you a victim of your own mind, or can you choose where you want to focus?
What Does Success Look Like To You?
Success isn’t just money in your bank account. What does success look like to you? Maybe it’s having a home in the suburbs and a cushy traditional job where you clock in and out each day and leave work there. Maybe your kids thrive in their public or private school, and they all have one extracurricular activity they love. Maybe you regularly volunteer with that one organization you’re so passionate about.
So maybe you recognize that, right now, you hate your work and need to re-evaluate. Your kids are zipping from one extracurricular activity to another and it’s a madhouse of gathering supplies and chauffeuring the all over. Maybe you’re maxed out with all of the things you’ve been roped into volunteering for. Maybe your life is so hectic, that the paragraph above is just the “success” you’re looking for.
It’s the success of finding the flow that works for your family. Learning when to scale back, simplify, say no, and when to step up and shine.
Before you determine what success looks like in your home and for you, you have to just take a self-assessment here. Look at these three areas here - obligation, feeling responsible, and clutter.
If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or unhappy, the step is just bringing awareness to that and acknowledging what is. If you aren’t feeling these things; if you aren’t feeling unrest, then don’t “should” on yourself and be happy you’re flowing well.
Yet if you are feeling off, you will continue to feel this way until you do something about it.
We can’t change what we aren’t aware of.
Red Light, Green Light
Don’t rock the boat so much you capsize. Don’t decide today you’re going to quit your job, pull the kids from school, and hit the road in an RV.
First off, there are different personality styles going on in your home. Everyone responds to change differently, and when we rock the boat, we have to consider how it will affect others around us as well.
That’s why creating a family vision and knowing your personality styles is so, so important. Then you can create a red light, green light approach where you move forward and then check in along the way.
The key, however, is to put a date on it.
If you want to make a change, make a deadline for it happen. It’s that simple. It helps to create accountability and gives you a goal to work backward from.
Sometimes this means you have to have those “fierce conversations'' that aren’t that comfortable. Where you address that fact that, “this just isn’t sustainable. I don’t know if you’re getting anything out of this, but I’m flailing in the water over here.”
When something just has to change, making those little pivots is way easier than just saying, “hey, you’re dead to me.”
Getting real and raw with where you are is the first step in moving beyond it. Having these conversations helps to reset the common goal, and then allow you to divide and conquer, where you all are stepping up to say “this is what I can do personally to help us move forward as a team for where we want to go.”
That means you have to be willing to do the hard work within yourself that addresses your own personal mindset and approach.
You cannot fully compartmentalize life -
avoiding your own demons
does not mean your family doesn’t suffer from them.
When you keep demons of pain and distrust from the past, know that that is 100% being seen by your partner and your children. They are not getting all of you, and that will be evident.
I share on the podcast how this was going on in my own life- how I was living in obligation, over-commitment, and carrying the responsibility of others in my life. And so I created controlled chaos all around me - I added in the clutter of accumulating stuff, and I’d just switched one vice for another. I kept feeding my wounds by rearranging the chaos, thinking if I just organized it better it would all work out.
It wasn’t until I really sat with myself and what I was doing - to myself and my family - that I could see we were all suffering due to the stress I’d created in my own head. And working in these three areas was the biggest thing that released us all to flow like water in our lives right now.
A little Pivot
Try something new. Don’t go home and do an about-face of extreme change. But if you’re struggling, look at one tiny thing to switch things up. We had gotten into the habit of letting screens slip in too much in our home, so, instead of putting an extreme mandate on it, we took a two-week approach.
We started by talking to our kids about how much screen time had entered our lives, how it was affecting us, and letting them weigh in on it. We all went back to our family vision and if our evenings were really reflecting that. And we decided to eliminate random screen time other than specific times throughout the week. We keep screens for Khan Academy for the kids in the morning time, and each child has a “wink night” with us where we not only let them pick out anything they want to watch with us, but we actually added in that they get to pick out - and make with Mommy - a meal and dessert of their choice.
No screens for two weeks? Horrible, right? Instead of them fighting back, they have absolutely loved this - the special nights they can plan for get them super excited, and they help with grocery shopping and then creating the menu/fixing it all. So they get their nights actually planned in advance vs. our randomness that can happen, and they also got way more of us. Instead of our evening being spent in front of the TV, we spent it curled up by a fire sharing stories of our first years of marriage, how Nathan got into real estate, and creating beautiful memories and stories that will last much longer than “The Wonder Years”.
Instead of making a blanket statement on a new reality, ease into it. Test it out with a red light, green light approach. It takes the pressure off and allows everyone to sample it first.
A Note On Screen time
If screen time is the issue in your home. Think long and hard on this. Yes, I understand it is required with online learning, and it is required for work for many. I’m not anti-screen. Yet any time a screen takes priority over a relationship, that screen gets the bottom of the totem pole.
Unless your children are paying for their own devices and internet, you have every right to pull the plug on it. Unless your children are stopping their video games and doing their own laundry, making their own meals, and paying their own rent/insurance, you have every right to pull the plug on the video game. Unless your children have really done the research to understand legit online addiction, online grooming, and the darker world of the internet, then not only do you have every right to pull the plug on it, you have a dire responsibility to help them learn to regulate it so they don’t fall into addiction.
You don’t give a 10-year-old a case of Smirnoff Ice and tell him to just drink in moderation.
Think long and hard about what control screens have over you and your children in your home. This is hands-down one of the biggest issues clients come to me with, and I want to put the power back in your hands on this. Step up as the parent and recognize that TV and Internet that is for entertainment is strictly that. It is one way to entertain - and just like we talked about on the podcast with how it became the default entertainment in our home, you have to intentionally reset and unplug if you want something to change.
So that's our challenge. If you are unhappy with your life, maybe instead of getting more, it's time to look at what you want to simplify. So pay attention to your obligation, to what you feel responsible for and what clutter you carry in your home, your head and your heart. See how you can move forward to not just wait for “One Day”, but to actually put a date on it and go out there and celebrate how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste
Dig Deeper with These Posts and Episodes:
- Get the Free Family Vision Email Series Here
- My Soul Is Crying For Change (Episode 188)
- Curious about taking your own family adventure in an RV? Check out all the goodness here
- Have Life Seasons Got You Stuck In A Funk? (Episode 179)
- Is “Home” In Your House…or Your Heart? (Episode 17)
- Check out this incredible new book, You Don’t Owe Anyone
- Working From Home Is SO Overrated
- Embrace The Struggle (Episode 41)
- Less Is More! It’s Time To Declutter!
- Clear Energy, Clear Mind
- Chaos of the Heart: Rawness = Connection
- Head Clutter and the Chaos of Overwhelm (Episode 22)
- 90 Day Family Road Trip
- What are your behavior defaults, and those of others in your home?
- What Is A DISC Personality Assessment?
- What Is Your Goal?
- Coaching with Ashley