How do you hold a vision for your relationship without being trapped by perfectionism when it doesn’t quite measure up to the ideal? How do you manage time in your relationship so that you have time to nurture and build your connection? What are some practical ways that you can learn to value your and your partner’s uniqueness, and what you each bring to the table? And just why is commitment SO important in your relationship’s development?
As a healer, relationship coach, and the host of this show, It’s my goal to provide you with unique, actionable insight for how to do relationships amazingly well. And while most of the guests that you’ll hear on the show make perfect sense if you’re familiar with the relationship space, like Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt in episode 22 or Diana Richardson talking about her version of Tantra, which she calls “Slow Sex”, in episodes 2 and episode 10, there are some other less obvious sources of wisdom that I want you to know about.
One of these is an organization called “Strategic Coach” - led by Dan Sullivan - which supports entrepreneurs in innovative, often counter-intuitive ways to grow their businesses and lead lives balanced between work and well - LIFE. The more familiar that I’ve become with their advice for entrepreneurs over the years, the more I saw that you could apply their wisdom not only in the business world, but also in the realm of love and relationships. As it turns out, they do have a program called the “Couples Connection” for people in relationship - but it’s only available to people in the strategic coach program. And today’s guest, Shannon Waller, has not only been part of the Strategic Coach Organization since 1991, she has been instrumental helping them do exactly what we’re talking about - gearing their strategies towards the health and growth of relationships. She’s currently Strategic Coach’s Entrepreneurial Team Strategist, and she has also been part of every single Couple’s Connection workshop since they started running them. I’m so excited to have her here on the show to chat with us about some of these really practical, yet unconventional business strategies - and how you can apply them in your love life.
In this conversation, Shannon Waller and I discuss various new ways to approach yourself and your relationship:
Continually innovate- Whether you yourself own a business or not, there are some critical tips from successful entrepreneurship that translate well into relationships. For example, there is a need, in business, and in relationships, to continually innovate. Without change and cycles of innovation it is all too easy to get stuck in problems, complacent, or bored- and it isn’t long until minds and hearts start to wander. In order to have the relationships we really want, we must continually work to strengthen the container of the relationship so that it becomes a source of growth, energy, and vibrancy. Without this investment of energy, partners will lose heart connection and may begin to substitute other things, including work, so that they feel less empty.
The “GAP”: The “Gap” is a key concept in helping us assess our sense of progress, and consequently our sense of competency. The “Gap” is that space between where we are now, and where our ideal is. We all hold ideals- ideals for our partner, our children, ourselves, the way the world should work, how our week should play out- and on and on. First, learn to distinguish helpful versus harmful ideals. A helpful ideal is one that is inspiring and makes you want to be a better person, it gives you energy and helps you set goals. A harmful ideal is one that is burdening, limiting, and leads to decreased energy, anxiety, and shame. All ideals however, can become burdening and limiting if we are not careful in how we relate to them. Think of ideals like the horizon- a mental construct to describe “where the earth meets the sky”, a definition that helps our brains come to grips with something that we can never actually experience or reach. Ideals are a similarly moving target. They are incredibly powerful and valuable in helping inspire and motivate us, and yet, we often misuse them. When we use our ideals to measure ourselves against, we run into problems. When we measure ourselves against this moving, amorphous, and inherently unattainable ideal, we can feel depressed, get frustrated, and often feel like a failure.
There is an alternative! Instead of facing forward towards the future, turn around and take a look back at where you started from. Think of yourself standing on the front of a large boat staring at the looming horizon and wondering how long it will take, and how far you have gone, and now, imagine yourself walking to the stern of the boat and viewing the shore receding further and further away… When we measure ourselves against where we have come from, we gain a sense of progress, and begin to experience satisfaction, optimism, and loads of other great feelings. Going into the “Gap” is inevitable, but we always have a choice on how we measure ourselves and how long we stay stuck in there.
STOP and CELEBRATE progress! We all have loads of ideals when it comes to our relationships- expectations for how our partner will act, what they will and won’t say, do, feel, how we will show up.... A lot of relationships get stuck in the Gap. It is important to refocus your attention together on progress that has been achieved.
TRY THIS: List out 5 achievements you have experienced together, and celebrate these realizations! This positive focus will change how you feel on an everyday basis in your relationship.
Find measurable goals in your relationship- Having ideals helps create a vision for what is possible in our relationships, and sets a direction to work towards. Remember however, to be careful in how you measure your relationship against these ideals. Along with looking backwards in order to move forwards, it is helpful to set measurable goals to track progress. We are all guilty of broad statements such as “I want our relationship to be better”, or something like “I want us to be having more sex”- but these are undefined and can quickly lead to guilt, shame, and/or disappointment. Instead, try to set mini and measurable goals- what can you do on date night? When can you set time aside for intimacy? How much time do you want to spend per week together without phones? Together discuss what is going to invigorate your relationship, and set measurable goals and intentions to follow through on.
To help you create these measurable goals, it is helpful to ask yourself and your partner: “How will we know that we are in a better relationship?” This question points towards places that can be measured and tracked, which will then lead to that feeling of ‘better’.
Maybe it is time for a new time paradigm: There is an entrepreneurial time system that can be applied to relationships, with great consequences. This system divides your time into 3 different types of days:
Free Days: Free days are 24 hours (midnight-midnight) when you turn off, and tune in. You don’t check email, your phone, or do any work related activities. You spend this day rejuvenating and dedicating time to your personal life- you friends, your family, yourself, getting more sleep, getting more grounded…. Make them sacred- whatever this means to you. If you truly plan, protect, and follow through on these free days you will begin to breath again, and it will add oxygen to your relationships! Slipping relationships get solid again as you recenter into yourself. It is important that when planning your calendar, you pick these days FIRST.
Buffer Days: This is the time to get your house in order, so to speak. Focus on all the details that are necessary to getting your life and work in order. Clean up your “messes”. The intention of buffer days is to do all that is necessary so that you can protect your free days and your focus days.
Focus Days: Focus days are another 24 hours (midnight-midnight) in which you spend 80% of your time being productive and focusing on your money making ventures. These are your performance days. Your show days. Attend fully and without interruption. Network, be creative, use your expertise to solve problems and progress.
Be creative in how this can be applied in YOUR relationship. How can you better manage your responsibilities and time so that you can enjoy dedicated and uninterrupted time with yourself and your loved one?
Unique Ability- How much time do you spend thinking about ways you can be or get better? It is true that we all have ways we can be, do, feel better, however our assumption in our minds is that if we can always get better, than this must mean we aren’t very good right now. This ends up undercutting our own unique abilities. Our unique abilities are those qualities, skills, and gifts that are uniquely us. It is a combination of what you love to do (what is your passion? What fuels you?) and those things that you have superior skill at (what are you really good at?). This combination gives us an unending sense of that “I’m on fire” energy.
Give yourself permission to not be perfect at everything and play to your strengths! We all have strengths and non-strengths, and the majority of our cultural conditioning has been based on finding what we are deficient at, and having a “fix what’s wrong” focus. We get this message that we need to work on our weaknesses, however if you work on your weaknesses for a very long time you get….very strong strong weaknesses! Invite yourself to start learning and discovering your strengths, and strengthening these! To do so, it is important to have some perspective, and humor around the expectation that you are supposed to be good at everything. Needless to say, it is not true, nor is it possible- we all have cards that we can play all the time, and other cards that we simply don’t have in our deck.
Think of your life and all your responsibilities, roles, and activities, and now try to begin recategorizing these into the following categories:
Competent activities- those activities in which you reach the minimum standard. You are okay at this.
Excellent activities- these are the activities in which you have superior skill. Other people give you a lot of feedback on this, but inside you are sometimes bored…
Unique ability activities- Then there are a small subset of activities in which you have fun, you have the most learning, and you have the most to contribute. This is hopefully connected to how you make money. It goes with you everywhere, and is core to what brings you fulfillment. These are natural to you, and ELF: easy, lucrative, and fun. Give yourself permission to use this unique ability! Return on energy is profoundly better when we invest in our strengths!!
Exercise: You can do this alone, or in tandem with your partner. Take some time to get to know your strengths- either by complete a strengths finder assessment tool (see resource list) or by simply sitting down and making a list of what you are really good at. Assessment tools are helpful in that they identify what motivates you, and what your natural leanings are- without all the self-judgement that comes along with self-evaluating. Now make a full list of all that is required to maintain your life. If you are doing this with a partner- make your lists separately and then match them up. Once this is completed begin to look at what is required compared to what your strengths are. The gaps provide opportunities to become RESOURCEFUL. Prioritize what you enjoy doing, and set up the environment and the resources to do this. For those necessary activities and responsibilities that you are not as inclined towards, get creative- delegate, hire out, barter, etc. This requires that you give yourself permission to not do everything, to be okay with where you are at, and to have a sense of humor.
NOTE: The Kolbe profile can be a major catalyst in helping clear out some stuck patterning in your relationship. It helps put language to that amorphous “us” by revealing your uniqueness. Use it to help you and your partner find out how you each problem solve, where you work together, and potential areas of conflict. In effect it helps you see what is happening backstage- all those dynamics that end up influencing how we show up in our lives and in our loves.
4 C’s Growth Formula: Intimacy can be scary. Exposing yourself can be scary. Sharing can be scary. The 4 C’s growth formula helps conceptualize the process of becoming confident BY becoming vulnerable. Intentional growth begins when we make a COMMITMENT. Once you are past the honeymoon stage, and ready to start creating a safe container where you can really experience the full potential for aliveness and growth-- you begin to shift towards learning to sustain an arc of growth and commitment. After you have made the commitment- that YES to someone, you enter into the COURAGE phase. This is when you have made a commitment to something that is bigger than you are, and often to something to which you are not totally prepared for. You throw yourself off a cliff and need to learn how to fly. The only way to get to that more comfortable sense of capability and confidence, you have to go through the courage phase. If someone is only half committed, the courage phase takes a really long time, and in truth you never really quite get there. But when you fully jump in and take the risk of committing, you learn, you innovate, you create, you build relationship muscles, and then you put into place the CAPABILITIES, and these lead to a whole new sense of CONFIDENCE.
COMMITMENT ⇢ COURAGE ⇢ CAPABILITY⇢ CONFIDENCE
⇡ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ⇠ ↵
We all know this cycle- and we go through it often. The more often we go through it the more capabilities we build, and therefore the more confidence we have, which then leads us to being able to make bigger and bolder commitments! You can’t just rest in capability in confidence- this leads to stagnation and stuckness. Instead be willing to make greater commitments as this will give you the determination necessary to enter into the courage phase in which we begin to become the people and the partners we want to be!
Be self determining- The world can be challenging and powerful, and often there are many external pressures on our relationships that must be contended with. A strengths based approach is not blind to these, but rather requires a willingness and a strength to look directly at these difficulties. Find constructive language with your partner to share your fears, vulnerabilities, and worries in order to be conscious and intentional together about how you want to approach these challenges. This verbal acknowledgement and navigation does not have to be heavy handed- take the conversation with you on date night! Have fun, and find intimacy, in finding words together that will help you be more self-determining in how you lead your lives and your relationship.
Lastly, KNOW THYSELF- Use assessment tools, inventories, strengths finders, conversation, introspection, reflection, creativity, or any other means to help you find your unique abilities and that idiosyncratic YOU. Then, find ways to actually honor who you are so that you can become more fully you. The best relationships involve a dynamic in which what makes one partner come to life, then brings their partner to life. This leads to mutual excitement, passion, and ever evolving growth.
For more information about Shannon Waller’s work see strategiccoach.com
For more on the 4 C’s breakthrough process, read here
Click here to go to the Kolbe website and take the Kolbe-A index to help find your natural abilities
Visit the Gallup Strengths Center where you can complete the Clifton Strengthsfinder
https://www.neilsattin.com/strategic Visit to download the show guide, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the show guide to this episode with Shannon Waller and qualify to win a copy of Unique Ability 2.0
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