Before we moved to Kansas we read about Dr. Roger Walsh’s research into the 8 TLCs—Transformational Lifestyle Changes— and we decided we were going to pursue goals in each arena. After a year of effort, we are 100% believers that these changes made our family stronger and closer than ever before.
The best part: every single one of the changes could be implemented immediately, with no financial burden, and easy accessibility. In the interest of sharing joy and encouraging families to challenge themselves, here is what we did.
1. Exercise: We vowed to work out at least 5 days a week. In addition to its therapeutic health, and cognitive effects, working out in the early mornings enabled us to exercise self-discipline and have deeper conversations than normally possible in the hustle of the day. We worked Rippetoe’s Texas Method and other powerlifting programs. We prefer the squat, bench, deadlift, and gymnastics, but doing just about any type of exercise is sure to have huge positive effects on your life.
2. Nutrition & Diet: We love Michael Pollen’s advice,”Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By food he meant non-processed stuff. The goal started with simply adding more fish, vegetables, and fruit to our diet, but Sara took it up a notch and proposed the idea of going cold-turkey off processed sugar. The kids got on board and it has been surprisingly easy! We also saved money in our food budget by cutting all the purchases of desserts, snacks, and sodas. Cutting something out was easier than meticulously counting macros (protein, fat, and carbs). But gotta give the devil his due, macro counting is THE single best method to transform your physique and guarantee drastic results. It just takes attention to detail, and the devil is in those doggone details.
3. Time in Nature: No one can deny the stress relief found in nature’s beauty. We promised to have a special outdoor excursion each month. Camping, skiing, fishing, even just walking a wooded Kansas trail brought priceless memories and valuable shared experiences. Excursions also taught valuable lessons about preparedness and outdoorsmanship. (The kids ain’t gonna forget to pack extra socks next time we camp!)
4. Good relationships: We were determined to seek friends among our neighbors, schoolmates, and church family. The boys would sometimes walk straight up to another kid and propose, “Hi, will you be my friend?” In every case, they accepted. A highlight of military life is moving and making new awesome friends each place we live. Kansas gave us so many amazing friendships that our hearts break at the thought of leaving. We also rejoice at the memories of barbecues, street football, pool parties, game nights, and daily smiles.
5. Recreation & Enjoyable Activities: Even though Roosevelt was on to something when he said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing,” still, you have gotta have FUN. We worked hard here (Sara especially, starting a business and coaching like a champ) but we also had so much fun! We promised we would find those special moments in the day when we could sit down for barbies with Journey, ride bikes with Gideon, or play some good Gaga ball with everyone—although there were admittedly some tears when the game got a smidge violent. We had a busy year, but an unimaginably fun year more-so.
6. Relaxation & Stress Management: We knew mindfulness practices and uplifting hobbies have a lasting positive effect on mood and enthusiasm, so we each determined to pursue a hobby this year. The boys studied piano (with an amazing teacher, thanks Max!), Sara found solace in Yoga, and I learned so much while getting smashed on the Jiu Jitsu mats. These pursuits helped us develop talents, focus on the moment, and relieve stress. It took mutual encouragement and some recognition that one hobby doesn’t necessarily fit all (but everyone SHOULD still learn Jiu Jitsu, I say, as a matter of intestinal fortitude).
7. Religious & Spiritual: Love, forgiveness, a sense of the divine, and eternal perspective are essential to our family’s happiness. We decided to get more serious about spirituality in our home. We’d grown lackadaisical, letting Sunday church and going through the motions with institutional religion become the norm. So we made a goal to never leave for school without having studied the scriptures and having a family prayer. Each night we would also do our little family chant and kneel again in prayer to close the day. It was a very small change, imperfect in execution. Most prayers were short, squirmy kids had eyes open, and most scripture studies started with contention as we tried to wrangle 5 kids out of bed. Nonetheless, small things make great things come to pass and the kids now volunteer to pray and to share their testimony of the divine. Plus, reminding them we are a forever family motivates them to not hate each other…otherwise heaven ain’t gonna be pleasant.
8. Contribution & Service: We’ve long ago accepted the irony that the more you think of and serve OTHERS the happier YOU feel. So we made a goal to serve where we were able. The kids looked for tiny opportunities to serve, like picking up neighborhood trash or helping a schoolmate with homework, while Sara and I had the chance to teach primary lessons on Sunday to a darling group of 10 year olds. The key with service is to not feel obligated into it, otherwise resentment can sneak in. Most service we had the chance to enjoy presented itself organically and was always so fulfilling. There were opportunities to help others and remember Eddie Rickenbacker’s poignant line that, “men grow only in proportion to the service they render to their fellow men and women.”