How strategy saves me; and my marriage
So a couple of people asked me after my Insta story from yesterday what ‘competitive gratituding’ meant. Because who doesn’t to be in on ‘the next big thing’?
Is it a thing?
I don’t know. Here’s what it is. You decide.
At the end of last year, I came across this thing called a ‘Gratitude Jar’. It’s an idea that’s been around in a couple of forms. In the jar avatar, Oprah validated with a beautiful jar with sumptuous little notes to go with it. That’s when it mainstreamed. That’s when I found it. #Basic #PumpkinSpiceLatte
The idea, if you don’t know it, is that you write on a little sheet of paper something that you are grateful for and drop it into a jar. It’s open-ended, so no need to force manufacture a fixed number each day, which takes the pressure off, and keeps people more likely to stick with it I guess. Over a period of time maybe it grows into a pile. Let’s say at the end of the year, you can open them up, read them and remember the good moments. Kinda like twice the gratitude. Once when you feel it. And once when you feel it again on NYE or an alternative significant date.
I was into it. I told my husband and he was game, so I did tons of research. (As I do – it really is one of my favourite things to do. Getting context to empower the brain to do its fireworks thing.) We decided to ditch the ceremonial vessel and go with a trusty mason jar and some sticky notes.
This was an especially significant move for us because we’ve each been carrying a ton of baggage over the last 5 years or so with adjusting to parenthood, moving continents, being symbolically out in the cold (pun intended) – with no jobs, no clue… Then each of us losing our dad within a year of each other… finding our way through all of that and massively up-leveling our lives… all while raising a challenging but completely ardorbs daughter.
It has been a bitch.
And that takes a toll on relationships. In my case multiple ones, but this story is limited to my relationship with my husband…
Things have been functional if tense between us for too long to fully comprehend. And in the last little while it had gotten to tense and critical (or quiet and judgy – depending on whose perspective you looked at it from.) It all came to a bit of a head over the cold, brutal Christmas holidays here in Canada. There were catalysts that made the implosion an explosion but some type of blast was where it was all headed anyway. And we got there.
But we recover quick when we know what we want, my husband and I. After the moping and finger pointing and guilt-anger-shame-repeat (me; and him his process), we went to goal mode.
I’m really good at setting goals and priorities – the why and the what, and M is fantastic at the how, and the how to make it better, and how to make it cost half, and how to make it twice as easy to use. ‘We do it at work all day, we’ll do it at home’, we said. And that’s when a friend told us about their year-end life goal setting as a family. And I found Oprah’s pretty jars-of-awesomeness. And our therapists had helped us with all kinds of clarity of where we were each heading. Much impetus.
So into the mason jar we dived.
We made ourselves a #LifeGoals presentation. Yes, an actual fucking presentation. I laid it out on Canva and everything. We put everything in it.
We started with something my business coach taught me. The power of looking back at the good things. We listed off some good things that happened to us in 2017. From which we made a plan for ourselves that documented EVERYTHING we wanted in 2018. How much we were going to travel and how we were going to fund it. A full plan for my business for the year (which I’d already been working on but fucking blazed through to finish. Because apparently when we’re fighting and in high-stress mode, apparently we deal best by working our asses off – adrenalin junkies the both of us). What we wanted for our child. What relationships we wanted to nurture (outside of each other). What things we wanted to be doing with our spare time – together and by ourselves. What music we wanted to listen to. How we wanted to manage our finances.
Decluttering. Communication. Health. Parenting. Technology. Space. Peace.
We discussed it all. And we documented it.
A new strategy for our lives. Because ours was nearly 15 years old. With barely a few upgrades over the years.
Will we get it all done? I don’t know. But we know where we’re going, and I gotta say the relationship -problem symptoms are fading just a tiny bit as we go. And we plan to keep at it.
That’s partly where my reinvigorated need to focus on strategy in all aspects of life comes from. You’ll see that in a lot of my material current and upcoming. It’s how strategy saved my life and my marriage…
Anyway, that’s the backdrop that the mason-jar-of-hope came into.
We started with a note each. We hit a few obstacles in the implementation of our life strategy 😄 The notes got thin on the ground. Like realllly thin. Did I say thin?
It felt fake. Scratching around for stuff to be grateful for when there was so much larger shit happening that we weren’t grateful about. But we plodded on. (We’re good at that too, M and I. “Head down, keep at it. There’s light on the other side of this mountain. There’s got to be.”)
More recently, I noticed the notes had become more abundant. I wasn’t putting any in, and my daughter doesn’t write with any consistency. She’s 6. And she certainly doesn’t sharp-fold the note in, away from my prying eyes. You know who might be able to do that? My origami-ninja husband.
My interest was piqued. We talk a whole lot more now, but this one seemed fun to leave undiscussed. I’ve hovered around that jar a few times the past week since I noticed the lack of famine in the mason-jar-of-abundance.
Then I added a note. I can swear the pile’s got bigger again. He prob noticed my sloppy non-origami-folded addition and upped his gratitude game.
And all of today I’ve been circling around my gratitude wondering which of several options I have in mind I should add to the jar to make it most meaningful. Isn’t that an awesome sorta place to be in for a day?
Now I’m sure this won’t last long. I’ve already killed it by outing the little ‘secret’. But I get happiness out of telling the story. I smiled twice. And good grief, do we all need smiles.
What it has done though is shown us how far we’ve come. That when you have a strategy, you’ve considered things like crisis. You’ll need to bring in experts to deal with crisis as needed, but you’ll stay on track. I’ve done crisis management before for work, we can do it now for life.
So, from a place of deep dark hopelessness, we’ve come to a place of amused and mildly competitive hope. That’s the power of thinking.
Get powerful advice, delve into your successes, really be clear about why you’re doing what you’re doing. And do it. And make sure to check in and adjust and validate that your actions are serving your goals.
It works for content.
It works for relationships.
It works for life.
(M doesn’t know I’m writing this. He’ll see. And he won’t care. He knows my writing is my own and I’ll never put him into my stories for anything other than humour and positivity. But he is a deeply personal person. So if you see him in the street, maybe don’t walk up to him and launch into discussions of marital troubles. Talk about the strategy, maybe. And how to make it come alive. He loves that shit.)