The theme of this summer is change.
If you have young kids, you're experiencing the change from the academic calendar to camps, vacations, and unstructured time.
If you've spent the last year holed up in your house, avoiding large crowds, airplanes, and social gatherings, you may be experiencing the change to a more packed social calendar.
With these changes comes an essential question: what are your priorities?
Of course, you don’t have to answer that question. You can just let random chance and your responsiveness to the asks of others shape your life. But there's a cost to this. In the words of Greg McKeown, “If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."
So how can you bring more intentionality to your priorities this summer? Try these three tools.
The values that shape your life together shouldn't be static. They should be dynamic. They should evolve as your life changes.
So even if you and your partner feel clear on the values guiding your life together, now might be a good time to ask: what are our top three to five values for this summer? In other words, where do we want to focus our time and energy?
There’s no right answer to this question. For some couples, the answer is adventure. For others, the answer is spending time with family. For others, the answer is completing a challenging work project.
The only bad answer is having no answer. That's a recipe for allowing the random happenstance of life -- the invitations from extended family members, the demands of work, or your addiction to the device in your pocket -- to shape your summer.
This question comes from what might just be our favorite exercise in The 80/80 Marriage. It’s an exercise we call "The Life Report Card," an exercise designed to give you a chance to take a step back from your life and consider which subjects in life you want to get A’s in and which subjects in life you’re willing to fail.
The key to this exercise is leaning into failure. Do you really need to work nights and weekends all summer? Or can you get a D+ in that subject?
Do you really need to bake the Fourth of July barbecue apple pie from scratch? Or can you get a C- in that subject by buying one from the grocery store?
The more you can intentionally fail in your lowest priority subjects, the more you can succeed and get A’s in the subjects that matter most to you and your family.
Here's one last trick for aligning your summer with your highest priorities in life: saying no.
Why is this important? Now that Covid is less of a threat, we've experienced a barrage of invitations to kids birthday parties, backyard barbecues, weddings, and other social events. We've been tempted to say yes to just about every one of these because, let's face it, we spent the last year living with minimal social interaction.
But some of these yeses come at a high cost. The yes to three random social events on a Saturday might mean a no to date night and time together for connection. The yes to a weekend trip with extended family might come with a no to a weekend alone together.
The point is that living your priorities often hinges on your ability to say no to the people or projects in life that get in the way of where you and your partner want to place your time and energy.