Relationship Zen Strategic Planning – Phase 1
“So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but do know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” -Sun Tzu
Up until today, we’ve been talking about how to improve your relationship through self work (know yourself). However, as the quote above illustrates, knowing others as well as yourself is even better. In the spirit of this theme, we want to talk about how to improve your relationship through an intentional group project where you not only learn about yourself but about each other.
We decided to celebrate Lindsey’s birthday in a non-conventional way: we had a visioning session (also known as strategic planning) around our relationship. We wanted to do this together to learn more about one another and to see if there was anything we needed to work on to make our relationship healthier. What better way to celebrate your birthday than improving your relationship? For all those who are appalled at this form of birthday celebration, we also spent time at a dog festival because Lindsey likes dogs.
Picture this: It was a beautiful sunny day. We gathered chart paper, markers, and sticky notes to write out our thoughts, we had calming music in the background, and we were outside on the porch to create the perfect atmosphere. We began our visioning process with what companies usually do, we completed a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) of our relationship. We thought it would be best to start here because subsequent steps in the process can be derived from the SWOT.
Why did we do a SWOT Analysis for our Relationship?
Because you can’t work towards a future together if you don’t know the state of your relationship in the moment. Furthermore, you can’t improve if you don’t know what aspects of your relationship need improvement. Lastly, you can improve by yourself but by accomplishing the SWOT analysis together you improve along the same path. Hence our saying: “We’re not two halves, we’re two wholes sharing one path”.
The conversations that you have during the SWOT may not be the typical kind. In fact, you may even bring up opinions that you wouldn’t have without the activity. That’s the beauty of it! The SWOT activity allowed us to be completely open and honest with each other about both our strengths, weaknesses, fears, and excitements. We also used the framework because it helps us learn to value each other’s opinion, to be open to feedback, and to be comfortable with being vulnerable. These are all essential aspects of Relationship Zen.
There were some moments that were funny and others that were emotional but each second of dialogue and joint reflection made our relationship grow stronger. Coming out of the SWOT activity, we felt more understanding of each other and of our relationship. Consequently, we felt like we aligned ourselves even more towards a shared Zen path.
Want to do a Visioning Session with your partner?
Here is a suggested guideline:
Get all of the supplies that you need to make the magic happen! You like wine? Have a glass during the session!
Schedule at least two hours together to allow time and space for ideas to develop and to be communicated effectively; you do not want to rush the process.
Prepare to create the most positive environment, by bringing in outlets that reflect both of your personalities (i.e. Lindsey wanted markers and sticky notes for a more creative portion, David wanted nature music in the background for support).
Understand what a SWOT Analysis is and how you can adapt it for your relationship.
Brush up on your active listening and communication skills to get the most out the process. Prepare to value your partner’s opinions and emotions to avoid conflict. Go in with a positive and productive attitude!
Each of you take time to do the SWOT individually for a few minutes. By this we mean that you will individually analyze yourself, your partner, and your relationship through a SWOT scan.
Then, turn to each other to explain your answers one by one. Discuss why you identified certain strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as they relate to you, them, and the relationship. Encourage your partner to disclose, ask meaningful questions, and be open to the feedback.
Consolidate all the results into similar themes within the four quadrants so that you can both see your main strengths to capitalize on, the main weaknesses to work on, the main opportunities to grab, and the main threats to either avoid or assimilate.
Digest your experience by discussing what was awesome, what might have been sad, what you may want to improve upon, etc.
Understand that this is a process that should be reviewed throughout your partnership.
Turn the words to action and try to apply what you learned ASAP. Also stay tuned for for our next blog post in this section.
Remember to breathe and to make it your own! Try to let this be as organic as possible.
The SWOT analysis reinforces your habit and commitment to fighting for your relationship, rather than fighting each other or yourself – check out the quote below. Don’t forget to join our Relationship Zen Facebook Group to stay up to date with our posts and to discuss, learn, and share (because sharing is caring!) with like minded individuals.
David & Lindsey