I was realizing it’s been quite a while since I’ve done any Where Dandelions Grow
posts, so here another one is. Hope you enjoy!
I forget the first few things he said, but I know they were funny and everyone laughed. Then, instead of standing behind the pulpit, two guys came up, one of them carrying a tall chair, and the other one a equally tall, round and rather small table. “Thanks.” Mr. Maxwell sat down on the chair, and then began talking about more serious stuff.
“In 1986, when I was 39 years old, I began to notice a terrible trend among my colleagues, college buddies and friends: divorce.” He leaned forward in his seat, and I had the strange feeling that I was going to learn something amazing out of this talk.
“This was happening in a variety of marriages – from the shaky to the apparently strong. Margaret, that’s my wife, and I didn’t think our relationship was in any kind of danger, but then again, we knew that many of our friends had thought their relationships were indestructible too.
“At the same time, my career was really taking off. And while I was enjoying the new challenges, I knew that I didn’t want to lose my family in the process. That prompted me to make one of my key life decisions: rewriting my definition of success. Instead of acclaim or advancement or achievement, I decided that for me, Success means having those closest to me love and respect me the most.”
Oh. My. Goodness. Taking that in was hard. The words were so different from what I grew up hearing my mom talk about time after time, and I wondered if she had ever thought of success in the way Mr. Maxwell was saying. Probably not.
“This made success for me possible only if I included my wife and children in the journey. From that moment on, my success depended on putting my family first.
If you want to truly succeed in this life, you need to ask yourself a question: Is your pursuit of success drawing you closer to – or farther from – the most important people in your life?
“If you want to redefine success the way I did, here are some ways to put your decision into practice: Determine your priorities. How much of your calendar is devoted to your family and/or close friends? On your budget and to-do list, where do you write in your loved ones? No relationship can survive for long on leftovers. Early in my career, I focused so much on work that I neglected Margaret. After I realized this, I changed. I carved out time for her. I protected my day off. And we dedicated money in our budget to facilitate special times together.”
Did this really work? Thoughts began tumbling into my head faster than I could categorize them. Yanking out my journal, I began scribbling notes as fast as I could, hoping to catch every word Mr. Maxwell said.
“It’s been said that a lot can be learned about what a person values by examining two things: their calendar and their bank statement. They show where people spend their time and money. What do those things say about what YOU value?”
I decided to re-examine my life when I got home. Was I doing to my mother the same things she’d been doing to me all my life? She pushed me away because she wanted me to succeed. I was pushing her away, because I didn’t want to succeed. And it seemed to me that we were quite confused on what the word ‘success’ meant.
“Decide on your philosophy.” Mr. Maxwell was saying. “Once your loved ones are a priority, you have to decide together what you want your family to stand for. What values will you live out? For us, the bottom line was to cultivate and maintain:
- Commitment to God,
- Continual growth,
- Common experiences,
- Confidence in God, ourselves and others, and
- Contributions to life.
“This was my family’s list. I’m not suggesting that you adopt our philosophy. But I encourage you to take time together to list YOUR non-negotiables. Keep the list short so that you can remember and apply it.” Mr. Maxwell took a bottle of water off the table and took a long drink before setting it back down and continuing on his talk.
“Develop your problem-solving strategy. I think a lot of people go into marriage expecting it to be easy. Maybe they’ve seen too many movies. Marriage isn’t easy. Family isn’t easy. Close friendships aren’t easy. The best plan is to expect problems, stay committed, and develop a strategy for getting through the rough times.
Talk to your loved ones about how you could improve your problem solving together. NOTE: Do this during a calm time, not in the middle of a conflict!” He laughed as if remembering some times he had made the mistake he just warned us about.
“Many problem-solving strategies exist, from family meetings to fair fighting rules. Use the ones that work for you. Just be sure that they foster and promote three things:
- Better understanding,
- Positive change, and
- Growing relationships.”
Growing relationships? I hardly have a relationship with my parents to start with.
“Deciding to redefine success, and acting on that decision, changed the trajectory of my life. Now, many years later, I’m still married to the love of my life, both my kids are married with children (my grandangels!), and we all still enjoy spending time together.” Mr. Maxwell waited, a huge grin on his face, for the clapping to finish after stating how wonderful his life is, then he finished his talk.
“Wrapping my definition of success around those I love the most made the difference. And really, when you reach the end of your life, what will be most important to you? Dusty awards granted by acquaintances, or deep connection with those you love?” (http://johnmaxwellonleadership.com/2010/05/20/what-is-success/)
As soon as I could politely leave, I did so. I couldn’t even imagine how all these thoughts were so new to me. My whole life I had gauged success on two different things: Fame and Riches. And now I suddenly realized that success wasn’t either of those things. Success wasn’t defined by my yearly income. Success wasn’t even defined by how many people knew my name.
Thinking about it though made sense. After all, my mom had grown up in a rather well-to-do family and yet I didn’t think of her as successful. I thought of her as someone who I disagreed with and wished she would have encouraged me to be who I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do. Was she happy? Not really. I mean, of course there were times when she was happy, but overall, she didn’t seem to be a cheerful person. And she defiantly couldn’t say what Mr. Maxwell had said. Now many years later I’m still living with the love of my life and enjoying spending time with my children and their children, my grandangels. I couldn’t imagine that my grandma had ever called me her grandangel! Wishing I had some books by Mr. Maxwell, I decided to check out the non-fiction section in Novelty when I got there on Monday morning.
Pretty good stuff, wasn’t it? I have some books written by John Maxwell that you can borrow if you want. I grinned when I read the text from Lexie. So maybe I wouldn’t have to spend some of my money on the books after all. I wrote back, telling her I would take her up on her offer, and thanking her for taking me to church. If that’s what all the church services were like, I was going to have to start going more often.
After debating it in my mind for a few minutes, I sent Mom a quick text telling her a little bit about how Swallow Ridge was and letting her know I was fine. We’d texted back and forth a few times since I arrived over a week before, but I always let Mom initiate the texting. Realizing though that if I didn’t swallow my pride and work at making our relationship better than it was, that I was just as at fault as she was, made me decide to work harder.
When Mom wrote back, telling me she was glad to hear from me, and calling me ‘honey’ I felt duly rewarded. She only ever calls me ‘honey’ when I’ve made her particularly happy or if she’s proud of me. I wrote down the word ‘Honey’ on the margin of my journal and doodled around it while my thoughts ran wild. At last I started writing down some goals for myself:
- Begin figuring out why our family has so many issues, then work at getting rid of them.
- Be willing to take the first step. I can humble myself just as well as anyone else can.
- Make people more important than things.
- Learn to think of success in a new way.
With the realization that I needed to be actively working on restoring my family relationships, I decided to go and visit Grandma.