The Power of Community – an underrated tool

funny-aerobicsThe other day my daughter had to prepare a short talk on ‘spectators’ and their influence on her life. She started off by stating that two is better than one and then went on to describe how we all are spectators of each others’ lives and that merely standing by and observing doesn’t cut it and that it is only when we give something of ourselves that we truly get involved in the game and transform ourselves from passive onlookers to active participants, thereby tasting what life is really about. A proper mouthful for a 16 year-old.

It made me think. On how many roads have I embarked just to be turned around without reaching my intended destination. Dozens, no, more. Now, with the power of hindsight, I’m not in the least bit surprised that on each of those journeys I’ve set off alone.

I won’t bore you with the tearful details of each (perceived) failure but I will say this: Had I embarked on those journeys WITH someone or at least FOR someone other than myself, I would in all likelihood have reached the destination.

The power of community is often overlooked and underestimated. It is especially true if your goal is reaching a place where you’re fit and healthy. Improving your health (and therefore your fitness) requires focused intention and consistent effort. It requires discipline when it comes to making daily choices. What it comes down to is changing habits and as we all know, changing habits is hard. Especially if you’re trying to do it alone.

Being part of a community, or harnessing the power of ‘togetherness’ is a powerful tool. And it is out there, and it is free. Being engaged in community will improve your health – and not just physically. Conversely, isolation will prevent you from becoming the best version of yourself. Alcoholics for example don’t get drunk in groups, they do however try to heal in groups.

Here’s the kicker: Health habits are contagious. For example, if you spend time with people who exercise, you are more likely to exercise. Same with eating healthy. The group you associate with often determines the type of person you become. This does not mean you should ditch all your fat friends. You are not only capable of being influenced, you can influence as well. If you keep healthy habits, friends and family are more likely to follow. Like I said, habits are contagious which means you can have a significant effect on those around you.

It won’t happen overnight however. You will most likely encounter some resistance. Chewing on a carrot while your friends are puffing away will draw the odd comment of resentment. By the way, that should be your sign that just maybe you’re associating with the wrong crowd.

And then there’s the small matter of ‘commitment’. To most commitment does not come naturally, we’d rather opt for the ‘no obligations’ route than be tied up, missing the point that commitment actually gives us freedom. The freedom to be who we want to be because it is only in the confines of relationships that we can let our hair down. Or fart out loud.

There is also comfort in knowing that we’re not alone in our battle to stay on track with our fitness and health goals. And being committed to a group or a couple of friends will cause them to be committed to you, dragging you along even on those days when you’re not feeling up for it.

You need not look far to start forging such bonds. Co-workers, neighbors, friends, parents of your kids’ friends – in today’s world of connections, groups and social media it should be quite easy to find a few like-minded individuals. A great place to start can be your immediate family. It’s a fact that couples who train together, are more likely to stay together so just maybe you don’t need to look any further than your better-half. After getting your better-half on board don’t be surprised if the kids follow suit. You might have started off thinking that you’ll be the inspiration but more often than not you’ll find that once those bonds have been established, you’re the one that is inspired for once you are surrounded by others who are just as committed to ‘loving thy neighbor’ as you are, you become the recipient of that ‘love’ as well as the giver of it. And only then will you transform yourself from a passive onlooker to an active participant in the joyous game we call ‘Life’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips from a Stay-at-Home Dad.

Dad

Being a stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) is the most rewarding, yet the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Never has the ‘all worthwhile things are hard-saying’ been more true for me.

It is difficult for a number of reasons:

It is not the norm. The world, society, call it what you want, dictates that the man be the breadwinner and the wife the caretaker. Men are wired to go out and earn a living while women are wired to take care of the household and raise kids. The point most are missing is this: Taking charge of the household, family finances and raising the kids are as necessary a task as earning money. The parent responsible for this, irrespective of gender, is contributing to the welfare of the family. Raising kids, for example, is not an innately feminine thing.

Because of the many misconceptions, stay-at-home dads will struggle with confidence while the working moms will just as often buckle under the pressure of being sole breadwinners. This puts more pressure on the marriage than is necessary.

Tip No 1: Becoming SAHD should be a conscious decision made by ALL parties involved. Yes, I understand that circumstances might force your hand (losing your job through no fault of your own) but in the end, what you do with what happened to you is still a choice. Like I mentioned above, your wife suddenly becoming the sole breadwinner will put her under pressure. It will strain your relationship and even more so when she perceives her situation forced upon her. Similarly, if you think that you have been forced to become a SAHD you will take three times as long to truly embrace your role compared to having made that choice yourself. So, sit down, talk to your wife, talk to your kids, make a decision – then embrace the role.

Tip No 2: Run your family (household) like a business. It will give you purpose and besides, its fun. And if somebody asks you what it is that you’re doing, you can answer them: I’m the family manager, I’m running the show. For example, divide the ‘family tasks’  into categories:

  • Finances
  • Food
  • Family and Friends
  • Time and Scheduling
  • Special events
  • Self-management

Then delegate the tasks to those best suited for them. For example, let the kids take charge of ‘special events’ such as birthdays etc while you handle the family budget. Just because your wife is earning the money should not mean you can’t take charge of the family budget, shoulder the big decisions and take responsibility for paying the bills. Just as you can take some of the ‘financial’ pressure off your wife, she can give you a hand (or ideas) on the food-front. The idea is to identify the weak areas and to seek help where you need it.

You can even take the model further by branding your family, complete with a logo, a slogan and core values. This is a lot of fun and gets everybody involved. More on that later…

Tip No 3: Get your shit together. You are now the ‘lead guide’ of your household and if the family is having a bad day it is likely because you didn’t manage the day well. There’s a lot of planning to do. Meals, shopping, chores and the kids’ schedule will wreak havoc with your time (and to a lesser extent, your finances) if you fail to plan properly. Sundays are great for family meetings during which you can discuss the dinner menu for the week, draft your shopping list and plan your schedule for the week. Planning properly will also reveal that you do have time to pursue some ‘ME’ stuff. Like getting fit, working on that hobby of yours AND even time to earn decent money while being a SAHD! Thereby showing the finger to the many misconceptions out there. Misconceptions such as ‘he lost his job’ or ‘he’s probably looking for a job’ or ‘he does not have any motivation’ etc., etc.

Tip No 4: Have fun. Though the number of SAHD’s is on the increase, and what you do is not as rare as you think, you are still very fortunate to be spending quantity and quality time with your children. Spend as much time playing with your kids as you do trying to accomplish all the other household chores that comes with the job. Make a conscious effort to devote some part of your day to playing. It’s a terrible cliche but time does go by so fast. Blink an eye and your kids will be off to school, blink again and they’ll ask for the keys to your car…

To wrap up, fulfillment comes from making a difference in the lives of other people and a SAHD has a unique and special opportunity to make a profound difference in the lives of those he hold dearest. Remember, the most valuable asset you have is your time and knowing that you invested it wisely into the lives of your wife and your kids and experiencing their appreciation will leave you fulfilled and ultimately happy.

O, and realizing and understanding that your time is valuable will put an end to the procrastination and will get the things you’ve always wanted to get done, done!