The following excerpt is from Kelly Clements’ book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose. Get the FREE eBook below.
Entrepreneurship is a wild ride and it takes the right person to pull it off successfully. With over 90 percent of entrepreneurs failing once or more in business, it’s no wonder the divorce rate for entrepreneurs is so high. The journey of entrepreneurship is wrought with extreme highs and lows. Add a spouse to the mix and you either have a secret weapon—or a recipe for disaster!
For a spouse, marrying into an entrepreneurial relationship can prove to be a tremendous blessing or a blasted curse. I used to say that a spouse can make or break a business. While that’s still true, there’s a more important truth: a business can make or break a spouse.
While the growth of a business owner may serve the business well, it can also threaten a marriage. When couples are not growing together, the gap of shared goals and dreams can swallow the relationship. Because a spouse plays such a crucial support role to the business owner, it is imperative to invest in the individual growth of the spouse as well as the entrepreneur.
Where Spouses Might Struggle
Most spouses struggle to find the line between support and self-care. Discovering how to effectively manage the impact of the business on the spouse and the relationship has proven to be a game changer. The impact of a supportive spouse on a business in undeniable. The impact of a fulfilled spouse in a relationship is even greater. That’s why the spouses must be championed, acknowledged, and encouraged to grow and care for themselves.
To be healthy in all areas of personal life requires a journey of self-discovery to reconnect with one’s highest and best self. I’ve lived in the uncertain environment of the entrepreneurial households on both sides of the equation—as the entrepreneur and as the partner of one. I’ve learned from my mistakes and love lost. I’ve also coached many entrepreneurial couples through Strategic Coach, Lifebook, and my own business, The Entreprenewer, where I recognized they were all experiencing similar issues, not only in the business, but in the situation at home.
Due to the constant demands of the business and family, couples are often left feeling deflated, overwhelmed, and underserved. They’re in chronic reaction mode. The entrepreneur is hyper-focused on maximizing their potentialin the business. The spouse is caught up in the inertia of everyone else’s goals and dreams. They aren’t pursuing their own passion and growth anymore. In essence, both parties are being squeezed out of the relationship. They have forgotten the three most enjoyable parts of life and relationships: the power of play, the power of praise, and the power of purpose.
My Intention for this Book
My intention for this is a book is to empower entrepreneurial couples to grow TOGETHER through the powers of play, praise, and purpose. Harnessing these powers will reveal that it takes TWO extraordinary people to create ONE extraordinary relationship. In discussing the concepts, I will often refer to entrepreneurial relationships in a generalized way, referring to the entrepreneur as “he” and the spouse as “she”—but the challenges can be just as hard, if not harder, when the woman is the entrepreneur in the relationship. The same is true for same-sex couples of either gender. These principles are boiled down to “entrepreneurshipthe human experience,” and transcend stereotypes and gender roles.
To create a healthy, vibrant relationship, the three most crucial strategies involve infusing your relationship with prolific amounts of play, praise, and purpose. In the next section, we’ll address why entrepreneurs and their spouses need to match the quality of their free time to that of their work time. We’ll explore how they can bring greater awareness to their opportunities to affirm versus accuse, and identify the need to align their long-term visions so there’s purpose in both their lives, as well purpose for their relationship. In short, entrepreneurial households require plentiful play, potent praise, and powerful purpose.
The Storms of Entrepreneurial Relationships
Before we explore the solution, we must fully recognize the problem If we don’t understand what’s hurting us, we can’t maximize what helps us Entrepreneurship offers a unique dynamic to a love relationship Somehow, the business becomes a third party in the relationship It can become the source of our identity and the catalyst for the health (or lack thereof) of our relationship It becomes the governing body of how well we “show up” for our spouse It is crucial for us to reclaim our love relationship from the grip of our business if we are to truly step into our power as a couple
Chapter 1: Roles vs. Identity
Identity Loss: It doesn’t take a crisis
We give business owners a lot of flack for tying their identity so tightly to their business. Their self-worth becomes inextricably linked to their net worth. What has so far gone unnoticed is how strongly the spouse ties her identity to the business owner.
The business now becomes the foundation of the relationship. But we overlook the crucial piece in which we acknowledge that the love relationship is actually the bedrock of a fulfilling life and the health of the business.
Remember, in order to create one extraordinary love relationship, we need two extraordinary people—not one extraordinary business We need two people who are actively paying attention to their needs and desires. We need two people who are committed to shared growth and mutual support.
By nature, and by trade, entrepreneurs are hardwired for growth. They seek peak experiences and are always looking for an edge. Many times, the result of this quest for hyper-growth leaves thrashing chaos in its wake. The spouse is left to hold the rest of the couple’s lives together. Keeping life on the rails becomes a full-time job, and it’s in this abyss that we completely lose sight of ourselves.
I’ve been running a Self Care series on social the past week or so, and the feedback is so eye-opening!
The #1 response I get about why self care is challenging has to do with WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK!!
“My kids will think their activities aren’t important to me”
“My friends don’t get the same opportunities to rejuvenate, they are already so judgmental”
“My spouse doesn’t want me to spend the money on those luxuries”
“My team will think I’m not committed”
It’s called SELF CARE because this is YOU CARING for YOURSELF.
It’s called SELF 👏CARE👏 because this is YOU CARING for YOURSELF. How did anyone else ever get a vote in that?
And therein lies the rub.
The people that truly understand this are the ones who effortlessly prioritize self care, and as a result, never get to a place where they seem to NEEEED it. They don’t reach a point of depletion that makes the need for self care a raging urgency.
But the ones that are governed by other’s opinions are the one’s that live in such chronic depletion that it becomes their new normal. It’s where we start to take a departure from our own paths in favor of pleasing others. And how we become a shell of ourselves and start to harbor resentment towards others.
This is where The Secret Scorecard begins. We start to note all the times we put our own needs aside to care for others, silently expecting they’ll do the same for us. But when they don’t, we take it personally and start to take it out on others.
Can you see how the lack of self care can create such a gnarly domino effect?
Last week, I talked about The Domino Habit and how choosing one small action can build momentum towards greater results.
If you struggle with Self Care, can I offer a Domino Habit for you? Perhaps the biggest step you can take toward better self care is to DIVORCE YOURSELF FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS. This happens when you believe your inner voice over any one else’s voice. And, at the end of the day, it’s the greatest gesture of self care we can offer!
So, here’s to you and that inner voice that has been calling for you!
While this book is geared towards the spouses of entrepreneurs, these strategies can help anyone looking to find their purpose. The following excerpt is from Kelly Clements’ book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose. Get the FREE eBook below.
The Power of Purpose
A solo purpose divides; a shared purpose unites.
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why ”. If you’ve found your purpose, you know how much truth this quote holds. Discovering our purpose answers many of life’s biggest questions: “What is the meaning of life?” “Why am I here?” “What is my genius?” And even, “Does my life matter?”
Colliding with purpose is one of the most exhilarating experiences we can have as a human being. Discovering our purpose not only changes the course of our lives, it also impacts the lives of everyone with whom we work. However, it can also come with a cost—particularly to a marriage. When we make the choice to turn our purpose into a profession, it can leave our spouse feeling like our work is more important than he or she is. If one spouse is purpose-driven and the other isn’t, it can be especially hard to understand this relentless pursuit. The commitment to developing a shared purpose as a couple will help bring harmony to these entrepreneurial relationships.
I believe our individual purpose comes “factory installed” in us. It’s an innate calling that, when tapped, becomes impossible to resist. As we pursue this purpose and the full expression of it, it can create a point of contention in our relationships. It can either leave our spouse feeling like our business gets the best of us while she gets the rest of us, or it can be a painful reminder that she has not connected with her own purpose yet. This chapter will serve as a guide for those couples experiencing the dark side of a purpose-driven life. We’ll discuss how discovering our individual and shared purpose introduces us to who we are as our best and highest self.
My client Julie said it best: “I hate watching Jim walk out the door each day because he goes out to change so many lives and make a difference—and it’s a daily reminder that I’m still searching.” Like Julie, many spouses can feel a certain degree of envy that their entrepreneurial spouse has a strong sense of calling and meaning—while they don’t. His sense of purpose, if not experienced by the spouse, can stir discontent or even resentment in a spouse. It can be difficult for a spouse to begin the pursuit of purpose in an entrepreneurial shadow.
It’s natural for an entrepreneur to equate purpose to a business opportunity, but for a spouse who’s not business-minded, that can be off-putting. The fact is, everyone has a purpose. It’s a bonus to be paid for your purpose, but definitely not a necessity. You may be a whiz in the kitchen, or maybe you’re made to be a parent or caretaker. Perhaps you’re the one all your friends call for fashion advice or investment strategies. Purpose doesn’t have to be translated into a business to make it valid. Purpose is anything that introduces us to our best selves. It’s what motivates us to become better and better at something. It’s what makes us stand up a little taller and hold our heads higher. It is the activity that helps us lose track of time and elicits that feeling of being delighted to be alive.
When Something is Missing, It’s Probably Buried
I wholeheartedly believe that your purpose is already in you; that we each came into this life with a unique mission to impact the lives of our fellow humans. I also believe that at a young age, we have a sense of what this purpose might be. As we begin to express this to our friends and family, we are often shut down. Out of protection (love), our family might attempt to inform us of all the tragedy that we’ll encounter if we journey into the pursuit of purpose. I sense this is changing as our human race evolves, but for Generation X and previous generations, there seems to be an experience of being told that we’ll never make it if we reach for the stars.
For me, this was quite literal. I vividly remember the day my fourth-grade teacher announced we’d be doing a report on what we wanted to be when we grew up. We had just returned from the playground where I had spent the entire recess being chased in flirtatious pursuit by my classmate, Brian. With my , thanks to this blossoming crush, I was quick to volunteer my answer. I eagerly raised my hand and confidently proclaimed, “Mrs. Egezio, I’m going to be an astronaut!!” Without missing a beat, my new crush—Brian—exclaimed “Kelly, you can’t be an astronaut; you have to be smart to be an astronaut!
The class erupted in laughter. And there it was. In that moment, I buried my dreams. In that moment, I chose to be the fun girl—the life of the party—so no one would laugh at my dreams again. As you’ll remember, I even went to college and got a degree in “play.” That provided me with even more fun as I landed jobs at Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, and Hilton Head Island. What a great life, right?
But something was still missing. As you now know, I was missing my calling. Thankfully, I eventually found it, and through discovering that purpose, I learned to recognize the lie that I had created to keep myself safe from the rejection I experienced that day in fourth grade. If you find that you are in purpose-seeking mode, I challenge you to find the moment you decided to keep yourself safe. When did you decide that it was unsafe to pursue your dream? Go back to that moment. Can you see the lie? It is only in discovering the lie that we can reveal the truth
When I realized I was basing my entire life around the faulty belief that my value as a person was to be fun, I was able to step more powerfully into my intelligence—and it changed everything.
Disparagement of our purpose is one of the harshest forms of criticism we can receive. In essence, we’re being told we’re not equipped to do what we are meant to do. Can you see how tempting it would be to shut down this pursuit altogether? The path of dogma can feel much safer than being told we’re wrong about our own dreams.
This is where the quiet desperation sets in and that feeling that something is missing begins to arise. The moment you accept this calling and start saying yes to it is the moment your purpose will begin to reveal itself.
Letting Your Purpose Find You
Generally, the people I work with fall into two categories: purpose-driven or purpose-seeking. The truth is, most purpose-driven people I know didn’t find their purpose; their purpose found them. And it happened by saying yes to something unexpected. This was true for me as well.
When I was twenty-five, I had just moved back to Chicago from Florida and I had no interest in finding my purpose because, quite frankly, I was still telling myself that I was supposed to be the fun one! I had big plans to get a job in special events because I figured that if I had to work, it might as well be at a party. So, I hired a headhunter to help me in my pursuit, and her first suggestion went over like a lead balloon. “I have a client called Strategic Coach. They set up workshops for entrepreneurs. I can get you an interview this week.”
My knee-jerk reaction was, “No, way!” I imagined myself assembling trade show booths in sterile convention halls. “That’s the last thing I want to do.” But I needed a practice interview, so I begrudgingly told the headhunter to go ahead and schedule it.
I did no research on this company prior to my interview. I had no idea that coaching was an industry, or that this type of work even existed. But when I showed up at the offices of Strategic Coach in Rosemont, Illinois, I was captivated. I call it my “mother ship” because the moment I walked in the door, I knew I wanted to be a part of this organization. The art on the wall, the books, and their mission (“Work Less. Make More.”) all spoke to me. I was home.
As my interview began, I learned more about the concept of coaching entrepreneurs. It was so intuitive to me that I found myself “talking the talk” right away. That was the day everything changed for me. It was the first time I wanted more for myself. The first time I saw a bigger future for myself. It was the first time I met my higher self.
At long last, I started taking myself more seriously. No longer was I interested in just going out on the weekends and drinking margaritas. I wanted more for myself; to be around more inspiring people. I had realized that I could make a difference in people’s lives, and that my own life— here—could actually matter. Before my interview, I hadn’t been concerned with finding my purpose; now, I couldn’t live without it. And it all started with an unexpected yes.
If you feel you are on the purpose-seeking end of the spectrum, congratulations! That tug is your indicator that you are on the brink. That void—or the feeling that there must be something more—is your calling to bigger things.
However, I find that spouses of entrepreneurs tend to dismiss this feeling more than any other group. I hear things like, “We have such a great life; who am I to ask for more?” And, “I feel bad about feeling unfulfilled; we have such an amazing life together. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
In my experience, I have found that spouses of entrepreneurs can get so caught up in the minutiae of everyone else’s dreams and goals, they neglect their own. In this state, they get carried so far away from their personal desires that they end up getting squeezed out of their own lives. They look around at all they have and still feel like something is missing. That “something” is often their sense of self.
Moving from purpose-seeking to purpose-driven starts with giving yourself permission to ask for more. Accept that it’s okay to seemingly have it all and still ask for more. That feeling only comes when there is more in store for you.
The Importance of a Shared Purpose
The power of purpose is more than an individual pursuit. It’s the defining quality that takes couples from ordinary to extraordinary. Couples can be at odds over many things, including finances and parenting, but when they have a shared sense of purpose, they establish longevity and unity that surpasses their unaligned counterparts. The reason is simple: Purpose is fuel. It’s the driving factor that allows us to plow through the obstacles to reach our goal.
One way to identify your purpose as a couple is to think about your life in five, ten, or fifty years. Whom have you helped? What is the difference you have made as a couple? With whom are you spending time each day? For what reasons are people seeking your company? Your answers to these questions will help set the course for your direction as a purpose-driven couple.
Both partners are working toward the same goal, whether that’s retiring on the beach, traveling 150 days a year, or starting a nonprofit. It can be to be totally focused on kids and grand kids, or to have the business carry on through future generations. The vision itself doesn’t matter; what matters is that both the entrepreneur and his spouse share a powerful vision of where they are going together.
If a spouse has not experienced a personal sense of purpose, and is living with a purpose-driven entrepreneur, the first step is not necessarily to find her own life’s purpose right away. Instead, it is to get on board with a sense of shared purpose in her relationship with her spouse. Both members of the couple can ask, “Where are we going together?” This question clarifies their expectations of their roles within the marriage. For example, if they share a retirement goal, what is the spouse doing to preserve the wealth? If it’s a charity goal, which charity is it going to be and is the spouse contributing in other, non financial ways? The object is for the entrepreneur and spouse to have a shared purpose in the relationship. Establishing purpose in the relationship helps to bring greater harmony and fulfillment to both parties.
Owning Your Brilliance as the Gateway to Purpose
Jon Butcher, founder of Lifebook, and his wife, Missy, present a great example of how two extraordinary people can create that one extraordinary marriage through the power of purpose. After nearly thirty years together, they’re the most legendary couple I’ve met, and among entrepreneurs, they’re considered to be one of the most powerful couples in the community. It’s no secret how they came to possess the sultry romance that they have: they have created a shared purpose that requires both of them to consistently show up as their best self in twelve categories of life
Missy remembers how, when they first began dating, she held Jon in such high regard that she asked herself whom she had to be to become his partner. “I have to step up in every area of my life,” she concluded.
Similarly, Jon has spoken about Missy, saying, “My love for her transcends my love of all else—my businesses, my children, everything! If I have to choose between work or being with Missy, it will be Missy every time because she’s just such a magnificent creature.” Missy is captivating to Jon because she’s clear on her own purpose and has found the line between support and self-care.
Missy has owned her own brilliance. She felt that Jon was firing on all cylinders in so many areas of his life that she was inspired to elevate hers as well. She recognized that it takes two extraordinary people to create one extraordinary relationship. Looking at these two, they are an exact match (yet not a duplicate) in terms of how well they have elevated their respective games.
Entrepreneurs are wired to take extreme ownership over their lives. The spouse also needs to take ownership over her life, establish her own identity and activities, and pursue her own dreams and purpose. It is through this place of self-ownership and purpose that authentic growth will take the couple from ordinary to extraordinary.
Purpose in Action
Empowering the spouse to pursue her own goals and dreams, and to find a passion that revives her in her own unique way, renews the passion in a marriage. We focus on the spouse’s personal life or her unique traits and gifts. Because our purpose lives in us, we strip away all the external factors—career, money, kids, spouses, parents, and other people’s expectations. We focus on the six areas that make up her personal life and promote growth: energy, emotion, character, wellness and beauty, spirituality, and relationships. Understanding who she is at her best in these six categories is a powerful motivator for her to discover her greater purpose.
Energy. The most common objection I hear from spouses is there’s no time to explore new passions. That’s code for they are spending time (and energy) on all the wrong things. Before we can identify what we should start doing, we have to be clear on what to stop doing.
Everything in your life today served you at one point— that’s why you did it. But to step into higher purpose, we need to rid ourselves of everything that no longer serves us. When we honestly look at our habits and see how much time we’re spending on activities that add little value to our lives—like watching television or browsing social media—the results are shocking. There is especially enormous emotional baggage connected to social media; we see only the highlights of life, and that prompts us to compare ourselves to others. Managing or eliminating those habits creates more time and energy for bigger pursuits that are more aligned with where we want to go in life.
Creating Energy for More Fulfilling Pursuit
The exercise I referenced in Chapter 4, The Power of Play, is a powerful approach to creating energy for more fulfilling pursuits. In business, entrepreneurs often have a great deal of delegation power and are trained to focus on things at which they excel. In the household, a lot of the tasks entrepreneurs don’t like to do get delegated to the spouse—but we want the spouse to adopt the same empowered mind-set of doing what energizes her and to delegate or eliminate the rest.
Of course, there are obligations we have to fulfill in our daily lives, like handling finances and feeding our kids. Outsourcing activities that drain you and adopting strategies to better utilize time will open up the space and energy you need for the life you do want to have.
Thoughts & Emotion
Thoughts & Emotion. If we aren’t intentional about our purpose, we are at the mercy of external circumstances. Either we control our thoughts or our emotions control us. Work to identify and actively create the emotions you want to experience in your life. Start with what you’re currently feeling. If your baseline emotional state is filled with anxiety, depression, or apathy, look at what’s causing this stress and ascertain how you do want to feel. Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to create a space in which I am experiencing these positive emotions more often? With whom do I need to spend time? What places or activities will get me there? What thoughts and beliefs will create those emotions?”
Sometimes, it is only by becoming clear about your emotions that you can enact tangible change in your life. A client of mine, Gabrielle, had begun coaching while feeling unfulfilled, resentful, and uncertain. She often acted out in anger and was short-tempered and easily agitated. When issues arose in her life, she was apathetic and acted like they were everyone else’s problem. When I asked her how she wanted to feel, she answered, “Fulfilled, at ease, passionate, and happy.”
Through our sessions, we identified the source of her negativity: She believed everything in her life was falling short of her expectations. It was almost like she was hardwired to find fault; she lived in constant disappointment of her husband, her kids, her house, and her career. By simply choosing more empowering thoughts that reflected the way she DID want to feel, she was able to live in greater joy and abundance.
Character. Who do you need to be to get everything you want? I used to think this was a manipulative question until I got to the core of what it really means: If you want a different result in your life, you have to start doing things differently. If you want to see direct, positive, and permanent changes in your life, you have to implement different daily habits on a cellular level, because that will change your character.
For example, I used to say that I wasn’t an organized person; I just claimed it wasn’t a part of my personality. Then I realized that if I wanted to grow a successful business, not being organized was holding me back. To get the result I wanted, I needed to retrain myself to maintain consistent records and keep my calendar in order; when I did this, organization became a part of who I am.
Finding Your Courage
One character trait a lot of my clients work on is courage. This could mean the courage to get a babysitter and spend more time away from our kids, the courage to develop deeper intimacy with our spouse, the courage to go out and pursue that dream job, or even the courage to distance ourselves from friendships that are bringing us down.
Too often, we neglect our own wants and needs due to guilt narratives. We need to have the courage to believe that caring for and honoring ourselves first will produce positive results in every other aspect of our life. For instance, it is not easy for most women to be stay-at-home moms; I think women who can do that underestimate how important their work is. Women like Gabrielle and me—who love being moms but who are also driven to pursue dreams aside from motherhood—need to find the courage to release that guilt. Having a healthy attitude toward balancing family life with work life allows us to become happier and more fulfilled.
Wellness and Beauty
Wellness and Beauty. Our health is our first wealth. It is also the first data-point others use to determine how we expect to be treated. If we don’t treat ourselves well, why should they?
When we look good, we feel good! Confidence is the electricity of life, so we must actively transform our outward appearances to reflect how we feel on the inside. It can be easy to “let yourself go” after marriage, but that lackluster external appearance will always translate to a dull inner light as well.
Through our appearances, we are also actively creating our own personal brands. For instance, when you choose clothing and accessories, do you have a style preference? Do you like to look sophisticated, or timeless, or original? What’s the personal brand that resonates with you, that’s always going to remind you to step into your best self in your work and with others?
Best Beauty Strategy
The best beauty strategy is taking a proactive approach to maintaining your health—not waiting until you’re sick to go to the doctor, but rather, preserving the state of well-being you already have. For me, that means chiropractic care, a balanced diet, massage, and enjoyable exercise. For you, it can include whichever healthcare and self-care rituals you maintain to preserve your well-being. It might involve practicing conscious eating—that is, slowing down to give your full attention to what and how much you’re consuming. You might also want to stay active with exercise that you look forward to, like yoga, rowing, hiking, or running.
It’s important to maintain our wellness and personal brand because this area touches every other area of our lives. When we start to neglect this area, it affects other areas of our lives, such as our self-esteem, our relationships, and even our finances. The maintenance of our health and appearance tends to be the last thing we let go of, and when we stop caring for ourselves, it’s a primary indicator that we’re near our rock bottom. It’s also the first area we should focus on as we resume our climb back upward. It’s THAT foundational.
Spirituality. We connect to spirituality when we ask the big questions like, “What is the meaning of life?” It’s independent from religion, although for some people, spirituality and religion are entwined. Spirituality is connecting to our higher power, so for some people, that’s God, or the Universe, or Source; others regard it as their own intuition. Spirituality is whatever life force guides you. It’s where we can be still and hear that small voice inside us that helps us tap into our inherent knowledge
To connect with your spirituality, the first thing to do is to clarify what this looks like for you. For some people, it means going to church, while for others, it’s spending time in nature, or being by the water, or reading, or meditating. The important thing is to identify the rituals that will bring you closest to love and remind you of how you are part of a bigger picture. Connecting with your personal spirituality should inspire you to commit more energy to your exterior life by providing you a time of rest and reprieve.
Spirituality is the underlying connection between the six areas of growth. It’s what gives us courage to go from being without purpose to purpose-seeking by saying yes to things we normally wouldn’t say yes to. It’s what helps us understand which negative activities and influences in life we can relinquish. So as we identify our sacred rituals, we also understand what we must say no to in order to prioritize the practices that will most fully serve our life.
Relationships. It’s important to surround yourself with people who challenge you to improve and who support your goals and dreams. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Therefore, you want to have relationships with people who are working to better themselves. When the sky’s the limit, everyone elevates one another.
Our identities are often fed by the people with whom we spend the most time. If your social network is mostly made up of negative people, it will be much harder for you to keep up your motivation and grow. Often, when people begin the pursuit of purpose, the people around them begin to feel threatened. Their friends may think, Wait a minute; if she starts to grow, she may outgrow me. They may work to keep you in their comfort zone by projecting fear and negativity. They may be unsupportive or show signs of jealousy or that oh-so-supportive pretense of protection: urging you to “just be happy with what you’ve got.
The Art of Letting Go
The art of letting go is useful here. There is a common, emotionally charged perception that women have a fixed group of friends they are supposed to maintain relationships with throughout their lives. But the truth is that our social circles are always evolving. Our connections are transient. If you look at your current social circle, you’ll notice that it includes people from every phase of your life, from your work friends to your church friends to your old college friends to the friends you see at your kids’ sports games. You’re already connected with many different groups, and social circles change and evolve quickly these days. If you are spending a lot of time with old childhood friends and are looking for a more encouraging group, you can start to shift more of your attention to your friends from the gym, work, or school. Give yourself permission to move on and find a more positive social network; it might be easier than you think.
Focusing on these six areas of personal development will empower you to see yourself in your highest light and break the chains of an unfulfilling life. Who are you as your highest self in each of these categories? More important, what becomes possible for you when you are clear and confident in each of these areas? All the things you desire in life—deeper relationships, wealth generation and preservation, having a legacy, making a difference, serving others, purchasing your dream home, maintaining solid business growth—are the result of the work you will do in these six crucial areas. Once you are clear on that, you can change the game for yourself and your family.
The following excerpt is from Kelly Clements’ book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose for entrepreneurial couples. Get the FREE eBook below.
Entrepreneur couples and the power of praise. What we appreciate, appreciates. How to support your entrepreneur spouse through the power of praise.
For a man, one of the most powerful forces in the world is a woman’s love. A well-loved man can and will move mountains for his love. The only thing stronger than a woman’s love is her rejection. If a woman’s love can make a man, a woman’s rejection will break him.
As with all married couples, what initially attracts us to our spouse can quickly become the very things that frustrate us about him or her. It’s the classic case of our greatest strengths turning into our greatest weaknesses. However, in entrepreneurial couples, this is magnified because entrepreneurs tend to have a more dynamic spectrum of talents and gifts. What makes us successful in business can be a real challenge to manage at home.
In fact, did you know that from a psychological perspective, quite a large number of entrepreneurs are similar to psychopaths? It’s true! Entrepreneurs have just found better ways to channel all that mania.
These studies illustrate how a character trait can be viewed as a strength or a weakness, depending on its context and how it is expressed—and perceived. You can view the very same qualities in your partner as either powerful strengths or detrimental weaknesses, depending on your perspective and what you cultivate through praise or criticism.
Qualities that most entrepreneurs share
Let’s look at the qualities that most entrepreneurs share: they’re confident, resilient, independent, driven, innovative, and have an eye for excellence. These qualities are strengths needed to build a successful business. However, when pressure gets turned up or there is a loss of control, these very same qualities can show up as arrogance, stubbornness, tyranny, mania, eccentricity, and perfectionism. Understanding the triggers that flip a strength into a weakness can help to us foster a relationship focused on strengths and praise, not weakness and criticism.
Another factor that is not openly shared is that most entrepreneurs constantly doubt that they are truly good enough. They may look poised and confident from the outside, but inside, they are battling feelings of insecurity. The moment our spouse validates those thoughts through criticism, we lose even more hope. Conversely, being affirmedby our spouse can quiet those unruly fear patterns.
Wired for potential
An entrepreneur’s concept of praise is an area in which his strengths can work against him. Entrepreneurs are wired to see possibility. They often see potential others cannot see. Because they can see potential so easily in others, they are quick to offer guidance and suggestions, even if unsolicited. In the absence of praise, these suggestions can seem like criticism. It is essential to see and appreciate the good, not just the potential.
Criticism is fine; we all have times in our relationship when criticism is necessary. However, when we criticize more than compliment, we devalue our relationship with every passing comment. It’s important to recognize our partner’s strengths, because what we appreciate, appreciates. When it gets dark, it’s easy to think the world is against us. It’s easy to think we’re a terrible failure. And as we know, it can get really dark on the journey of any relationship. Add entrepreneurship to the mix, and it can become even darker.
Praise is about elevating you and your spouse to a level where you really believe in each other. It’s not based on hollow compliments—saying nice things just for the sake of saying them—but rather, on the idea of truly believing in someone. It’s truly seeing and being seen. The definition of intimacy is “Into me you see.” Intentionally seeing the best in our partners turns praise into an aphrodisiac.
We Expand to the Space We’re Given
Have you ever noticed that the most unified couples are the ones who consistently show appreciation for each other? If there’s anything they get right, it’s the ability to genuinely praise one another. It’s not because their partners are more perfect than ours; it’s because they choose to see the good. They are not complaining about their spouses or the confines of their marriage for entertainment value. They’re not seeking the pity of others for the “tough road” they have to traverse in their marriage. They’re shining the light, together, on the power of their partnership.
I know a couple is bulletproof when I hear statements like, “I couldn’t do this without my spouse,” “He believed in me before I believed in myself,” and “She’s my biggest inspiration, my biggest fan.” These entrepreneurs set for their spouses, and guess what? The spouses rise to meet those expectations. When others see the most extraordinary traits in us, we feel a level of connection and intimacy unlike any other. We rise to meet those high expectations when they are set through praise, not constant reminders that we are falling short.
No joking matter
Even when we criticize in a joking manner, it cuts deep. It not only hurts our partner, but it also diminishes our own positive feelings for him or her. After leading a webinar on this topic, I received an email from a participant who said, “You’re right; we bash our husbands like it’s a sport. My girlfriends and I are always complaining about how our men fall short. They’re all pretty successful, but we’re ‘joking’ about stupid stuff, and it affects the way I feel that night when I’m sitting next to my husband: irritated about things that don’t really matter.”
Men can feel that condemnation, and when they are chronically criticized, they will respond accordingly. In other words, when we hold low expectations of them and are heavy on the criticism, they shut down and prove us right. Conversely, when they feel that we hold them in high esteem and see their greatness, they will rise to meet those expectations and confirm our estimation of them every single time.
Power to transform
Your attitude and regard for your spouse has the power to transform him or her on a cellular level. If he’s never enough for you and you’re consistently disappointed, his contributions will continue to dwindle. But if you view him as a super hero, he will don his cape. If you see her for all that she already is, and not just her potential, she will step even further into her radiance. Your spouse will fill the space that he or she is given, whether it’s in constant disappointment or unwavering belief.
To have someone see and acknowledge your best qualities ratchets up the level of intimacy in your relationship. It secures the bond. You’re validated because your best qualities are recognized by the most important person in your life.
Become aware of your compliment-to-criticism ratio. Jon Butcher references this ratio in Lifebook, an intense personal-development program based in Chicago. I facilitated this program for four years and learned the importance of minding the compliment-to-criticism ratio. Of course, there’s always going to be times when we have to criticize or bring forth a complaint, but if that’s all you’re doing, your marriage will suffer. Constant criticism erodes a marriage. The way to offset necessary criticism is to inject profuse levels of recognition and praise by creating opportunities to find the good in each other.
Myth: He Doesn’t Need Another “Yes-Person” Around
In Chapter 2, we talked about how men need significance and women need security. In an entrepreneurial household, it’s easy for a man to get his sense of significance from work because that’s where he’s engaging with his employees, customers, and advisors. Because he’s in a position of leadership, it’s likely that very few of these people tell him when he’s falling short.
If, at home, he’s always receiving criticism, then, of course, he will spend more time at work. The home environment needs to be a place of refuge, safety, and significance for the entrepreneur, while providing a sense of security for the spouse. The fact that his spouse is likely to be the only one in a position to point out his weaknesses is yet another reason for her to also be one of his raving fans. It gives her more credence when she had to address his weaknesses.
Expressions of gratitude
More noteworthy is the realization that the entrepreneur may have a source of constant recognition from his business. Affirming staff, raving customers, and widespread publicity all speak to the accomplishments of the business owner. If the spouse does not work, she is likely not exposed to the same level of recognition or appreciation. In this case, it is CRUCIAL for the business owner to be mindful that he, alone, is her source of praise and encouragement. Expressions of gratitude will prove to be a game-changer for the spouse who has been feeling left in the shadows of success.
This is not limited to just compliments and criticisms—it also applies to our responses to success and failure. The degree of our reactions to positive news should exceed the degree of our reactions to negative news. When our spouse screws up, he or she knows it because we’re throwing a fit. They know when they have messed up. Yet when they do well, we tend to take it for granted and don’t celebrate it. The degree of celebration we have over successes should exceed the degree of disappointment we show in “failures.” It’s easy to be frustrated when the losses impact the family, but when things go well, it’s crucial to celebrate the wins with the same vigor. Expressing frustration is easy. We often do it without even thinking about it. Because of this, it is imperative to build the muscle of appreciation to fortify the marriage.
Praise in Action
Begin paying attention to your compliment-to-criticism ratio by trying out these different strategies. Consider sitting down with a pen and sheet of paper and making two lists of all the criticisms and compliments you expressed in the last twenty-four-hours. Write down every single one you can remember, regardless of how significant or inconsequential it may seem. When you’re finished, check to see which column is longer. Examine each line on your list. If the list of criticisms outnumbers the list of compliments, get to work on what you appreciate about your spouse. Work on that list until it exceeds the list of complaints. Seal the deal by sharing your newfound appreciation with your spouse.
Practice the art of the compliment. Giving compliments can generate positive perspective in oneself. Earlier in this chapter, I described how the same qualities can be seen as strengths or weaknesses, depending on our perspective and the context in which we view them. When you verbalize your appreciation rather than focus on complaints, it will cultivate your partner’s traits as strengths and draw out more of his or her good, inspiring qualities. Isn’t THAT the person you’d rather be married to anyway? Choose your view wisely, because it will determine who shows up for you.
Showing appreciation for each other
Showing appreciation for each other in simple ways on a daily basis can contribute to building a powerful and long-lasting relationship. For instance, consider something as easy as leaving notes in a wallet or near the coffeepot. What if we could start the morning with a compliment? Consider how it would feel to face every day with words of encouragement from your spouse. It could be like adding sweet sugar to your bitter coffee. Try this experiment: For one week, begin and end each day with a compliment to your spouse. Observe what changes, including how you and your partner feel about each other and your relationship.
The art of the compliment
The art of the compliment involves intentionality. It’s about enacting and verbalizing your appreciation toward your spouse, rather than just taking his or her good qualities and successes for granted. Speak to your appreciation of what your partner is providing for you. Begin with his or her name, and then acknowledge a quality you normally don’t recognize verbally; it can be a physical characteristic, an achievement, a personal quality, or a mind-set. Then share how it makes a difference in your life. You might say something like, “Renee, your intuition is always spot-on. Every time I honor your intuition, it saves me from so many headaches.”
Remember, acknowledge all the ways your partner contributes to the relationship: intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, socially, sexually, and/or financially. We want to become conscious of everything we are receiving and cultivate more of what is going well in our lives.
Praise can also be used as a mirror and a tool of accountability for when our spouse’s strengths have turned into weaknesses. When you need to criticize, frame the statement in a way that is supportive and productive. Remember how a strength (like passion) can become distorted through a high-pressure situation and show up as a weakness (like anger). So when you want to be critical and blame, take a moment to reframe the statement as praise: “I can tell you’re under a lot of pressure. You’re at your best when you’re creative and rested. Right now, this isn’t you. How can we shift you back into your strength?”
Have an open attitude toward what you try, and keep in mind that these are just general recipes. The key concept is that there should be more compliments than criticisms in your relationship.
Find your partner’s power phrase
Find your partner’s power phrase. When my superman, David, talks about losing his business in bankruptcy court, he mentions how it was my affirmations that kept him alive. I sent him emails and texts not only to validate him, but also to remind him of his ability, purpose, and greater vision. My love for David was for who he was, and I believed in him. I saw his genius and nurtured his inherent strengths rather than reacting in panic to the external chaos he was experiencing. I recognized how there were specific and deliberate phrases that resonated with him: “I’m behind you all the way.” “You’ve got this.” “If anyone can do it, you can.” Those platitudes sustained him in his darkest hours.
Discovering your own power phrase, as well as the power phrase of your partner, is crucial—but most people don’t know what words will help encourage them and they don’t know what their spouses need to hear. A person’s power phrase is directly tied to our deepest fears. Verbally speaking out against these silent fears helps remind us of a more empowering truth, and that keeps us out of our caves of insecurity.
What are your fears?
My deepest fear is that I’ll screw up my kids. The power phrase I need to hear is this: “The way you see and nurture your children as individuals is empowering them to create their own extraordinary lives.” I need to hear this from the person I am closest with, because it’s an affirmation of how I can choose to believe in my vision instead of my insecurities and fear.
Fear is a vulnerable space we enter. It is one that is deeply intimate, and one where we must practice our greatest compassion and trust. To find your partner’s power phrase, you must first discover his or her greatest insecurity and understand that this insecurity comes from fear. We can choose to support each other in the areas in which we are most vulnerable by speaking to our appreciation and cultivating steadfast belief, strength, and love.
I’ve worked with couples that, at the beginning of our coaching sessions, were not even aware of how much they were struggling. These couples were simply resigned to what their marriage had become and were going through the motions. When we began discussing their issues and these concepts behind praise, I watched as they took a moment to look at each other through a perspective of deep regard. With their relationships reinvigorated on the spot, it was like they were seeing each other on their first day of marriage.
To love someone means to see them– all of them. It means to see them as their brightest, most alive and active self. To see them at their most valuable and insecure self. When you love someone and you can see them at their most basic, human level, then you can appreciate what is more important to them. This is where love grows. This is how the bonds of a relationship strengthen.
Building habits for self improvement and SELF CARE is more effective if you start with a Domino Habit.
At my core, I believe we all KNOW what we should be doing to get the results we desire; less sugar, more income, less criticizing, more exercise…
So, while we KNOW what we should be doing, many of us struggle with the actual implementation.
For me, the thing I KNOW I should be doing, but rarely do it, is my personal outreach (cold calls) because it’s a path fully loaded with rejection.
However, once I put in a little effort for two or three days in a row, it consistently converts to massive opportunity. It’s like it works so well, I stop doing it.
Then, a month or two down the road, I have to start all over again. I have to conquer the negative self-talk about why I can’t just be consistent. And ramp up my confidence to protect myself from the rejection and dead-ends. I have to go back and figure out who I’ve already talked to and dig up more leads.
I KEEP HAVING TO GO BACK AND DO THE HARDEST PART ALL OVER AGAIN.
Where, if I would have just been consistent, I would have been past the hardest part and riding a wave of momentum, consistency, and ease.
Can you relate?
Maybe you’ve been on a weight-loss yo-yo. Or maybe your finances are constantly up and down. Maybe your relationship cycles are exhausting you.
Whatever it is for you, where do you find yourself consistently back at the starting gate?
What is ONE HABIT that will help keep you on the rails?
I call this the Domino Habit. The one where if I just do this ONE THING, it will keep me in motion. My Domino Habit is a Google Search. If I can get online and search up a list of individuals who would be a great client for me, I’m naturally going to reach out to them next. Starting with the easy habit (a google search) keeps me in motion to a bigger result (new clients).
If your struggle is intermittent fasting, maybe your Domino Habit is to start brushing your teeth every night at 7:00pm. If your challenge is exercise, maybe your Domino Habit is to get dressed to workout and walk out to end of the street.
Choosing ONE EASY ACTION to get you in motion will likely keep you in motion until your actions are HABITS. The beauty of habits is that it frees up brain space. We no longer have to DECIDE if we’re going to be great that day- we just are!!
Could it really be that easy? Could it REALLY just come down to the small things we consistently do?!!!!??
The following excerpt is from Kelly Clements’ book The Power of Play, Praise and Purpose. Get the FREE eBook below.
Time away from work is good, but it’s the power of play that truly rejuvenates and builds sustainability in marriage and business for entrepreneurial couples.
Yes! It’s time to talk about the fun stuff: PLAY! I’m super-passionate about play; in fact, I even have my degree in it! That’s right, I have a bachelor of science in recreation. My passion for play is evident in all areas of my life, especially in my coaching. I use the “power of play” to reconnect spouses to how and why they fell in love in the first place. When I’m coaching a group workshop or working with a new client, one of the first questions I ask is, “How did you meet and when did you know your partner was the one?” The answers are almost always rooted in play, and that gives me crucial insight into how to get the couple back to basics when challenges arise.
My favorite couple that illustrates this is Katie and Larry, whose marriage began to suffer when they stopped engaging in the passion and fun that had brought them together.
By trade, Katie is a designer and Larry is a builder. In lifestyle, these two couldn’t be more different from each other: think “heiress debutant” meets “rocker bad boy.” In a hundred years, I would never have paired up these two— until I first heard them talk about their dating days. Katie lit up when she remembered how much bigger her world became with Larry, who has a passion for racing cars. She was exposed to a new, tight-knit community in the racing world. She brought appetizers to share with the other wives and girlfriends at the racing events, and seeing Larry in his element made him even more attractive to her. Katie loved watching him in his race car, conquering his dreams.
The slow fade
The slow fade began a couple of years after the wedding. Katie stopped going out to Larry’s races and became reacquainted with her old hobbies of yoga and antiquing. In her mind, she was being supportive, because she was always encouraging Larry and never complained about his absence when he returned from a race weekend. Larry, on the other hand, was gutted. Races just weren’t the same without his girl cheering him on from the stands.
What was even more detrimental was that Katie stopped seeing Larry in that badass light she adored so much. Without watching her guy in his element, she only saw the “builder” version of Larry, who could seem angry, burnt-out, and tiresome. Katie had made a good move by pursuing her own passions, but where she and Larry both fell short was in the area of sharing in each other’s enjoyment; they had stopped playing together. When Katie sees Larry fully engaged and alive in his passion for racing cars, she remembers why she chose him as a partner. It is via play that our greatest strengths are revealed. Play diffuses unnecessary tension and reflects our highest connection in relationships. It helps to heal the damaged inner child that tends to cause so many problems in a love relationship.
Sometimes we stop playing altogether.
As entrepreneurs, we can become so enthralled with work that we stop playing altogether. We use excuses like, “my work is my hobby” or “I love work so much, it doesn’t feel like work!” When this mantra is adopted, entrepreneurial tendencies seep into the home—hence the lack of balance. You’ll know this has happened when you see these signs:
1) The spouse starts to feel like an employee. Spouses often share with me that they can feel more like an employee than a spouse. “He’s so good at delegating at the office, that he won’t do ANYTHING at home unless he wants to do it.” This comes across as disengagement at home AND it compounds the workload of the spouse—both of which prevent opportunities to play together.
2) The business gets the best of him while his spouse gets the rest of him. Coming home after a long day, severely depleted, on a constant basis robs the spouse of the emotional connection she craves to create and sustain a powerful love relationship.
3) All of the family’s travel plans revolve around business trips and conferences. This can lead the spouse to stop dreaming for herself, because she gets the sense it’s just her job to keep up with the inertia of the business.
For all of these tendencies, we look to an “f-word” for relief: “flow.”
Flow and Play are Equal Opportunity Restorers
If you live with an entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard the term “flow” or “flow state” before. These terms refer to the zone that entrepreneurs get into when they are working in the sweet spot of their business. It’s in “the zone” where time stands still and everything else seems to fade away. During flow states, superior breakthroughs “flow” through the business owner with very little effort and yield extraordinary results. Concepts of time and space disappear and a euphoric mental state is achieved.
In his book The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, author, journalist, and entrepreneur Steven Kotler has written about the neurochemical changes during flow states that strengthen motivation, creativity, and learning. “The brain produces a giant cascade of neurochemistry. You get norepinephrine, dopamine, anandamide, serotonin, and endorphins. All five of these are performance-enhancing neurochemicals,” said Kotler in the publication “Big Think.” Each of these amplifies intellectual and cognitive performance.
Basically, we’re talking about a euphoric cocktail of fulfillment and productivity. This is precisely the reason entrepreneurs have such a hard time disconnecting from their work. Work is where they get their fix. Achieving flow can be addictive for all the right reasons. However, that hit of flow often results in addiction, just like any other drug. We call this addiction “workaholism.”
Entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones who experience flow.
Entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones who experience flow. Artists and athletes achieve flow states as well. Do you see a common thread here? Dancers, musicians, artists, basketball players, football players, etc.—they are out playing for a living, and they are the ones who most often experience flow. To help balance the work-life scales, your best strategy is to incorporate the same sense of euphoria into your personal life. This is best achieved through play. When you consider play, the goal is to achieve “carefree timelessness”— a state in which you lose track of time and the distracting roles and responsibilities of your day-to-day life. In play, you reconnect with your partner and engage in pleasurable activities that you both enjoy. This puts you into a shared zone of euphoria together and fosters a healthy environment to build sustainable and growing love.
For spouses, this can seem like a pipe dream. The good news is, you’re about to learn the delegation strategies successful entrepreneurs use to grow their business, and use them to grow in your life. You’ll need to shed the activities that drain you to make room for ones that will help you achieve flow. In order to make room for the life you’ll love, you’ll need to let go of the things that no longer serve you.
Start focusing on doing more of the activities you enjoy and fewer of the activities that exhaust and deplete you.
Start focusing on doing more of the activities you enjoy and fewer of the activities that exhaust and deplete you. Make a list all the things you are responsible for on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. What are the activities on your list that you absolutely dread? How about the things that you simply tolerate because no one else will do them? As those activities come to mind, I want you to figure out how to get rid of them. This can mean assigning them to someone else or deleting them entirely from your calendar.
As you consider these activities, be careful of the tendency to “should” on yourself. Often, when it comes time for spouses to delegate, a degree of guilt takes over. “My partner works so hard in the business, I really should be available to do more of this tedious stuff.” Maybe, but my experience as a business consultant and coach tells me that entrepreneurs are better served by a happy, fulfilled spouse than one who is burnt out and trying to give from the proverbial “empty cup.” More important, the spouse has the opportunity to discover the line between support and self-care. Clearing some draining activities from your agenda creates space for you to pursue more engaging, fulfilling activities. This is precisely where you will create time and energy for more play with your partner.
I encourage you to think of your play life as a threelegged race. You and your partner should have one or two personal hobbies that you enjoy separately, but the majority of your recreational time should be spent together. Maybe that involves taking turns participating in each other’s hobbies, or perhaps it means finding a shared interest you both enjoy. For men, in particular, it’s incredibly important to spend recreational time together. In fact, many men would rank recreation second only to sex when they define their ideal relationship.
Prep, Play, Produce: The Rhythm of Work and Play
As entrepreneurs, we are uniquely positioned to maximize play by enjoying the freedom our entrepreneurial path provides. Remember, we work extra hard, so we have to play extra hard to replenish energy spent on the business. It’s time to get back to the reason you chose this crazy path and start cashing in on personal enjoyment. Your free leisure time is a depreciating asset. The longer you wait to cash in, the less enjoyable it is. Use it now, while your kids are young; they’ll cherish the memories long after you’re gone. Use it now, while your spouse still craves time with you; she’ll appreciate you even more. Use it now, while your mind and body are healthy and able; it’ll keep both active and vigorous.
Just like we need systems, processes, and procedures in our business, we require them for our play as well. I suggest implementing a preparation strategy to ensure you keep play as a priority. Preparing for play will maximize your play and ensure you are enjoying high-quality free time with your spouse.
Taking care of logistics
During this time, you’ll ensure all the necessary logistics are taken care of. When preparing for play days, think of everything you will need: Childcare? Carpool assistance? Reservations? Equipment rental? Special clothing? Spend prep days getting everything ready to pull off play so you won’t get bogged down in the mechanics on the play day. On the actual play day, you should aim to wake up in a state of carefree timelessness, confident that all the details have been addressed so you can take life at your own pace. This day is exclusively devoted to enjoyment. Perhaps it’s a leisurely morning before an afternoon hike. Or maybe it’s an early spin class before an afternoon of antiquing. The activity is irrelevant; the goal is shared enjoyment.
Don’t forget about pace
One crucial conversation to have as a couple concerning play days is a discussion about pace. Play days can mean many things to many people, but they tend to go off the rails when individuals have different opinions on the pace of the day. Some crave a calm, leisurely pace with no set agenda. Others crave high-octane, sensory-rich experiences. Neither is right or wrong, but the couple should make sure the expectation is set beforehand. If you and your partner have opposing views, take turns experiencing each other’s preference. Avoid the costly mistake of spending too much free time separately. Remember, the key to having a deeper connection and more to talk about is experiencing life with and through one another. Embracing your differences as an asset will deepen your connection and your own personal development.
Play in Action
The frequency of play in our life boils down to the frequency of play in each day. Every day, regardless of the type of day it is, should have some element of play in it. The following snapshot will help set a gauge for how to integrate more play into your life. You can find a Path to Play Planner here.
Each day, when both the entrepreneur and spouse first get home, connecting with each other for fifteen seconds can change the game. Yes, seconds. That’s all it takes. If you want to be really specific, start that interlude with a six-second hug. Research has shown that it only takes six seconds of an embrace to release oxytocin, the love hormone. You’ve both had long, hard days and when these two worlds collide, it can make for some tense moments. As soon as your partner walks in the door, you’ll need a pattern interrupt, a break from the routine with something new. As soon as you or she walks through the door, seek one another. It takes fifteen seconds to stand face-to-face, kiss, assess each other’s emotion, and realign as a united front. A devoted fifteen seconds each day after work will start to change the tone of your relationship. Bonus points if you a glass of wine or take a walk together every day!
Weekly: Date night. Every week. Every. Single. Week.
Even when you don’t like each other, and especially when you don’t feel like it. My personal trainer’s voice haunts me in these moments. Every time I’m tired and don’t feel like doing another rep, she gently reminds me, “This is where we make our changes.” She’s right. The exact moment you lose the desire or the perceived need for date night is the same moment you need to double down on your dates. Those moments are the gateway to either a more powerful relationship, or a further disconnect. The power is in the play.
My colleagues in Massachusetts, Drs. Stephen and Camilla Franson, have an awesome strategy for this. Upon noticing that conversations about kids and logistics were dominating their date-nights, they implemented “Coffee Breaks.” Coffee Breaks are weekly meetings they have with each other, typically on a Sunday, about managing logistics. Each week, they get out their calendars: work, school, appointments, extra-curricular activities, and they consolidate. They spend a power hour aligning their views on the week ahead, and deciding who needs to be where, when. They also use this time to clean up any messes in their own relationship. Dedicating time to being organized clears the way for them to focus on happier pursuits on their weekly date night.
Monthly: Hotel date night.
This will quickly become one of your favorite nights! Let’s face it; hotel sex is the best sex! It’s a chance to focus exclusively on this crucial piece of our marriage. It’s an unbridled opportunity to pay attention to each other without the threat of waking the kids or trying to turn a blind eye to the laundry hanging over that chair in the bedroom. It removes the excuse of needing to do dishes or pay bills that our households so conveniently present.
There’s also something about the effort and foresight that goes into hotel date night. Spending time packing and preparing for a night away offers us a chance to spice things up by including items that may not otherwise appear in our repertoire. Additionally, getting out of the house together at least once a month offers major leverage in avoiding, or escaping, ruts. It’s a pattern interrupt of the status quo. It’s a golden opportunity to be cared for as a couple, order room service, book a spa appointment together, and have someone else make the beds. This ritual will unleash some of your most playful indulgences!
Quarterly: Weekend getaway.
For the same reasons listed above, a weekend getaway four times a year presents a unique opportunity to grow deeper as a couple. Getting out of our community and visiting other places helps us to keep things in perspective. It adds dimension and richness that other pursuits just don’t deliver. Travel, when done right, changes us. What a gift it is to share those unique experiences with each other!
Annual: Full-week getaway.
If you have young kids, this can be challenging. In fact, lack of childcare is the biggest obstacle most couples face in executing on this crucial task—or in spending any time alone together, for that matter. Ensuring your kids are not only cared for, but also entertained, will allow these experiences to be even more enjoyable. Consider asking another family to swap weeks with you so you can take turns getting away. Or find an overnight camp that will ensure the kids don’t even know you’re gone.
Once we get back to that carefree place of enjoying each other, we can see each other’s strengths again. Through play, we get back to where we can see our spouse’s qualities as strengths and recognize the things that we appreciate in him or her. That way, we can have more of those good, healthy feelings and qualities, as opposed to the logistics and obligations that can stifle a relationship. Couples that play together, stay together. Play well, and play often!
Tickets are booked, shopping is done, and bags are packed! So much planning and prep has gone into this- the only thing left to do is have fun, make memories, and reconnect with loved ones.
You finally get to your destination and everything is accounted for. Except for your partner’s head; it’s back at the office- again.
For most entrepreneurial couples, this is a common point of contention.
“Just once! We just wanted your undivided attention for just one week!”
Trouble in paradise.
Below are a few helpful tips to ensure everyone maximizes the power of family vacation:
1) SHARE EXPECTATIONS
‘Trep: Honey, I have three business calls I need to take while we’re away. They’re scheduled at these times…
Partner: Babe, there are a few times this week we’ll need your undivided attention for scheduled activities. Can you please make sure you’ve planned accordingly to have your phone off during these times?
2) DON’T ASSIGN MEANING TO UNEXPECTED CALLS
‘Trep: avoid the impulse to defend taking a call with “you never appreciate how much I have to work to make all this possible”.
Partner: avoid using this as another opportunity to prove that the business is clearly more important than family.
Let it be what it is. A call. After the call, a kind gesture from each of you will unhinge the other from the impending battle positions you may have both assumed.
‘Trep: is it really necessary that you engage in work while away? Or do you just enjoy being needed/engaged/ challenged? A total disconnect provides exponential value in your business and your personal life. Don’t underestimate the power of letting your team handle it- everyone will thank you.
Partner: is it totally crucial that no work activity takes place? Or do you just feel a little lost when they they get caught up in work? Taking advantage of some personal time while on vacay gives you an equal opportunity for a total disconnect- and what’s that worth?!??
I hope these simple but game-changing tips help you have the best vacation yet!
These are the common responses I hear when I’m working with spouses of entrepreneurs.
It’s how I felt in my relationship; a fragment of my full self. Sacrificed in the name of being a “supportive partner”.
Except I could support no one because I was in desperate need of someone to fill my own bucket.
Enter resentment, disappointment, and the realization that if this could happen to me, it could happen to anyone.
I am a strong, ambitious, independent woman. How did I get so lost?
I know this stuff. I COACH this stuff. How could I let things get so far off the rails?
Because love. And life. And sacrificing self care in the name of support.
Self care is more than a weekly yoga class. It’s more than massages, manicures, or martinis with the girls.
Self care is a deep understanding of what we need to show up as our full, most empowered self.
You need to know what it takes for you to be at your best so that you can be of any value to others.
You want to live a life fully charged so that you’re activating those around you to show up as their best.
This is simple, but it’s not easy. In entrepreneurial couples, if purpose isn’t shared, it can divide. Let me help you find your purpose and to understand what you need to show up as your full, most empowered self.
When I tell people that I work with spouses of entrepreneurs and high performers, they always respond with: “that’s a thing? Why do they need coaches; seems like they would have a pretty nice life.”
They do! A lot of spouses enjoy a great life. But a lot of them also feel a certain degree of Purpose Envy.
Purpose Envy is a thing
Purpose Envy can set in when you share a life with someone who is incredibly driven and committed to serving a higher purpose. Waking up next to someone who leaps into their day with vigor and leaves the house every morning ready to change the world can leave the spouse feeling confronted with a void in his or her own life. It can feel deflating to not have a similar point of connection as it relates to one’s own passion.
The value of using a coach to navigate this territory is to reduce the anxiety and potential for conflict when discussing this with the purpose-driven spouse.
Often, the purpose-driven spouse will offer advise, solutions, or ideas on how to “monetize” their purpose-seeking spouse’s interests or talents. And I’m not saying that’s wrong or bad, but that can cause even more overwhelm for the seeking spouse who may need to start in his or her own personal space.
If you are the purpose-driven spouse looking for advice on how to support a purpose-seeking spouse, my best advice is to LISTEN. Effective questions that help move the conversation forward are questions like:
“What do you need from me?”
“How can I best support you?”
“What’s the difference you want to make in the world?”
“When your friends call you for advice, what are they asking you about?”
“What are you doing when you lose track of time?”
Then, as he or she starts to respond, keep asking “what else?” This is the unraveling that will help them sift and sort through their thoughts and ideas.
You are not alone.
If you are the purpose-seeking spouse looking for direction, first, know that you are not alone. It’s okay to feel a personal void- even in the middle of a really big life. It is normal to want more- even if you already have it all. It’s totally understandable to feel disconnected from yourself when you have had so much attention on your partner and their pursuits.
And, if you’re feeling like there has to be more- THAT’S the invitation. That’s the indicator that something more is waiting for you. And there IS room for your passion and the pursuit of your purpose in an already big life.
Some useful exercises for you are to dabble. Yes, it’s going to look unproductive and a little haphazard, but it’s also a great way to figure out what you’re into and what you’re not. It’s also a great way to get into ACTION! Nothing gets us to our purpose like momentum, so get into action toward something (ANYTHING) that brings you joy. That’s generally the fastest path to purpose!
So start saying “No, thanks” to the activities that don’t excite you, and “YES!” to the activities that intrigue you.
Women’s History Month: Honoring Women Who Accept Help
Many times I hear entrepreneur spouses talk about the invisible workload of women. I received an email this morning that sounded so familiar.
With permission, I’m sharing her story for validation that it’s okay to accept help. More help. All the help you need to live the life you’re capable of.
*** Kelly, it was so wonderful to meet you in Laguna Beach. I truly meant it when I said, I could leave after your session and feel completed.
I have felt for a while that God was calling me to share more on our marriage and how we have made it work for almost 25 years now.
It takes a lot of hands to lead a big life, and accepting more help is the first step to truly stepping into your power:
One quick story of our marriage that changed my life and the way “I” viewed myself and our marriage.
My husband and I met through the industry (I was his sales gal) and after marriage I immediately started working in his business and we became partners on many levels.
At the time of this story, we had 3 little ones at the time – ages 7, 5, 2.
It was a Friday night and I had worked so many hours that week on a huge annual project. I picked up the two older kids at Montessori and the youngest was at home with our part time Nanny. After I relieved her, I made dinner and went to the laundry room and started sorting the huge piles of laundry. I felt overwhelmed and did not have enough hours in my day to do it all – and I was superwoman and MUST DO IT ALL.
No time to just sit around anymore!
My husband entered the laundry room as I sat there in the middle of piles of dirty clothes and he asked if I was going to come up and watch a movie with him and the kids as he missed the times of us just sitting together. I snapped and said I miss those times too…. But we got married, had kids, work countless hours at growing our business …. There is no time to just sit around anymore and this laundry is certainly not going to do itself so you head on up and relax and I will stay down here and do the laundry.
He stood there and looked at me with such sadness and said… I am so sorry you are this unhappy with our life. I snapped again and said what do you mean unhappy we have everything (healthy kids, nice home, growing business). His response was you certainly do not sound happy or look happy.
“It’s your choice…”
He proceeded to say in a stern but loving voice. I have asked you many times to get more help at the house but you refuse and want to do everything yourself. It is YOUR choice to stay down here tonight by yourself and do the laundry. I am opening up a nice bottle of wine and pouring two glasses. It is my hope that you take a moment to think about this and you will leave this laundry and come upstairs and have a glass of wine with me, cuddle with the kids and be together as a family. When today ends, we will never get it back and I hope you will remember this day as a day that ended happy and not angry in the laundry room.
He left and I felt like I had been hit right in the heart. The problem was ME and he called me out. As he walked away, I knew I had to change. Thankfully I went up and had that wine, snuggled with the kids and will always remember that day as a life changing day in realizing that it is ok to ask for help and that it was not a sign of weakness.
Marriage is not always easy
Marriage is not always easy, it is not always fun, it is not always what you thought or hoped it would be. But for us…. We WORK at it, and sometimes the work is fun and sometimes the work is hard. I think it was you that mentioned the three-legged race…. It was so ironic as years ago in a Bible Study I refereed to our marriage as a three-legged race…. Me one leg, my husband the other leg and God as the middle leg that keeps the others in sync. I give God all the glory for our marriage….
Ladies, you DON’T have to be, do, and have it all. The last thing we need is more exhausted, depleted, overworked women.