Laying the groundwork for a stronger family

laying the groundwork

Making the decision to move 1,000 miles away from the deep roots you’ve put down over the course of your life is not an easy one.

I speak from experience, as it took my husband and I years to finally decide to move from the cold northeast to the mild climate of Tennessee.

Now that we’ve been here for almost a year and a half and are happier and very much at peace with our decision, I am reminded of groundwork we laid to make sure our family remained strong.

This groundwork covered different aspects of our lives: Financial, Family, Career, Personal Growth, Physical, Spiritual, and Social.

Still, in spite of our best efforts, we have found weak spots that have needed shoring up following our move.

That is to be expected, of course, since we are all a continual work in progress. :-)

The following post, which I wrote for another site just prior to moving, shares the thought process and how-to of what we did.

I hope you find this Pie of Life a helpful tool for laying the groundwork for a stronger family!


Do you remember those first, heart-pounding moments of playing hide and seek?

100, 99, 98, . . .

As your friend began the countdown, you raced for the best hiding place you could find.

Sometimes, it would be just the blink of an eye before you’d hear, “3, 2, 1. Ready or not, here I come!”

You knew your goose was probably cooked at this point.

There was always someone, though, who was the last to be found.

You know why? Because they were ready before the countdown began.

Life is a lot like that.


We don’t hear anyone counting down our moments, but it is happening nonetheless.

Sometimes, it is for the wonderfully exciting: finally meeting the one, or holding our bambinos for the first time.

Other times, however, it’s those seconds that feel like hours as we wait for a proverbial shoe to drop, that long In-Between.

And every once in a great while, we round a corner, and WHAM!

We run smack dab into an unexpected life event, those experiences that carry the potential to dramatically and negatively change our circumstances.

Dave Ramsey shared a discouraging statistic from Money Magazine that 78% of Americans will have a major negative financial event in any given 10-year period.

Being the optimistists—or ostriches—that we are, however, we  often carry happily on, sure that everything is and will be just fine.

Who wants to think about dark times ahead while the sun shines so brightly?


ocean wave sunshine


Well, Noah did, as he built his ark. Joseph, too, took action. Over the course of seven bountiful growing seasons, he gathered so much grain it was beyond measure.

They were ready when the difficult times began and thus softened the blow considerably for their families.

Granted, these are extreme examples, but you, too, can take small and regular preventative steps to help sustain your marriage, family, and four walls during stormy weather.


Where to look to solidify your defenses 

Consider the main areas that make up your life: Financial, Family, Career, Personal Growth, Physical, Spiritual, and Social.

The quality of your life, and the resulting ability to hold things together when faced with adversity, comes from careful tending to each area.

When an area is full, Murphy is less likely to come knocking at your door.

It also means you can draw upon other areas when he does.

For example, if you are hit with a medical emergency, you don’t want to be distracted by financial woes.

If you lose your job, you won’t be able to draw comfort and support from a relationship already running on empty.

You want to be free to focus the full measure of your attention solely on the main area of need.

We are going to talk about each section, particularly in relationship to the whole, as a pie.

The question is this: How much of each slice do you regularly keep on hand?


Pie of life


How to measure where you are

If you look at the diagram, you will see full and equal slices in each area.

That does not represent real life, by the way. :-)

The more attention you give to an area, the fuller that slice of life is.

For instance, let’s say you are spending sixty hours a week at your job. Your Career slice would definitely be full-size. If you are the reigning Olympic Couch Potato Gold Medalist, your Physical slice of pie will be just a few crumbles in the pan.

That’s pretty fitting when you think about it.

Sketch out a quick seven-section pie-chart on a piece of paper, using the areas I’ve noted. You can add others, or rename any, too. Do what works for you. And remember this does not have to be perfect.

For each slice, color from the center out. The more area that is colored represents the greater amount of attention being paid to this area. Make a judgement about the percentage of attention given. Use a scale of one to ten, one being almost no attention, and 10 being a lot. Color that amount in on the slice.

Spouses, you can do this exercise together or separately: it’s up to you.


How to decide what needs adjusting

Once you are through assigning a value to each slice, take a look at the entire pie.

Do any slices jump out at you as dramatically fuller or emptier than others?

Do you or did you have a sense that certain areas were out of balance, and this diagram confirms it?

Remember that what is required of you and your spouse ebbs and flows depending on your season of life.  When your children are infants, your family may require a great deal more attention. If you are building a business, your career may demand many more of your hours.

You have to regularly assess and reprioritize all areas.

There is no single, right formula, and no perfect, one-size-feeds-all pie, but using your core values as a guide will help you prioritize.


heart muscle cartoon

 How to strengthen areas

1. Financial.  Get your finances in order: Do a budget, create an emergency fund, get out of debt. Dustin has lots of great resources here. Did you know that having better control of your finances gives you a greater sense of hope and improves your marriage?

2. Family.  First and foremost, keep your marriage strong. Find simple, frugal, and enjoyable ways to fill your family’s love buckets. Remember that small things can bring big satisfaction. A close family and strong relationships provide great shelter in a storm.

3. Career.  Choose to be happy where you are, or find somewhere you can be happy, because a happy mom and dad are a precious gift. Do the positives of the job outweigh the negatives? Is it a means to an end? Do you want to move into something else? Dan Miller, author of 48 Days to the Work You Love, maintains a supportive and uplifting community of over 12,000 entrepreneur-minded individuals. Check them out! Loving what you do pays priceless dividends to you and your family.

4. Personal Growth.  Growing in your skills and knowledge can help with a new career, advancing in your current one, and your general overall satisfaction. Plus, being a lifelong learner is a great role-model for your children. Sign up for a class, attend conferences, learn how to do something new. Remember the kids will be leaving home one day, and then it will be just the two of you again. It’s great to continue to grow so you are both still interesting. :-) Here’s a list of ten terrific personal growth blogs to get you rolling.

5. Physical.  Just get up and move. Take walks. Play tag with your kids. Eat wisely. Sleep well. Meditate. Strength train. When you don’t take of yourself, you won’t have the strength or immunity you need to handle a crisis. Plus, if you don’t take time to be well, you will take time to be sick.

6. Spiritual.  Grow your relationship with God. Pray, especially before you are knocked down to your knees. Refresh your spirit by going to church, joining a small group study, reading your Bible, devotionals, or websites that enrich and challenge you. There are a multitude of resources available-check with a friend or on the web. Your faith will sustain you through life’s most difficult times in a way that nothing else can.

7. Social.  Make friends, join a club, attend concerts in the park, have other parents over for potluck game nights. You do not need to become a hermit just because you are married and possibly have little ones. Neglecting this area is easy to do, especially as a parent, but be intentional about creating and maintaining these relationships. They will fill an important space in your life, as well as that slice of the pie.


There you have it: A plan to identify and fortify the main areas of your life so your family be stronger.

I encourage you to spend time and attention to creating the right mix for your family.

Then, when those hard knocks come, you will be able to stand strong and leave the hiding strictly for fun.

Now it’s time to go play: 100, 99, 98, . . .


Question: What area needs the most attention to make your family stronger?

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  1. I love this pie!!! It gives a nice overview of what we need to be keeping aware of and working on. I think I might try this with my husband, if he is willing. Funny how I can easily see pie pieces that need work in others… I bet they would say the same for me LOL! But it is a good time of year to think this through…
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