“Slow down, learn about the motivations, the goals, the aspirations, and even the challenges of your partner. They are real! They matter, your relationship’s success depends on your ability to learn about them and nourish their spirits.” –Dale Carnegie
It’s been a year since we’ve written the popular Relationship Zen Strategic Planning – Phase 1 that was featured on LifestyleKick.com. In this article, we’re excited to present Relationship Zen Strategic Planning – Phase 2. It’s a long article, but it’s because we wanted to be as clear as possible. Think of it as phase 2 of a road map to planning an enlightening relationships versus a toxic one.
What is Relationship Zen Strategic Planning?
Central to Relationship Zen is an active cycle of personal development and couple’s development. Therefore, Relationship Zen Strategic Planning involves the intentional, structured and uplifting process of analyzing our current situations as individuals and as a couple, envisioning a better future as two, and developing a personal and group plan.
The purpose is to increase self and couple’s self-awareness to optimize communication, connection, and alignment (the things we want in an ideal relationship). In Phase 1, we “relationshipified” a traditional organizational business tool to facilitate that purpose. In phase 2, we’ll show you how we applied a personal development video on visioning and goal setting to the couple’s context. Three words characterized this experience for us: energizing, unifying, and validating.
Why Strategic Planning Phase 2 for Our Relationship?
Because you can’t work towards a shared future if you don’t spend time dreaming together and learning about each other’s goals, motivations, aspirations, and challenges.
Furthermore, you can’t improve if you don’t know what aspects of yourself and your relationship work or need improvement.
Lastly, you may improve by yourself, but by accomplishing this process together, you improve along the same path. Hence our saying: “We’re not two halves, we’re two wholes sharing one path”.
We hope that you’ll have a positive experience with this process too!
Warning: it may also be an overwhelming experience at first, so please be there for each other and respect the different ways that you think and process information. What works for one may not work for the other. To help, we’re going to demonstrate the process that we adopted and we believe it’s flexible enough for individual needs.
If you’re not currently in a relationship, we strongly recommend that you still complete the individual parts of this process.
Set the Stage in 3 Steps
- Watch the video together: Begin by watching Robin Sharma’s 10 minute video with your partner on “How To Make This New Year Your Best Year Yet”. He is the author of The Monk who Sold his Ferrari and The Leader Who Had No Title. His video outlines 5 practical steps for individuals to optimize their future. In this article, we’ve adapted his technique to work for Relationship Zen purposes. It’s important for you to watch the video together to start off on the same page.
- Do the individual work: After watching the video, individually complete Robin Sharma’s 5 steps, preferably within the same week. David did his on the plane ride to Alberta during the Winter vacation, while Lindsey did hers at her sister’s home, before coming back to Ontario. At this stage, we didn’t disclose our findings to each other. Make sure that you do this in a distraction-free and inspiring environment. If you need inspiration, watch the video ;).
- Do the couple’s work: After you’ve both had a chance to complete your 5 steps, come together to do the Relationship Zen work. Create a soft, pleasant, and distraction-free environment with your favourite items to share your work with each other. We did this part in a candlelit room with lavender oil being diffused into the air, after a nice take-out meal. Making a safe space for both of you to share is important. Include whatever will help you develop a welcoming and supportive atmosphere for each other. This should be sacred quality time for the two of you.
We’re going to break down step 3 in 5 practical sub-steps. This is where the magic happens!
Please keep in mind that the next 5 sub-headings represent an adaptation of Robin Sharma’s 5 step system for the purposes of Relationship Zen and to the needs of a couple.
Strategize in 5 Steps
Step 1: Celebration
This is the step where Robin Sharma asked his audience to create an inventory of wins/successes from 2013 and where we ask you to share them with each other:
“What wins do I need to celebrate from the past 12 months?”
If you’re similar to us, talking about our individual successes with each other will be a time for self- and mutual-appreciation. Lindsey shared celebrations that David was unaware of and vice-versa. For example, David learned that gaining clarity on some health issues was super important for Lindsey’s overall sense of well-being.
Truly being present while your partner shares their celebrations with you is so powerful. Rarely do we actually hold space to listen with mind, body and soul.
As we heard each other’s wins and special moments from the past year, we felt a deeper sense of desire and connection for each other. Being in tune with your partner’s successes mitigates the potential for judgment, control, imbalance, dependency, and selfish behaviour. Instead, desire and appreciation are fueled.
Also ask yourselves: “What shared/relationship wins do we need to celebrate from the past 12 months?”
Step 2: Education
This is the step where Robin Sharma asks his audience to create an inventory of lessons learned from the past year and where we ask you to share them with each other, using these questions:
“What did you learn from the past 12 months?”
“What were the 3 best business lessons?”
“What were my 3 best life lessons?”
“What were you were you doing when you achieved your best results from the past 12 months?”
Verbalizing the lessons learned to each other was also a meaningful experience because it gave us an opportunity to be vulnerable with each other and to increase our self and couple awareness. With self-awareness, we can make better decisions.
For example, when David was speaking about some of his best lessons from the year, Lindsey was able to appreciate how much time and effort went into some of his projects outside of work and family life. It really is a heart- and eye-opener to connect with your partner as they talk about their greatest lessons, fears, and accomplishments.
Any time you share a vulnerable experience with another is an opportunity to strengthen your bond. It helped us to know where the other is in terms of our growth, which is very helpful to avoid judgment, assumptions, attachment, miscommunication, and imbalance. Instead, care and appreciation take their rightful place.
Also ask these question: “What are our 3 best relationship lessons?” and “What were we doing when we were at our best as a couple?”
Step 3: Clarification
This is the step where Robin Sharma asks his audience to envision their aspirations and where we ask you to share your answers to the following questions:
“What are the “Big 5″ that need to happen by the end of this year, for this New Year to be your absolute best year?”
“What are your top 5 values for the New Year?”
“What are your top 15 goals for the next 12 months?”
Sharing the clarification stage is powerful. After explaining your individual findings, try to find commonalities between your “Big 5″s (your vision of an ideal new year) and top 5 values (your guiding principles). Creatively combine them to create a “Big 1” for your relationship in a way that complements your individual visions and values!
“What is our ‘Big 1‘ this year?” and “What shared values will guide us?”
Ta-da! You’ve created a vision and value set for your relationship! Doesn’t it feel good? Visions and values are motivating and provide direction. Therefore, having one will prevent your relationship from becoming a bad habit. Instead, your relationship will be characterized by continuous growth and excitement.
For example, one of David’s “Big 5″s was to create healthy relationships (zero-toxicity) with all key people in his life. One of Lindsey’s “Big 5″s was to consistently create open and sacred mindsets and spaces, giving her the opportunity to enrich her health and healing process.
Together, our “Big 1” is to be responsible for managing and communicating our own needs/feelings in a way that is loving towards each other’s needs/feelings.
Similarly, listening to each other’s 15 goals is motivating and a lot of fun! Although we created them a few days apart without disclosing to each other, there were some interesting thematic overlaps around health, education, fitness, and of course, Relationship Zen.
Finally, create 3-5 shared goals – drawing from your individual goals – for your relationship, that will help you commit to your “Big 1”. Use this question: “What are our top 5 goals for the next 12 months?”
Step 4: Graduation
This is the step where Robin Sharma asks his audience to answer this question on 1 page:
“How will you execute your “Big 5″ and 15 goals?”
In terms of the graduation step, this is where we shared our individual plans with each other and got feedback on it. Your partner can let you know if what you’ve outlined seems realistic or needs to be more challenging. They can also refer you to resources that can help you achieve your goals.
For example, one of Lindsey’s goals is to beef up her resume and cover letter and this is a topic where David has access to a lot of resources. On the flip side, one of David’s goals is to understand his audiences better for his leadership talks, and Lindsey offered to act as a critical sounding board for his practice runs.
Think of this step as becoming each other’s accountability buddies. This can have the same wonderful effect as having a gym buddy! You tend to show up more frequently, you tend to lift/push heavier/longer, and you tend to have more fun!
Who better to have as a relationship buddy than your partner?
Also, work through this question: “How will we execute our relationship’s Big 1 and goals this year?”
Step 5: Visualization
This is the final step where Robin Sharma asks his audience to:
“Close your eyes and emotionally engage with what your life will look like at the end of the year if you complete your goals and live by your values.'”
For the visualization piece, literally dream about what life would be like once you’ve achieved your stated goals. We’d like to do this through a couple’s meditation, face to face or back to back. That way we can bounce off each other’s energy to fuel our dreams.
Finally, we’ll print out our “Big 5″s, values and goals and post them in our homes. Most importantly, we’ll encourage each other to ACT on our intentions right away and keep each other in check. All in all, phase 2 builds on phase 1 in that it provides a practical method and space to become two wholes who share a path, rather than falling into the all-too-easy and seductive “toxic relationship”.
We realize this is a lot of work, but it takes a lot of work to make a relationship work.
There is no time to waste – we’re out to continue creating a simple, happy, and fulfilling relationship this New Year and we hope you’re coming along for the journey!
To see the result, stay tuned as we work hard to post one thoughtful Relationship Zen article a month. Let us know how your phase 2 went on our Facebook group.
“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” -Buddha