Sometimes it feels like a midlife crisis, but it may just be a lack of a sense of direction. Specifically when it comes to setting and attaining goals. Lacking a sense of direction makes it hard to determine what our goals should even be.
Determining goals can start with broad categories: Fitness, Finances, Faith, Self-improvement, and Relationships.
One cannot make credible goals by using such generalities. ”Losing weight” is not a goal. “Getting control of my finances” is not a goal. “Be a better husband” is not a goal. They are great ideas to shoot for, but on a daily basis, how does one check off, “Was a better husband”?
You can’t. You might feel like today was a win in that department, but you won’t see actual growth in these things unless you determine the actions that will net you that goal. It is these actionable items that one does each day in the pursuit of becoming a better man that help us meet the broader goals.
How Do I Figure Out a Specific Goal?
So what does it take to be a better husband? Sometimes we just know. It could be as easy as asking yourself, “Okay, so I want to be a better husband. Why am I not already a great husband?” The things that come to mind could give you fodder for actionable goals. If you interrupt your wife, your daily goal could be as simple as, “Today, I will not interrupt my wife.” If you put her down, you make the opposite of that your daily goal. Not just “Don’t put her down,” but “build her up” or “compliment her.”
At other times it takes a—possibly difficult—conversation with one’s wife. That’s what I needed to do. Don’t get me wrong. I had no illusions of “How much better can I get? I’m pretty awesome right now as it is.” If I wanted to determine actionable relationship goals, then it would make sense to seek counsel from the other person in the relationship.
One of the big complaints that my wife has had over the last 10 years is the time I get home from work. That one kind of fell on deaf ears. After all, the job gets done when the job gets done, right?
If I were completely forthcoming, I had gotten into a rut of staying late. Somewhere along the line, my life story included the lie that “a good leader is the first to show and the last to go.” Plus the hard workers always stay the latest. Right?
Recently, I’ve found the answer to that question is, “Wrong.” As a teacher, my 9 to 5 is actually a 7:30 to 3:30. Even though 3:30 meets my contract obligation, the grading, lesson planning, and other responsibilities can continue well past that. It was easy to grade one more set of papers, research one more upcoming concept, Google one more science experiment. Next thing I knew, I was rolling out of school after 6:30.
Her question was always, “If dismissal is at 3:00, why are you always home so late?” I always had “good” reasons. Then one day she asked, “How late does everyone else stay?” And I couldn’t answer her. They were always gone before I was.
In pursuit of this actionable goal to improve our relationship, I’ve started looking at ways of getting home earlier, and even trying to be the first one of us home at night so she can come into a house where the dogs are fed, the lights are on, and dinner has been started.
She’s been asking for this for years, and it is now my goal to make this happen daily. “Be home before 5pm every day.” Now THAT is an actionable item.
Communication: You Are on the Same Team
Another concern she has communicated is her feeling that we are living as separate individuals. Roommates under the same roof rather than a married couple with joint goals and dreams. We needed to be on the same page in more aspects of our lives than just having compatible personalities and common interests.
In exploring this with her, I discovered my other actionable item is the idea of having a “checking in” time each evening. This fits nicely into my own personal growth goal of setting aside time each evening to check my calendar, update my to-do list, and plan the coming day. This doesn’t require a set time for us to “have a meeting.” We’ve tried that kind of thing before and it seemed like our subconscious mind rebelled against the idea of one more thing to do each day. So this could consist of me asking her if there is anything she needs me to do tomorrow (and place it on my to-do list) or if there is anything on the calendar that we need to coordinate. We could do this sitting at the table or just by me asking her as she is coming through from another room. But it goes down as “checking in” and she appreciates it. Plus it’s actionable. Now, I have done a couple of things that she has communicated I can put into my much broader goal of “Be a better husband.”
It Can Take Two, but It Must Take You
Admittedly, these kinds of goals require two people. There may be a sense of one’s doing this all by himself, but as men, we own responsibility for our own actions. It would be easy to pass the blame for our frustrations off on our wives, but doing the actionable items for improvements in a relationship or in the quest to be a better husband will have it’s intended effect with or without her cooperation. You will improve your relationship, which is your responsibility in this scenario. And you will be a better husband.
What actionable items can you employ in pursuit of the broad goal of “being a better husband”?