Management Advice: Stop saying “BUT”

So here’s your very simple but difficult management advice for today: stop using the word but! Whether you’re parenting or working or hanging out with friends, the word but needs to go.

management advice Why?

I was first clued into this concept when reading a parenting book called How to Talk so Kids will Listen which is excellent and you should read even if you’re not a parent. The authors explained that anytime you use the word “but” you end up negating everything you’ve just said. Let’s do a quick example:

I say “Hey Canon, you did a great job with clean up time but you forgot to pick up the toys in the family room.” What does that sound like to you? Did he really do a great job? It sounds like I’m trying to let him down easy, that actually no, he didn’t do a good job cleaning because he forgot a key part of the process. What does he hear? That I don’t mean what I said and I’m really just criticizing him.

How could I say it better? “Hey Canon, you did a great job cleaning up in the playroom. Can you also grab the toys in the playroom?”

It applies equally well in the workplace context. I was reminded of this principle reading Fierce Conversations this week. Susan Scott writes, “Multiple, competing realities exist simultaneously: This is true and this is true and this is true.” When we say “yes, but” we don’t acknowledge the competing realities, we just try to keep persuading other people that our own version is correct.

What to say instead

The word “but” negates other views and can come across as blaming. Scott recommends trying to replace every “but” with an “and” so that both realities are acknowledged as valid pieces of the whole picture.  Instead of “You see it that way, but I see it differently” try, “You see it that way, and I see is differently.” A really simple switch that has the potential to keep discussions civil and people feeling like they are heard while still also allowing for differences of opinion. Win Win. Other options include:

  • “The problem I see is”
  • “At the same time”

Watch out though, as these can also come across as condescending based on your tone. And is probably the safest bet. You can also just stop your sentence and replace that “but” with a period. Start the next sentence as a question instead. Because asking questions is always a good principle for parents and managers anyway. That was bonus management advice right there.

Best Reads of 2013

Well, 2013 is drawing to a close and I thought I’d give you a look at my top reads this year. As I sorted the list I realized these selections are quite good indicators of the areas of life I dwell on the most these days: faith, parenting and work. And of course, I tend to look at all of these things in the context of calling.

Faith/Spiritual Living

favourite reads 2013The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. What a powerful little book. This is one of those short reads that you should probably spend a long time reading. It was a big eye-opener for me to realize I am definitely the older brother in this parable. I’m not sure I had ever heard anyone really talk much about the older brother, especially to show how he is equally lost – that it’s a parable of two lost sons, not just one.

favourite reads 2013The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I wrote a little about this book here. It might seem like a typical self-help book but goes much deeper because Brown happens to be a research professor on powerful topics like shame and vulnerability, fear and courage and worthiness. She shares very personal stories to demonstrate this vulnerability and gives a few optional exercises to try at the end of each chapter. If you don’t have time to read, her two TED talks are a great option.

favourite reads 2013Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth by Walter Brueggemann. This is a book of poem prayers that a friend recommended and wow, both John and I were drawn to the raw honesty and piercing accuracy of our human ways. We read them aloud at dinner although I think it would probably be more worthwhile to read them with a journal handy. They’re beautiful and they really make you think. It’s good to be sort of “jarred” out of our normal approach to prayer.

favourite reads 2013The Lost Art of Lingering by Rowland Forman. This is a very practical, gentle guide to mutual mentoring and is packed full of resources on the topic of living the Christian life together. A good friend recommended this to me and it was a perfect refresher course for me after not reading anything on mentoring since college. Like, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp, it’s a good reminder that we’re all supposed to be ministering to each other.

 

 

Children

favourite reads 2013How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlich. Wow, this book was fascinating and worth reading whether or not you’re a parent. The material in here can be applied with any kids you know and regularly hang out with. It’s easy to read with cartoon illustrations of their points and lots of great examples that put their ideas into context for you. I got it out on CD for John to listen to and he stopped it after only the first 20 minutes to talk about it with me because there was already so much good stuff to discuss.

favourite reads 2013Raising Cain by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. There are some great resources out there on boys and emotional intelligence so I’m not sure if I liked this one best because I read it first or because of the title, but it was an excellent overview of how boys are often raised to be “emotionally illiterate” and how this can increase school troubles etc. There was quite a bit in there about how our school systems are not supporting how boys learn and grow. I find anything about educational theory and systems fascinating so that was very helpful for me.

favourite reads 2013How Children Raise Parents by Dan Allender. Just listened to this one on CD and it seemed like a short “read” – only 3 CDs. What I appreciated most about this book was the fact that we will fail as parents and that this is to be expected. His big points are that children have two main questions, “Am I loved?” and “Can I have it my way?” which we need to answer with a “yes” and “no” respectively. This is not a “how-to” book at all but it was a great perspective on how parenting changes us and how our children teach us.

Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki. This isn’t on Amazon, so no picture. It’s a pdf book that I just read and I loved it. I’ve browsed through multiple potty-training books recently and they all seem a bit scared to pull any punches. They present options but don’t really want to tell you how to do it. This book is not scared to call it all like it is. I loved her emphasis on capability rather than the nebulous concept of “readiness”, how she blocks out the learning process and all the little tips and tricks to troubleshoot various issues.

 

Business/Coaching

favourite reads 2013Sticking Points by Hadyn Shaw. I blogged about this one here. This is a book every business needs to have on hand because every business is likely dealing with generational issues (actually it would probably be just as helpful for churches and extended families!). Shaw is fair to each generation and helps each generation see where the other generation is coming from. As a millennial, I’m sensitive to the fact that our generation is constantly under a microscope in the media. This book is an urgently-needed thoughtful counterbalance to a lot of the stuff floating around out there.

favourite reads 2013You Already Know How to Be Great by Alan Fine. Sounds cheesy I know. But his major point for coaches was that often our clients already know what they need to do and potentially even how to do it. They may not need more training or teaching (in fact that might make them perform worse – I talk a little about that here). What they really need help with is simply clearing out the noise and interference to help them focus effectively. He has a great model to use in coaching conversations that I have found effective in every day conversations as well.

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. I also blogged about this one here. This is one of those books that you wish every CEO was required to read before becoming CEO. It lays out very clear exercises to help leaderships teams get clarity and unity so that they can communicate effectively with those they lead. It all seems so simple when you read these kind of books and then you look around and wonder why it so rarely gets implemented. Possibly because it’s one of those very-hard-but-extremely-worthwhile things to do.

favourite reads 2013Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Loved this book and all the other ones they’ve written as well. Great stories, simple but powerful concepts. I wrote about one of them here. These guys are so interesting and practical.

 

 

What were your favourite reads in 2013?

P.S. Disclosure: All image links are affiliate links so if you click on them and buy one of the books, Amazon pays me a few cents.

How the Birkman Interest Scores Show up in Our Lives

[ANNOUNCEMENT: The winner of last week’s giveaway was actually a friend and former colleague – Congrats to Melissa! She is still deciding which prize she’s going to pick.]

Today, I want to talk about one page report in the Birkman called Areas of Interest. In The Birkman Method, CEO Sharon Birkman Fink writes,

Areas of InterestOur Areas of Interests show us a nutrient in our lives – something that strengthens our emotional well-being. In addition to using the scores to point to a career path, improve your work environment, and tailor a job to suit you, they also show you what you require in your life to maintain your energy . . . Feeding our most vital interests is as essential to feeding the spirit of a person as water is to a plant. So a high score means it is an Interest that is likely to inform your choice of work as well as your recreation. You have to tend to your passions when you are trying to be your creative and productive best. This is especially true when you have to work your hardest over many hours – exactly when your obligations can obscure your Interests or start to crowd out time for recharging.

Artists in a Messy House:

Recently, as I was rereading our Birkman reports, I was struck by how the highest interest score John and I have is the same: Artistic (his score is 87, mine is 94 for those of you who love numbers). The Birkman boils down the “Artistic” interest to visual interest or how things appear. Interests don’t necessarily equate with talent but in our case, we have some of both.

Areas of Interest
Silver Light by Andy Eccleshall

We love to create “works of aesthetic value” (duh! photography) as well as simply enjoy works of art at a gallery (my favourite gallery being Cole Gallery downtown Edmonds – buying works of art is one of those things I dream of doing). Before Canon was born, going to the Edmonds Art Walk was a frequent date night for us.

This shared interest also explains our mutual love for home decorating which has created more than a little conflict the two times we’ve moved (“No! I really think this room needs to be yellow!”).

But what really hit me this time, was what a basic influence this Artistic value has in our daily lives. Both John and I experience elevated stress in messy situations (sidenote: remember messy is defined differently for everyone). As you might guess with a mobile toddler, this season in our lives is very, very messy so I’m noticing the connection more.

I’ve been assuming for a long time that I just need to get over my perfectionism about how clean the house “should be” while at the same time thinking it odd that I care that much because I have never been a perfectionist about cleaning. I could care less if there are dishes in the sink, as long as I can’t see them. I only start caring about dust when it becomes visible. My love of organizing? Probably mostly about how nice it looks at the end. So I think my desire for a tidy home is related to my Artistic (visual) interest score!

When Canon goes to bed, I tidy the family room because that’s where I want to spend the rest of my evening. I don’t care if the living room is a disaster because I can’t see it. This isn’t really a perfect hypothesis because even though mess stresses John out too, it does so to a much lesser degree. He can live in chaos and put up with more disorganization than I can. So obviously there are more factors at play. But I think this score plays a role!

Literary Polar Opposites:

If you were wondering why Literary wasn’t my highest score, don’t worry! It’s my next highest at 92. If you have read this blog for any length of time you’ll know that I love words. I love to write. I love to speak. I love to edit. I care deeply about what words mean and using them properly – many of my rants concern sloppy language. Poor John has learned the hard way that a “you know what I mean” excuse just doesn’t cut it for a word-girl.

And of course, I love reading – it’s definitely an essential “nutrient” in my life.

Areas of InterestGuess where John’s Literary score is? It’s his very last one – a 6 (anything under 10 is something you prefer to delegate to others and which causes you stress if you have to do it!).  While I am sometimes sad that John won’t just pick up that book that I want him to read, it has been easier than I thought to get around this “problem.” Often I simply tell him about what I’m reading. Sometimes I’ll get out the audiobook for him if it’s a great novel I know he’ll enjoy. On more informational books that I want to discuss, I’ll check out the DVD from the library (if there is one) or audiobook or just read parts out loud.

I always thought that marrying another reader was going to be essential, but it turns out that what I was really looking for was someone who still loved to learn. And thankfully, John has rotating hobbies (we call it “My Next Obsession”) so he often reads and researches all evening (usually online) anything from fishing to how to build adirondack chairs to baking the perfect artisan bread to the latest lighting equipment. Which leads right into:

Persuasive & Scientific: John’s Photography Trifecta

Artistic Interest
Groom at a Wedding

After John’s top Artistic score, his next two are Persuasive (80) and Scientific (76). These are very much what they sound like:

  • The Persuasive interest is about interacting with people, motivating them to action, influencing them, competing, teaching and sales.
  • The Scientific interest is about investigative research (ahem, next obsession!), curiosity about why and how things operate, involvement with technology and experiments etc.

I am amazed at how these scores come together so perfectly in his photography work. He has a perfect balance of the artistic vision, the ability to communicate and motivate others during the shoot, and the scientific know-how to operate all of his complex gear to perfection. His highest interests are all engaged when he is shooting and you can tell (I know I’m biased but I think he is a crazy amazing photographer – see for yourself).

Ok – that post is way too long, proving the second interest and also the first (I spent 25 minutes finding photos and then resizing them, rearranging them etc until I thought everything flowed!)….. classic!

Find out more for yourself!

If you are intrigued about the Birkman be sure to read up more about it here and check out my services here – I would love to provide the assessment for you and discuss the results!

How the Birkman helps us work at home without killing each other

Change score discussion

This month I wanted to do something fun and show you how the information in a Birkman Method report plays out in “real life.” I will be using our real life as we work and parent at home. Today’s example cropped up about a year ago and continues to be something I have to consciously consider in our daily life. It’s about the Change component.

The Birkman measures you on 11 behavioral components. They put your usual behavior on a continuum from 1 to 99 with each end representing a different set of usual behaviors. While John and I are fairly similar on eight of the eleven behavioral components, we have a 47 point difference on our Change score. John is down in the lower end (34) of the continuum while I’m on the high end (81).

What is the “Change” component?

Birkman defines this as mental and physical restlessness. It describes comfort in shifting priorities, patience with interruptions and flexibility in accepting externally imposed change.

Low Change behavior is concentrative, not easily distracted, patient with long-range projects, and able to focus on the task at hand.

High Change behavior is easily excited by new ideas, ready to start new ideas, initiating change frequently and adapting easily to variety.

In terms of responsiveness to change you could compare a 1 to a supertanker needing to change course (that takes awhile!) and a 99 to a speedboat needing to change course (done in the blink of an eye!).

What are the different Change needs?

Low Change needs: protection from interruptions, opportunities to complete important tasks once started, time to consider new ways before changing methods, minimum of abrupt changes, an opportunity to give input before changes are initiated.

High Change needs: alternating work responsibilities, frequent changes of activity, relief from daily routine, opportunities to shift priorities as new interests arise.

How this plays out:

You might already be picturing the scenario: John has just embarked on editing a wedding – a “long-term” project on which he is usually able to focus for vast stretches of time. He likes to edit through until he’s done. Tash cannot fathom how he can possibly concentrate the whole day on the same task (she admires it but also wonders how this can be healthy) and she tends to suggest changes: “Don’t you need a break?”, “Let’s go for a walk”, “Can you help me with x, y, z for a minute?”, “Here talk to Canon for a second while I do this.” Tash blissfully believes she is offering him some variety in a LONG BORING day while John’s stress level rises with each interruption.

This happened quite a bit in Canon’s first year because it was also John’s first year of working from home. Since I need lots of variety and relief of routine, I assumed John probably did too. Not true! Turns out he needed to be protected from interruptions so he could complete the tasks he had started. Initially, I thought he was just trying to get out of helping with Canon by working constantly. John felt like I was trying to sabotage his work.

Looking at our Change scores helped us both to realize there wasn’t something “wrong” with the other person and that neither of us was trying to purposely annoy the other person with our usual behaviors. We were able to discuss ideas for solutions more practically and with less emotional turmoil.

While he still gets interrupted (“Help! Poop disaster!) I try to stay aware of interruptions and keep them more minimal when I know he’s concentrating on a long project. At the same time, John sees that I need alternating responsibilities and we continue to try to work out how we can best divvy up parenting and photography work.

That’s just one tiny piece of all the material the Birkman Method reports contain. If you’re intrigued – there’s still time to enter my giveaway here: The Birkman Preview report covers all eleven behavioral components and more. Or head over to my Birkman services page to learn more.

You Lost Me. Live! for Parents: Highlights

Millennials, ChurchI’m taking a quick break from our “What’s Wrong with Work Today” series to highlight an event I got to go to last night. David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group spoke at a You Lost Me. Live! event at Kings High School. It was geared towards parents of Millennials and they did an excellent job. I read the book almost a year ago and thought Kinnaman was spot on in his analysis of the reasons Millennials are leaving the church.

He explains that young people don’t leave church for the same reasons, and that leaving church does not necessarily mean leaving their faith. He breaks these different groups into three categories: Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles. In the latter half of the book, he looks at the top six reasons Millennials give as to why they leave the church and what we as the church can do to break down these barriers. If you have not read this book and you’re a pastor, parent or a Millennial yourself – please read it!

Here are a few quotes that I took away last night:

“We don’t have to like the trends, but we have to deal with them” – I loved this. Sometimes, I think all we want to do is complain about what’s happening rather than accepting the facts and moving on to a discussion of how we can engage and address the issues in our culture today.

“Typical churches reach married couples with children much better than single professionals” – Millennials are waiting much much longer than the last few generations to get married and have kids. Most churches are primarily set up to reach families. Programs, sermons, events are often family-oriented and it’s assumed that everyone is on the path to marriage and children. Many Millennials aren’t on that road yet and we lose them because of this.

“Millennials want to be part of coming to the conclusion themselves” – We don’t want parents or leaders to “solve” things for us or just hand down answers. Kinnaman writes in his book:

They are used to “having a say” in everything related to their lives. As we noted earlier, communication, fueled by technology, is moving from passive to interactive. Yet the structure of young adult development in most churches and parishes is classroom-style instruction. It is passive, one-sided communication – or at least that’s the perception most young people have of their religious education. They find little appetite within their faith communities for dialogue and interaction.

Our posture towards students and young adults should be more Socratic, more process-oriented, more willing to live with their questions and seek answers together. We need guides who know how to strike a better balance between talking and listening.

Hear this from a Millennial: YES PLEASE!

“We know from the research that they’re stunningly like the faith of their parents” – Confirmed in several other books I’ve read. If Millennials aren’t “on fire” for Jesus, a good possibility is that they haven’t seen parents or other adult role models “on fire” either. In Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean,

“Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issues, but ours.”

“Parents, part of your job in the church is to befriend other parents’ kids! You need to be the other adult in their lives” – Having at least one other adult at church who takes an interest in them is a major factor in kids keeping their faith. I can testify to the value of other adults in the community taking in an interest in our lives. I was incredibly blessed to grow up in a community where many other Christian adults regularly interacted with my siblings and me. Even today, a major reason that I value my church experience is because older adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s have taken the time to befriend and mentor me!

Kinnaman noted that Exiles tend to become Nomads and Prodigals because we in the church are not paying attention to their initial questions. By the time, we pay attention it’s often too late to engage well. We have to get better at listening to questions without fear, without condemnation and without jumping down people’s throats with the “right” answer on the first opportunity.

At the end of the evening, Kinnaman shared from Daniel. He explained that Babylon is a great example of what Christian Millennials are facing in this generation. Daniel was removed from his home culture to a foreign world, had to learn the language and literature of ultra-pagan Babylon, was renamed with a Babylonian deity’s name, was groomed for leadership in a secular government. We could imagine his parents also probably feared for his faith as he became immersed in this godless society. Kinnaman reminded parents to have hope because Daniel was able to remain faithful as an exile and God took his people into exile for the purpose of purifying and renewing them.

Last note: one person (a youth pastor) asked Kinnaman a question about how he can help his graduating seniors connect their calling with what job they’ll do later. I think that was a great question and I have a few thoughts on it:

First, Kinnaman made the great point that it’s so important to help them understand that God is going to use them and that they do have a calling in the first place. Secondly, I think youth pastors should take the time to preach/teach on the theology of work with their seniors. The more they can  understand about how God views work in the Bible, the better! Thirdly, I think it’s extremely important that students recognize that they can do God’s work in whatever job they do. The secular/sacred divide needs to be broken down. And to end with a shameless plug: My whole book is basically geared directly at this question. So if you have a youth pastor friend, you should tell them to read it or contact me because I would love to come speak!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

What is saving your life right now?

I liked Jess’s post yesterday so much, I thought I’d join the party and write one about this question as well. The prompt comes from Sarah Bessey’s blog post and a lot of people are participating (called “synchroblogging” apparently) so you can go over to her website too and check out all the other posts on this question.

What is saving my life right now?

One of my problems in life is overthinking things (this is partly why I’m a terrible shopper) so when I look at a question like this I immediately wonder “what does it really mean?” Is it about what I’m learning right now, what’s getting me through the day? Is it how my life is being transformed or changed in the present season? Is it what I’m most grateful for? Since one of the suggestions from Sarah was NOT to overthink the question, I should probably just start writing what comes to mind.

Staying home . . . the relief of not having a “return to work” deadline on this time with Canon. Of not having to force a three month old into a schedule. Of knowing I’m not missing out on anything. Of relaxing when we have a bad night because I don’t have to worry about getting up early to go to work.

Living in the present . . . pregnancy is a future-oriented mode – living in a state of waiting for nine months was fun while it lasted but I am so grateful to just live in the present right now. Having a baby seems like one of the best ways to learn how to just take each day as it comes. I keep being reminded that it’s daily bread. Every day we have enough to finish today.

Starting to keep the daily offices with John . . . the rhythm, the words, this week’s concluding prayer: “Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.”

Walking & Napping . . . the breaks to readjust mentally, whether by getting outside into the fresh summer air or by stealing a few minutes to myself with the door closed while John watches Canon.

Parenting . . . every parent can attest to the transformation you undergo when you suddenly have another life depending on you. Suddenly all those little character flaws you used to easily tuck away and ignore, flare up in a big way. My patience problem? Selfish much? How about the comparing and judging habit? Add a little sheer laziness and a quick temper and I’m faced with the fact that I have a lot of room to grow. Guess you don’t grow until you’re forced to – and parenting sure forces you to.

There is so much that I’m grateful for in this season of my life. Grateful that I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. Grateful that it’s easier than it could be (Canon is such a happy healthy baby). Grateful that John is home during the day so I’m not lonely. And grateful that summer weather appears on enough days that we can be outside and not feel cooped up. Grateful that Canon has miraculously decided to nap through this whole blog post – almost an hour longer than normal . . .

Well friends, thanks for reading. Hope you have a great weekend and maybe take some time to ask yourself this question too.

 

Seven weeks of motherhood . . .

Canon is seven weeks old already and I thought I’d share a few things I’ve been learning about motherhood in these last few weeks.

1. You Learn Fast. Week 1 and 2, I had about four different baby reference books I kept desperately leafing through, trying  to get it all figured out. Since then? I haven’t looked at any of the books again. Did I figure it all out? No, I just realized I didn’t have to and that the basic things are pretty easy.

2. Low Expectations = Pleasantly Surprised. To be honest, I didn’t have high expectations of these first few months. While pregnant, I spent more time imagining life with no sleep than anticipating a cute cuddly baby to play with. That might sound terrible, but I’m actually glad it was that way, because I’ve been happily surprised with how much I’m enjoying Canon. I didn’t realize he would learn to smile so quickly or how fun it would be to have “conversations” with him when he’s happily alert in the morning.

3. Productivity is Relative. A highly productive day is one load of laundry, a tidied kitchen and maybe catching up on some emails. Being productive, even if it’s just in one area, is still really important for me though. It helps me feel good about the day and makes me feel like I’m still living a “normal” life.

4. Rhythms over Schedules.  It’s been hard to let go of my scheduled life. Initially, it was hard to even get a sense of day or night. I was sleeping at random hours, eating at random hours. Life got unhinged from the clock. And now that I’ve gotten used to it, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. We’ve got a rhythm to the day but I’m not watching the clock and I think that’s really good for me, because I’m often too concerned about “wasting” time.

5. The Comparison Problem is Everywhere. I was chatting with another new mom for a few minutes the other day and she mentioned that she and her newborn daughter do French lessons together everyday. Really?! I immediately wondered if I should already be trying to speak a little German to Canon every day. Ridiculous, I know. Letting other parents make their own choices without feeling insecure or defensive about my own will take some conscious effort.

6. It really is Daily Bread. I never thought much about “Give us this day our daily bread” before this, but I feel like I understand it on a whole new level now. With every day slightly different, I never know just what’s going to happen. While keeping my expectations low helps, it doesn’t mean there haven’t been the exhausted, frustrated, end-of-my-rope moments. But I’m so thankful that they’ve mostly been just moments instead of hours or days or weeks. I feel like every day, I am provided with just enough energy and patience to make it through to the next day.

7. There is no “I” in “Team.” Cliche, I know, but for me, this has been about not counting who does what. It’s tough – I love counting things (I not-so-secretly love my calculator and Excel spreadsheets) – but when it comes to dirty diapers or dishes, holding the baby or cleaning out the dishwasher etc, trying to assess who is doing “more” is the wrong mentality. Instead, I’m highly aware of how much I need to cultivate gratitude in my life.

Hope you all have a great week!

You don’t know until you try

Well, folks, another Monday and another blog post. I’m finding it hard to rally my thoughts these days. Parenthood is fast approaching . . . there’s a lot to think about. If you’ve read my blog for a bit, you’ll know I’m a big reader. I like to know stuff, see all the different viewpoints, understand issues, get a good grasp on various subjects. So you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out I’ve been reading quite a few parenting books. There are a lot of theories about every aspect of infant care and early childhood development. And that’s the problem. They’re all theories. No one (as far as I know) has determined the absolute one BEST way to raise a child or we’d all be following that method (and that person would be the richest person on earth). There are conflicting studies, diverse opinions and not a lot of basic facts.

Which means that I keep coming back to the realization that I will really have NO IDEA how any of this works until I’m in the middle of it. We just can’t know before we try it out with a real life baby (who will hopefully be here in less than three weeks!). This leads to the second realization that every baby is totally unique. There won’t be a set formula – in fact there will be a lot of “trying out” different things to figure out what works in the moment, what works for the baby’s personality and our own personalities, what works best in our unique family situation. This is a challenge because everyone has advice about what worked for them, but it may not be what works for us. I know I’ve been guilty of judging others, thinking to myself how they should obviously just do this or that. I’m realizing more and more that it’s often hardly as obvious as an outside observer thinks.

What does this mean for you?

I think these realizations are essential for removing some major obstacles when it comes to pursuing a calling. First off, we have to admit that we just won’t know until we try it out. I don’t think you find your calling and then go start following it. I think you find it along the way in the midst of test drives and experiments. The key is to be active and intentional in trying things out rather than waiting for your calling to find you.

Secondly, there are seasons. The way we follow our callings might be as changeable as a rapidly growing infant. What we were doing yesterday might not be what we need to be doing next month. Are we flexible enough to admit we’re not going to find just one formula that will magically work the rest of our lives? To go along with that, we have to repeatedly accept the unique ways our callings might play out compared to others. Comparison in this area of our lives is just as unhealthy as it is in the parenting world.

My encouragement to you today is to remember that you can’t know until you try. So go try something and let me know what you learn! I’ll let you know how the theories work out when Baby Crozier arrives . . . if I’m awake.