Are you intentional in your goal-setting? Are you passionate about personal development? Do you ever wish your spouse or partner got on board with those personal development goals a little more?
Today I am so excited for you to meet Lesley and Zach Lang. They are the hosts of the podcast Half Better, and they’re all about personal development, together. I just love that they are approaching personal development as a team.
I have heard from some of you that you wish your spouse was a little bit more gung ho about goal setting or was cheering you on a little more towards your goals. Lesley and Zach have so much wisdom to share with us about this and I can’t wait for you to learn more! Press play on the podcast player below to hear the full episode.
Sometimes You Have to Lead By Example
Lesley and Zach are both very into productivity and intentional living but it wasn’t always that way. Zach was the first to really dive in and Lesley was more of a reluctant goal-setter.
Zach says, “I had always sort of been a productivity nerd, as it were. I always enjoyed podcasts even before podcasts became so popular and I read Getting Things Done in the early 2000s when it first came out.
“I think what really got me going was the birth of our first child. At the time, I was about 80 pounds heavier than I am now. I got into more intentional living around my health and that was when things just really started clicking for me – focusing on what I was putting in my body, how I was exercising, and just seeing the benefits in terms of energy and productivity gains from the physical goals that I was achieving. Then I started reading more and more about life planning and that sort of thing.”
Meanwhile, Lesley was very interested in baking and not so much interested in exercising. For several years he invited her to join him on his runs but she always declined.
“But,” Lesley says, “he just kept doing him. Like we always say, ‘you do you’ and you continue on. And eventually, your partner will see all the benefits that you have gained from all the work that you have done.”
Zach would share what he was learning and why he was doing what he was doing but he never demanded that Lesley do the same.
“So as I saw how wonderful everything was for him, I was sort of like, okay, I really think I need to get on board.”
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
We hear this all the time, but your actions always speak louder than words. Then people can see you reaping the benefits of your new goals and your new lifestyle.
You can't make someone change who doesn't want to change.
“The thing is, when he was ready to change, I wasn't and so if he had been really forceful, and been like, this is what we're doing, he would have met resistance,” says Lesley.
“Because you're going to dig in your heels, right? It’s better if, instead of fighting changes from the outside, you are doing this introspection of wow, my partner is really meeting these goals and improving and I want to learn more about that versus being on the defensive.”
Now, both Lesley and Zach are very into goals, and their life seems very planned and structured. Sometimes we can be very intentional with our business goals or our own personal development, but being able to bring this into the family as well is such a great idea.
A Four-Pronged Approach to Keeping Your Life on Course
“We really look at intentional living in this sort of holistic view. If you are excelling in one aspect of your life, but the others are really tanking, then you're not living up to your fullest potential. And so we really try and look at all the different parts of our life – we call them life channels- and try to make each area the best it can be. So we have this four-pronged approach to keeping it all together and getting on the same page. That’s our weekly preview, our partner meeting, and then our family meeting, which kind of pairs along with our family headquarters,” Zach explains.
Zach and Lesley start with the weekly preview each week. Working separately, they each review the previous week to see what worked and what didn’t, then look at the week ahead to decide on any non-negotiables. They then choose their big three for the week- the three things that are really going to move them individually forward in whatever goals they’re working on and focused on at that moment.
After the weekly preview is the partner meeting.
“Sometimes we call it our partner business meeting. This is where we come together after we've each done our review, and we have this framework of things that we always touch on when we get together. For example, our budget, schedule, meals for the week, and house chores. Then we have an open forum where we bring up anything we’d like to discuss.”
Lesley and Zach started these partner meetings based on the teachings of Esther Perel who recommends keeping the sacred and secular separate in your relationship.
“So it's basically keeping what she calls secular things of your relationship such as bill payment, house chores- all that boring, nitty gritty stuff- from bleeding into your everyday life. Because if you let those things into your everyday conversations, you'll start to feel more like roommates and partners and that's not how things were when you were first together. You talked about what we call the sacred things- you dreamt together and you had these really deep conversations.”
Keeping these more transactional discussions to a set time helps prevent every conversation from becoming “Did you…”
Keep the secular and sacred separate.
It’s hard to do at first because you’re used to just asking the question as soon as it pops into your head but if it’s not urgent, it’s better to wait. Both Lesley and Zach now have a place to record those thoughts and questions during the week so they can remember to talk about them during the partner meeting.
“Another aspect of this meeting that I think is really essential for feeling heard and supported is that we actually ask each other, how can I support you this week? And what do you need from me to be successful with XYZ? If we're looking at our schedule and we realize that the next two weeks are going to be crazy busy, we talk about that. ‘What do you need from me to help relieve some of that stress?’ or ‘How can I help you get this done by this date?’”
Family Meeting and Family Headquarters
“The last part of our four-pronged approach is combined in our family meeting and our family headquarters. So we usually have a family meeting every week. It’s usually during family dinner on Sunday night, but it really doesn't have to be over a meal or on a Sunday. That's just what really works for us,” says Lesley.
The meeting starts with everyone telling the group something that may have been bad the week before followed by three good things which helps to set a positive tone. Then it’s time to look at the family headquarters which is basically a whiteboard calendar that has the schedule, meal planning, and chores listed for the week.
“It's really important to us that the kids feel like they have a voice in the meeting. Our last name is Lang so we say with the Lang Gang, that we're this team that's working together. And it's not just us talking down to them. We're all sitting together. We're all at the same level. We're all at the same table. And we're all contributing to this together.”
This started when the kids were very young so they couldn’t contribute much initially but as they've grown older they realize that this is a place where their concerns are heard.
Using the Power Hour Technique to Make Room for Work and Fun
Chores are tough for lots of families and the Langs are no different. After feeling like all their weekend time was spent cleaning, they started a system they call Power Hour.
“The power hour on the weekend came out of a family meeting because I was expressing my frustration at the fact that we were spending most of Saturday morning cleaning up from the week and how we didn't get to do anything fun. And the kids were like, yeah, it's really not fun and so we floated a few ideas. Do we do a little bit every single night? Or do we do this power hour?”
It has been working great because everyone feels like part of the process. They decide together on which tasks to tackle and even which music to play while they work.
“When we first started off, we really had to actually define a goal for what we would do as soon as Power Hour was over. For example, today when we finish Power Hour, we are going on a bike ride or today when we finish Power Hour, we are going to play this board game. Especially for our younger ones this sort of solidifies that, okay, I have this period of work, but we're going to go for a bike ride when we're finished. Now we don't necessarily need to do that as much, because we all know that once it's done, then we're going to do something fun, but it's helpful in the beginning to kind of set up that expectation.”
Advice for when one partner feels overwhelmed
Lesley and Zach recommend focusing on the benefits that the other partner will get from helping you.
“For example, you could say, I'm really overwhelmed right now. Would it be possible for me to have a morning to catch up on some work so that we could have more time together as a couple? I know that you've been wanting to go see the New Avengers movie but I wouldn’t be able to really enjoy it, knowing I have all this stuff to do. It would be really beneficial to me if you would be willing to let me have this morning alone without the kids to accomplish what I need to accomplish.”
“It's kind of like selling the why to your partner- why what you want to have done is beneficial to them rather than just saying why it's horrible right now.”
Tips for Making a Difficult Conversation Feel Safe
They recommend the book Crucial Conversations because it walks you through different ways to approach really sensitive subjects and to have those difficult conversations in a way that makes it safe for both partners.
“You don't want to put them on the defensive because you want to create a space where there is opportunity for an open discussion because it would be really beneficial for both partners if you had a really productive conversation.”
Having clearly defined roles and tasks such as these partner and family meetings might feel restrictive at first but they can be very helpful.
“It's the same thing with time blocking or any of those things before you really understand it and work with it. You feel like it's very restrictive, but there's so much freedom in these structures. It opens up the space for the rest of your life if you have these routines and rhythms. The partner meeting has just really made it a place where we're on the same level and we can just share and ask for support.”
Tips on Asking for Support If You’re Not the Main Breadwinner in the Family
“Going back to our view of living intentionally and looking at all aspects of your life, even if you're not working in a job right now, that's only one of eight or nine aspects of your life. So not having something to contribute in that way, is only one little area and there's all these other areas in which you can contribute and work on your life. Placing too much value on being a financial contributor is not the healthiest measure to have a balanced and holistic view of your life, right? How are you contributing with emotional support, with health, with adding hobbies and fun to your family? There's all sorts of different aspects to these life channels versus just finances.”
It's strange to put a number on it because each person brings so much value to the table. That shouldn't be how a relationship works.
“We say ‘would you be willing’ a lot because that's a peaceful way of asking for help and brainstorming other ways of solving these problems that the family is having. It's not an individual issue, right? So it's, it's trying to have that larger contribution discussion together.”
Even if it’s an individual goal it involves the whole family somehow.
Building Routines to Include Family Time and Connection
“In the business world or in productivity, you hear about creating a great morning and evening routine for yourself and we sort of took that a step further. We have actually created a family evening routine so that we have a whole family rhythm. Our evening routine actually shifts depending on our season. And that's why Zach had said earlier that it's essential to sort of revisit your ideal week every so often, because your needs are going to be different at different times of the year.”
“When Zach and I looked at our goals and our different life channels and the things that we wanted in those areas of life, we realized that we wanted to build in more connection time with our children so that we could build that foundation for a strong relationship. One of the best ways to do that, which sounds restrictive to a lot of people, is to actually schedule that connection time in. We were also having requests in our family meeting from our kids for more one on one time. They call it special time. So we kind of pulled apart our evening family block time and decided what we would do so that we could build a more connection on a daily basis.”
“I saw a statistic earlier this week that children have, on average, seven minutes of one on one time with each of their parents on a daily basis. Often siblings or other people are around and so even if you're together, they don't really get that one-on-one time. So when we looked and said that connection is really something that we want to do, the way we made it happen was to schedule it. A couple of years ago, I was like, oh, connection is really important to me. I want that time, but I didn't schedule it in so it was kind of like the last-minute thing that I thought about, Oh, wait, yeah, I need to have one on one time with this child today. It wasn’t consistent, and it wasn't happening every day or every week even. Scheduling it ensures that it actually happens more consistently. We’re not looking for perfection, we’re just looking for progress.”
How does Special Time with the kids work?
Special time is intended to be led by the child. It's a phrase coined from Hand in Hand Parenting and it basically means that for the time that we have, I'm going to do whatever you want to do. You really just kind of pour yourself into them and what they want to do. Of course for each of our children, it looks very, very different. It can be drawing, playing a game, or even just rolling a marble back and forth across the floor. It's about being fully invested in whatever it is that they want to do at that time and being connected.
Find all of the episodes from Zach and Lesley's podcast, Half Better, here.
Wow, such a lot of great ideas from Lesley and Zach! I can’t wait to try some of them with my family!
What was your favorite idea from today’s podcast?