Here is a truth we all instinctively know, but probably don’t consider enough:
Whatever becomes habitual in our lives and relationships has momentum.
Momentum is mass times velocity. The bigger something is and the faster it’s moving, the harder it is to stop. Obviously, this can work for us or against us. Momentum has the power to help us achieve the life and relationships we want and keep us on track, but it also has the ability to prevent us from accomplishing what we set out to do.
The way we harness the power of momentum in our lives all depends on the habits we establish.
If we’re honest, most of us have relational habits that need to change. Perhaps we have participated in a pattern of disrespectful arguments, passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive communication styles, or even abuse. Maybe we’ve apologized and done our best to clean up our mess, but we haven’t yet succeeded in replacing our old relational habits with new ones.
In my experience and observation, changing and building momentum around new relational habits requires three key ingredients:
One time, our family drove to Disney World. It was a long drive, and especially tough on the kids, for whom hours seemed like days. But the thought of how much fun our family would have once we arrived kept us going.
This is what a clear vision does. Vision is that pleasant picture we have in our minds of what things could look like at some point in the future. It gives us hope for a better tomorrow, even when today is not looking exactly like we want it to. It gives us the motivation to keep pushing through even when we are tempted to stop.
Creating your relational vision starts by asking yourself a few questions. If you could snap your fingers and change your most important relationship, how would you relate to each other? How would you feel around that person? What would it be like to not have the same old argument? To not feel rejected, shamed, scared or disconnected anymore, but instead to feel loved, valued, safe, and connected?
Your relational vision will gain even greater clarity as you seek out the steps and tools required to reach it. For example, in my marriage we have a vision for healthy communication, a safe place for each of us to show up in the relationship and be who God made us to be all while having a strong connection and modeling this for our kids. One of the tools that helped us clarify what healthy communication actually looks like was Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. Once I knew my wife’s love language, I was able to build a vision for learning to speak to her in the way that she best “heard” love.
As a young boy, I went to a summer camp where one of my favorite activities was archery. The goal was to hit the red center of the bullseye with the arrow. To do this, it was vital that I took careful aim and focused all of my attention on what I was doing. I had to stop looking at everything around me and fix my gaze straight ahead at the center of the target to give myself the best chance to hit it.
Focus is all about managing our “yes” and our “no.” It’s easy to forget that every habit in our lives begins because we choose to focus on certain things over others. We make choices that involve priorities. When something has priority in our life it is going to get the best of our time, energy, and resources.
Part of the vision for our family is to have strong relational connections. As a result, we prioritize our time together at the dinner table because spending quality time in conversation around a meal helps make our vision a reality. Saying “yes” to spending quality time together as a family at dinner means we have said “no” to having devices interrupting and distracting from that time.
When we choose to focus our “yes” on the actions we committed to in our vision, we begin to create the momentum necessary to reach our goals.
If vision points me in the right direction, and focus directs my effort toward the right priorities, then consistent action keeps me moving forward until I build powerful momentum toward my goals. Consistency is the art of holding on to your vision and focus as you take steps toward them.
The challenge in practicing consistency is that this is where our new momentum runs into our old momentum. This is where we discover just how tempting it can be to revert back to our old, familiar tools and behavior patterns. This is where our “yes” and “no” are tested.
One of my wife’s Love Languages is quality time. I knew this and wanted to spend time with her, but I noticed that my habits of coming home from work and doing other things with the kids or some project at the house won out most of the time. Finally, I began to see that my habit of ignoring her need to spend time together was fueling disconnection in our relationship. I decided to make it a priority, and committed to spending quality time with her every day. It was definitely an adjustment at first—I had to actively say no to some of the things I used to do. But eventually, consistency in my choice began to gain momentum. Now, spending quality time with her is something I do every day without thinking. It’s a habit in our relationship, and it is fueling our connection.
I realize that reversing course in our relationships can be difficult, especially if you have years of practice using tools that damage the connection. However, you are not alone! As you commit to finding and mastering the tools to build healthy relationships, ask the Lord to help you. Remember that you can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you.
If your relationships are not headed in the direction you want to go, I challenge you to change your course. Renew your vision, focus your effort on the right tools, and be consistent in your actions until you create the momentum you need to thrive in your most important relationships.
P.S. We had an amazing time with Charles and everyone who joined us for our first Loving on Purpose Summit in Dallas, TX. Our next one is coming up in Washington, DC in less than a month! Join us April 12-14!