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Talk is Cheap: 8 ways healthy couples set the example for their children

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I remember my dad used to tell us, “Talk is cheap, but it costs money to buy land.” I’m sure I was too young to initially comprehend what my dad meant, but as I got older, I responded, “well duh. That’s obvious.” Of course that response was under my breath… ten minutes after he walked away, but it was my response nonetheless.

So why did he feel the need to regurgitate such an obvious analogy? It’s simple. Regardless of how pure our intentions were, our actions did not align with what we said we were going to do. Furthermore, our actions did not align with what we knew we should do. Yep, we talked a good game, but we did not set the example with our actions.

What’s even more interesting is though our parents repetitively reminded us to set the example through our actions, I still often find myself selling some of that “cheap talk” without applying any action. If you’re honest, you probably do it too. If that’s you, just keep reading and we’ll dive into some practical advice I have to help you set the example for your children.

Here’s what triggered my thoughts.

I posted this on Twitter a few days ago:

"😘 'I love you.': what my wife feels/hears daily before I leave. Sometimes, a little infiltrator peeks in and yells at me if she doesn't feel/hear the same. 🥴 Reminder: our children are learning from our actions and inaction. Take heed and use that to your advantage."
Originally posted on my Twitter account on August 12, 2022

I was so proud of myself! “You’re setting a great example brotha,” I told myself. That’s when my own reminder smacked me. I asked myself, “do you truly ‘take heed’ and set the example daily?” Well, the obvious answer was, “no.” There I was selling that cheap talk again. Only this time, I decided to make a list of ways I could set the example. Here’s that list of eight ways healthy couples can set the example daily for their children:

Eight ways healthy couples can set the example.

1. Affection.

“I don’t want my children–especially my daughters–trying to copy us with their friends!” That was my fear when it came to being affectionate in front of my children. Seems rational right? Maybe not. Either way, that was my excuse. I know I’m not the only one.

Trust me, I understand. However, this is one of the best examples we can set for our children. Showing affection to your significant other is demonstrating that you care. You are creating a physical and emotional safe place for him or her. Affection is the outward expression of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual connection, and it gives the receiver a feeling of adoration. To deprive your children of this example is to allow them to inaccurately develop their own understanding of how love is outwardly expressed based upon societal norms. This is the first and arguably the most important example of all.

2. Respect.

What you want, baby, I got it
What you need, do you know I got it?
All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you get home

Man, Aretha Franklin rocked that song! Of course this song came out loooong before I was born, but it has always been one of my favorites. I mean, really… who doesn’t like a little respect?!

Respect is easy to define but hard to demonstrate because it often has a negative connotation. Somehow, we have managed to create the illusion that to respect someone is to become inferior to them. Instead, to respect someone is to value their words, opinions, and contributions regardless of the circumstance. It is to admire them for who they are and how much they mean to you.

So lay it on thick! Look your significant other in the eyes and tell them, “I want to know what you think before I make this decision.” Tell them, “Thank you so much for what you do for our home.” Speak very highly of your significant other… especially in front of others. Public praise goes a long way! Give genuine compliments without expecting anything in return. Say things we learned in elementary like, “please” and “thank you.” Last but not least, find out how your significant other wants to be respected and do that!

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me

3. Organization skills.

I am a huge advocate for being organized. My wife and I try to do simple things like keep our room clean and orderly to teach the children how to take pride in and ownership of their belongings. However, my favorite thing we do is keep a joint scheduler. We try to put everything on the schedule from birthdays to bill dates to girls’ night out. Why? Because it allows us to plan ahead. It is a simple way to demonstrate a life lesson that our children can use throughout their personal and professional endeavors.

Some will argue that this kind of organization will hamper their relationship because their relationship thrives on spontaneousness. On one hand, I agree that if your schedule is so rigid that it doesn’t allow fun or spontaneous activities or chance encounters, your relationship will likely become stale and mundane. On the other hand, I submit that you should use your scheduler to plan for these opportunities. Many times, we aren’t as spontaneous as we think anyway because our disorganization causes us to lack the focus we need to make the best out of the moment.

I recommend you read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. You’ll be surprised how much distractions caused by disorganization keep us from accomplishing individual and couple goals.

4. Patience.

This one gets me every time. I believe that patience is like any other muscle; if you don’t intentionally build it, it will fail when it’s tested. Like most parents, my children taught me a lesson about patience with the old “are we there yet” question. They challenged me to ask myself, “why are you getting mad over something so simple?” I admit that my ego didn’t allow me to answer the question maturely the first few times. “Because it’s a stupid question to ask every five minutes!” I would say to myself.

But I eventually stopped acting like a pouty child and decided to answer the question honestly, “I have no reason to be mad.” So if I can handle such a frustrating question without becoming frustrated, there is no reason I should become impatient with my wife. At least that’s my theory and nobody can tell me otherwise! Ok, I’m kidding (kinda). The point is that we have to intentionally build our patience to ensure we set the example for our children.

5. Forgiveness.

Forgiveness and patience go hand-in-hand. In fact, I believe that forgiveness enables patience. True forgiveness requires us to release all traces of bitterness, negative emotions, and desire to get revenge. Sounds pretty easy right? Not even close. Just like patience, we have to practice forgiveness if we want to set a consistent example. This requires us to do a few things:

  1. Acknowledge your emotions. You won’t be able to move on if you pretend everything is ok.
  2. Take some time to gather your thoughts. Don’t sulk and dwell on the negative. Just take some time to journal about how you feel and why you feel this way. Try not to even mention your significant other.
  3. Avoid saying things like, “he (or she) should’ve known better!” Though it may be true, this is inflammatory and will only cause your emotions to spiral.
  4. Understand your emotions and refrain from blaming yourself or your significant other for your emotions. I know, that’s easier said than done!
  5. Now for the hard part–time to have the conversation (you knew you couldn’t avoid it forever). Prepare for every response. In a perfect world, your significant other will just say, “I am so sorry, and I will do anything to make it up.” We don’t live in a perfect world though! Be patient and continue to focus on resolution and forgiveness.
  6. Regardless of how your significant other responded, let it go. It’ll be hard and may take a little time, but it is important for your relationship. Continue to be kind and work together towards a solution. Forgiveness may take time, but you both can do it and continue to grow together!

6. Confidence and Trust.

“Pull over and ask for directions.” “Nah, I got it.” I think this is one of the most common conversations couples have had over the years. I know we have the GPS now, but that doesn’t matter to me because I can figure it out for myself! It’s so bad that I even find myself looking for ways to prove the GLOBAL Positioning System (GPS) wrong. I put “global” in all caps because I wanted to point out that this handheld computer has a perspective that spans far beyond my own; yet, I am only using it as a reference instead of a guide.

We often do the same thing to our significant other, and in turn, our children do the same to us and others. Be confident in your significant other’s perspective and trust in their integrity and abilities.

7. Kindness.

When we demonstrate kindness in front of our children, we are teaching them an extremely valuable lesson. Kindness is all about being generous, friendly, and considerate. Ironically, the longer we are in a relationship, the more we tend to lose sight of this category. It’s easy to become comfortable in a relationship and assume our kindness is implied. Guess what? It’s not!

Put down the phone and offer to cook for the evening. Place the book on your night stand and rub your partner’s back. Add a little money in the budget to send your significant other to the barber shop. Whatever you do, make a daily practice out of putting your significant other’s needs and desires above your own. Strive to make them smile and feel good. Kindness is a key component to a healthy relationship.

8. Harmony and complementary strength.

As a musician, there is nothing more pleasing than a harmonious sound. That means every musical instrument or voice is fulfilling its role by hitting the perfect tone and note to create a melodious chord. In relationships, this kind of euphony can only be replicated when both parties intentionally work towards complementing the other. This is why it is important to connect with someone who complements your strengths and improves your weaknesses.

We tend to naturally attract to those who have those characteristics we lack. That’s why we have to be comfortable enough around our significant other to be vulnerable. This is the only way to truly demonstrate our need for and dependency on our significant other.

It’s time to buy the land

Setting an example for your children requires focus and intentionality. In other words, it won’t happen without a little work. So let’s put some action behind our words and set the example!

Thanks for reading!

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Establishing Winning Habits

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I had the pleasure of working in General Austin Miller’s (U.S. Army) command for a few months, and there is one thing that I heard him say over 100 times (that’s no exaggeration): establish repeatable processes. Sometimes, when you hear something so often, you become numb to it; however, that would’ve been a bad idea for me for a couple of reasons: 1. He was a commanding officer, so becoming numb to his orders is a sure way to get you fired. 2. More importantly, every time he said it, he caused me to reflect on my own “repeatable processes” or as most of us call them, habits.

Since then, this idea of habit creation and sustainment has become a critical part of my personal and professional philosophy. Why? Well, I can summarize why with this quote:

If your habits don’t support your goals, your goals are just a wish list.

Olaolu Ogunyemi

What are habits?

Most times when we talk about habits, we are either confronting about or being confronted about bad habits. Don’t get me wrong, I believe this “confrontation” or accountability is a crucial part of habit creation, but it is only part of the equation. We will dive into my principles soon, but first, let’s define “habits.”

Oxford Languages says that a habit is, “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” My love for food was the first thing that came to mind when I read this definition. Like most people, I’m still working towards that beach body six pack, but there’s a cliche that closely relates to my eating practices and delays my results: “you are what you eat.” I want to slightly modify this cliche to give you my own simplified definition of the word “habit”:

You are what you repeat.

Olaolu Ogunyemi

My winning habits principles

1. Winning habits begins with math.

Oh no… I’m becoming my parents! When I was young, I was one of those in class telling my math teachers, “I will never use this again!” Now, aside from the fact that i refuse to use a calculator to determine my tips and I solve two math problems every morning to shut off my alarm, I am telling you that winning habits begin with math. It’s actually pretty simple math.

There are twenty-four hours each day. Most of us spend 6-8 of those hours sleeping and another 8-12 of those hours “working.” (You’ll find out why I put “working” in quotes a little later). That means that about 14-20 hours of our day are usually accounted for. What are you doing with the other 4-10 hours each day? Are you intentionally investing every minute?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions to make a point; I truly want you to reflect on what you do during those hours. Although many won’t admit it, a lot of us have formed habits that simply drain our time. So much so that we can seldom recall what we did the day before. If you’re anything like me, you went back to double check that math. That can’t be right! Well, it is.

I reflected on this in one of my very first blog posts where I outlined how many habits I had formed that completely drained my time, and get this: a majority of them were somehow related to the device I carry around in my pocket every day. I challenge you to do your own reflection and record your daily habits.

2. Focus your habits.

Were you shocked by your daily habits list? That’s ok. Let’s do something about it! How do your daily habits align with your goals? Don’t lie or try to use some kind of “butterfly effect” justification. Don’t worry about how much effort or energy you put into each habit. Just have an objective review of what results your daily habits produce. Results are all that matter; there is no “A” for effort–make sure your habits support this fact.

3. “It’s called work for a reason!” -Larry Winget

I recently read and enjoyed this book by Larry Winget. Some may not like his style, because he refers to himself as an “irritational” speaker. In other words, he strives to make you so uncomfortable where you are that you desire to change.

I think my favorite part of this book is the fact that it was aptly named. One would assume that once you get a job, you would show up to perform that job; however, many of us have formed extremely bad habits in the workplace from doing personal chores to not doing anything at all. Of course this causes a ripple effect throughout any given organization and severely impedes processes. Your habits in the workplace are a reflection of your character, values, and professionalism. In other words, if your habits aren’t contributing towards the company’s desired results, you are part of the problem. Let’s focus on making our companies better!

4. Sleep is a must!

I actually don’t know where I got it from, but I remember saying, “sleep is for the rich, so I can’t afford it.” I don’t know; it just sounded cool to me. Nowadays, I don’t know if it’s maturity, a realignment of priorities, or a little bit of both, but I absolutely love sleep! There’s nothing like racing to my bed after a long day. (I’m yawning just thinking about it.)

Listen, numerous studies have shown that our sleep habits impact our mood, performance, attitude, and brain function. Temporarily reducing sleep to accomplish a specific goal is ok, but the key word is “temporarily.” Create a set time, routine, and location for your rest. This is one of the most important habits you can form.

5. Accountability is continuous, but give yourself grace.

Earlier I mentioned that confrontation and accountability are a huge part of habit creation. Let’s use my dietary habits as an example. I can claim that I want to eat better all I want, but without external feedback mechanisms like my wife or the MyFitnessPal food tracker, my goal is a well-intended wish.

However, the other part is grace. We spend decades forming habits, but then we expect to immediately break those habits and form new ones over night. Listen, that is highly unlikely, so give yourself a little grace. Implement a “clean slate” policy meaning you get to mess up every once in a while. Just reflect and implement a couple more accountability mechanisms to prevent repeating the same mistake.

Notice I used the word “repeating” here. You remember where I used that word before? That’s right. “You are what you repeat.” So don’t form a new habit of making more mistakes than progress. This is where a lot of us get stuck. Then we disguise this “one step forward, two steps back” approach as progress as we celebrate the one step forward and apply the “clean slate” policy to our two steps backwards. Let’s break that habit, because it will never work. Accountability and grace go hand-in-hand–you can’t have one without the other.

My winning habits

Now that I’ve outlined my principles, here is a quick list of habits I consider important in no particular order:

  1. Read and learn to experience the world from a different perspective.
  2. Take care of yourself: dedicate time each day to building your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pillars. At least 30 minutes per pillar per day.
  3. Work hard when it’s time to work. Play hard when it’s time to play. Rest well when it’s time to rest.
  4. Spend uninterrupted time loving on friends and family. I cannot stress this one enough. Forgive if you need to forgive. Life is too short.
  5. Schedule time for the “time drainers” like social media, TV, window shopping, etc. These will likely always exist, but you need to manage them.
  6. Prioritize your day. Like Dr. Covey said, “keep the main thing, the main thing.” Or maybe I’ll add a little spin to the famous TLC line, “don’t go chasing waterfalls” (my spin) when you are supposed to be swimming at the lake. Yeah I know that was cheesy, but you get the point. Establish and align your habits to your priorities!
  7. Allocate time to reflect on the day. What did you do well? What are some opportunities for improvement?
  8. Smile, have fun, and remind yourself that you are valuable and have a purpose. Your daily habits support that purpose!

Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

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Happy Birthday Brea!

I’m celebrating my wife’s birthday this entire week! Why? Because she deserves that and more.

I plan to discuss our origin story a little bit more on our ten-year anniversary later this year, but I believe this is an appropriate time to pause and publicly let Brea know how much I appreciate her support, love, and sacrifices! It’s been amazing to grow with her over the last ~11 years (that’s how long we’ve been an official couple).

Thank you for your sacrifices! (Even on your birthday)

In that short period, we have moved eight times across several different states to support my career. Though tearful because she has had to leave behind some great friends, she has continued to support and encourage me along the way. On top of all that, when I decided to finally pursue my dream of becoming an author, she did not skip a beat with her support!

Every single one of my adult accomplishments are because of Brea. Whether it’s keeping the children quiet so I can podcast or write, keeping the house running smoothly while I’m away, listening to my countless ideas, or any other daily thing she does, it has made me a better man.

This is YOUR week!

I could go on and on but I’ll summarize by saying, happy birthday my love! Cheers to many, many, maaaaaaany more years! 🥂