Blog: The Pitfalls of a Default Family Culture

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This is so hard.

Every episode I post of my podcast is a struggle because of some glitch or another. It is outside of my character to reach out to and talk with complete strangers. I have a hard time having enough focus to create written content. I struggle to not neglect my children and my home. There are so many hurdles and obstacles to figure out. I tackle one, and then I learn about more of the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know!

You Are What You Consistently DO

Growing up, my dad always dreamed of being rich. He bounced from one MLM to another my entire life expecting that one would save him, only to give up after a year or two, and look for the next one. He and my mom have read almost every self-help book ever written. My childhood home had piles and shelves of these books.  I love that my parents studied, and sought out solutions.  This is something I am also really good at.  But, there’s more to the process than just study.  MJ DeMarco talks about the difference between action-taking and action-faking in his book “Unscripted” and I am learning that action-taking is more about engagement in the process instead of just planning or dreaming about it.  Action-faking looks like progress, but in the end, it’s not.  I’m really good at action faking.

Now as I struggle with the process, I know I’m susceptible to falling into the trap of action-faking. It’s part my nature, habit, and upbringing. MJ’s message, and others, like Mel Robbins and Napoleon Hill, are urging me on. I can sit here and worry about the outcome, worry it will take too long, worry that I don’t know enough, worry that I’m not good enough, worry that people will judge me, or any number of worries. But the reality is that the time will pass whether I’m doing this or not. My family will continue to grow up and become something, whether I am helping them in this process or not.

Our family culture has been happening by default for so long, and the funny thing is that we didn’t even notice it.  My husband and I thought we were doing what we were “supposed to” be doing.  We followed all the rules.  We have studied things out.  We did well in school.  We are active in our church.  We have a great marriage and partnership.  We tried to stay out of debt.  Yet, here we are a decade later, and we are struggling in almost every aspect of our lives.  Our health is suffering even though we are fairly active, and avoid too much processed foods.  Our finances are terrible.  Our relationships outside of our little family are nearly non-existent.  We have been stuck in a path that, in hindsight, has been the path of least resistance thinking we were doing what we were “supposed” to do.  But, what we were supposed to do wasn’t what we were authentically meant to do for ourselves.  We struggle now because we have never been forced to examine what direction our lives were heading.

You Do What You Consistently Believe

I started down a path of discovery when I learned how dependent I was on someone else’s views.  I had a major falling out with my dearest friend, and I could no longer rely on her knowledge and experience.  I spent a lot of my life observing her behaviors, and she had established a big part of my own identity.  When she wasn’t a part of my life anymore, I had to examine what I really believed, and where I drew my strength.  I learned a lot about grace during this time in my life.  I learned that I needed to rely on myself, my husband, and the Lord for the knowledge and strength I needed to endure.  I didn’t have my friend to run to and ask for guidance and advice.  Through that experience I learned what real autonomy looks like.  I learned to establish my own beliefs and values.  I needed to learn who I was without this person in my life.

I recently had another awakening when I read the book, “Outwitting the Devil” by Napoleon Hill.  He has this “interview” with the devil and finds out his real tactics are for leading people astray.  The biggest tool the devil uses is turning us into what he calls a “drifter.”  A drifter is someone who goes through life without much of a purpose.  If they do have a purpose, they give up at the slightest sign of resistance.  They fall into a trap of procrastination and indifference, and I would add stress and indecision.  There are some tools that the devil uses to lead us into becoming drifters, namely fear, fatigue, and other things that take away our ability to think and act for ourselves.  Failure and adversity are in place to deter drifters and keep them from progressing.  When I read this, I immediately knew that I had become a drifter in many ways, even though I thought I was always doing what was right.  I was still living my life by default.  I was following what MJ DeMarco calls “the script.” I was chasing after some unknown future, without putting in too much thought and effort, hoping everything would all come out all right in the end.

This is just the beginning of my discovery of intentional living.  Before, when I learned about grace, and living life more authentically, I learned that there is a big element of faith that goes into taking the path less traveled.  When we are drifting, we are living life out of fear, running away from some undesired outcome.  When we are living intentionally, we are living out of faith, working toward a vision of something greater.  When you are guided by fear, you can still make a lot of progress, but you will not reach your full potential.  There’s this scene at the end of Doctor Strange, when he is talking with The Ancient One.  She tells him that he was guided by his fear of failure which led him to wealth and fame, but he would never truly become great.  His fear and arrogance kept him from true greatness. Being driven by faith, I can learn what is truly needful.  I can turn my efforts outward toward service and selflessness.  I am learning that some things just require more effort.  When it looks like I’m failing, I take those failures as lessons to learn how to improve, rather than a stumbling block to give up.  But, I have to fight for it.  I have to want it so much that I’m willing to do things that seem out of character for me at times.

How We Succeed

I heard a quote recently by Henry David Thoreau: “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” Viktor Frankl said, “Don’t aim at success.  The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.  For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of ones personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself…Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen… I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge.  Then you will live to see that …success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.”  Happiness and success are the same. If I spent all my time and energy chasing happiness and success, I will always be frustrated. But if I focus on the process, making an impact, creating value, meeting new people, learning new skills, finding joy in being able to listen to my conscience, following my conscience with faith, maybe one day success will find me. More than this, I’m convinced that life has never been about enduring those test, trials and traps that are being hurled at us.  Rather, life is about what we do IN SPITE of those hurdles.

I want to live my life more intentionally. MJ DeMarco said once that the only way to fail at being Unscripted is by giving up and falling back into the Scripted mentality. That is also what Napoleon Hill says of being a drifter: you only fail at being a thinking person when you fall back into the habit of procrastination and indifference.  It is easy to become a drifter and ignore the push to follow my own path. It’s easy to allow struggle, failure, and challenges to push me down, and make me want to give up.  It is so easy to ignore what I could be doing and fall into the pattern of stress-and-sedation (my vices are food, some tv, and mindless scrolling).  I’ve got to hustle if I’m really going to overcome these habits.

The beginning feels especially hard. Those patterns are still fresh on my mind, and the new pattern deviates so much from that norm. The trouble is that while a Scripted/drifter life may seem easier at times, it is not sustainable in the long run. The more you follow it, the more it swallows up your self-respect, your self-worth, your authenticity, and your purpose. You start to mindlessly drift through life sometimes without even realizing it. I witness this every day as my husband struggles with his belief in himself at his day job – That is what depression looks like.  He and I became drifters without even realizing it because we thought we were doing everything “right” according to the script. So, I can be lulled into blind obedience to the path of least resistance. Or, I can blaze my own trail, as overrun and overgrown as it may be. The cool part is, I can follow in the footsteps of so many others who have gone before me. I don’t have to do this alone, but I do have to take the steps.

This is actually the whole message of my podcast.  How many families follow the path of least resistance only to crumble, or produce children who are drifters, too?  That is the message I want to help families understand.  My vision – my “why” – is to rescue my family and other families from this path, and aspire to new paths of intentionality and purpose.  Viktor Frankl said, “those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

What is your why?  Comment below.


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About the author, Jodi

I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband, Michael, and our four young kids. We homeschool, and work remotely, so I guess we may take this on the road some day! I have a bachelor's degree from George Mason University in Health Promotion Studies, but I attended five different universities before finally finishing while I was expecting my third baby! I'm a returned missionary from the Hawaii Honolulu Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, but I do enjoy reading personal development and parenting books, finding new ways to enjoy exercising, and learning more about being an entrepreneur.

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