Be realistic


Dan Seaborn 

I want to address an idea that most of us probably have hidden away somewhere in the back of our minds. We think (or wish) that once we get things situated exactly right, we can create a situation where we and our family will finally have things set up just right and be able to kick back and relax. If we could just address the obstacles holding us back, we could finally experience the dream day, or dream life or dream world. We could go through our day with no issues because we’d have finally addressed all of them. As we all know, that’s not reality.  

Whatever the issue or issues that you think of as the thing that’s holding you back from perfect peace and happiness, I just want to let you know that it’s not that simple. If it was, then the person with your target amount of money or who had your ideal position would be living the high life right now with no problems. We see what people experience when they achieve those things over and over and over. Watch an interview with your favorite athlete, musician or businessperson. Sure, their lives have highlights that ours don’t have, but you still see them all wrestling with the daily challenges of life.  

Of course, accomplishing or having the things we dream of would bring us some joy in the moment, but it wouldn’t be lasting. We don’t find joy and happiness; we cultivate those things, even in the middle of less than ideal circumstances. We know that cars and houses break down and lose their luster, relationships experience challenges and friction and jobs and acclaim come with stress and the need to keep performing.  

Here in West Michigan, it’s typical for people to be hesitant to share any of the difficulties that they’re going through. It’s part of the local culture to force a smile and work hard to figure out whatever we’re facing and make sure that nobody knows what kind of turmoil we might be experiencing behind closed doors or in our minds. Instead of taking that approach, I tend to be pretty open about what’s going on in my life and my family life. I want to encourage you and let you know that if your home and family look like mine, it is completely normal to have conflict and tension and disagreements over things that you wish you could get on the same page about. 

Recently, I was talking to somebody who was in tears about the issues he’s dealing with in his family. He was frustrated, disappointed and overwhelmed with how things were going. And I said, “First of all, let me tell you that what you’re going through is normal.” Maybe that doesn’t sound a lot like encouragement at first glance, but when you’re in the middle of it like he was, it brings a lot of relief and hope. It helps you realize that your family isn’t “broken” in some way that only you are facing. Instead, you can see that going through tough stuff is just part of life and that being realistic about that helps you be prepared when you run into those issues. Counterintuitively, when you’re realistic and expect some challenges in family life, you’ll be winning more often at home.