Stop Drifting and Cultivate A Deliberate Family Culture

If you don’t feel like reading you can watch me stand in my office and talk to you. Just scroll to the bottom of the post and enjoy the video. The written content below is almost identical to what’s in the video, so you won’t miss a thing either way.

It’s easy to allow daily life to happen to us without giving thought to what we really want our life and family culture to be like.

You have a unique calling and a unique way to live for God that’s in total alignment with His Word. It’s a way of life that will bring joy to you, and bring life to your family… but we often miss out on it all by drifting and following along passively with the crowd.

But there is a way to break free. You can make deliberate decisions about your pursuit of God, family life, career, and everything else. When you start doing that, you’ll feel like you’re finally living as who God made you to be.

Your family will have a recognizable identity and it’s one you’ll be proud of.

Deliberate living is a practice that you can weave into every part of your life that will help you to live YOUR life, not the life others are living.

It’s easy to talk about, but you’re wondering if there’s really a practical way to live an intentional life.

Yes. There is a way, and it’s simpler than you might think.

Reach YOUR Destination

The best way to keep guiding yourself and your family into a deliberate life is with the simple question “Why?”

Those three little letters have the power to send you (and to keep sending you) in the direction you actually want to go in. It’s pretty easy to use. You just act like a 5 year old and apply it to everything.

Your kids in public school? Why?

You homeschool? Why?

You’re accepting that promotion? Why?

You’re working out? Why?

You’re going to church services? Why?

Asking “Why?” is a powerful, simple, and practical tool that gets us to the root of an issue and helps to us to see our reasons for things that we wouldn’t otherwise think about.

Let’s look at one of those examples:

“Our kids go to public school. Why do we send them to public school?

Because that’s what everybody does. That’s just what you do!”

Let’s analyze that answer.

If we find ourselves thinking “because that’s what everyone does,” then we’ve just found an area of our lives where we’re not being deliberate.

It doesn’t make our decision wrong… the only thing that’s definitely “wrong” with it is that we didn’t purposely think about it already.

You might go through a little bit of evaluation and analysis and end up with the same conclusion, but you won’t know for sure until you come up with your own good reason for any particular thing.

And let me make this clear: You don’t owe me any explanation about anything you do, but you do owe it to your spouse, you do owe it to your kids, and you do owe it to yourself to know why you’re doing the things you’re doing.

Asking “why” will show us what we actually value. Not what we think we value, and not what we wish we valued.

Here’s another one.

“Let’s get our daughter a cell phone.”

“Why would we do that?”

“Because other kids her age have them.”

Now, we know that’s not a good reason, but that is a good discovery. We want to find areas where we’re not being intentional. We may still choose to get the cell phone, but we’ll do it for our reasons, and hopefully they won’t include “so her friends think she’s cool.”

If the answer to “Why” doesn’t match your values, you don’t want to do it. You want to do stuff on purpose. Otherwise, you might be working against yourself and the values you want in your family.

Disclaimer

This is a simple idea, but there’s an important assumption built in… You’ve got to be honest when answering the “Why?”

If we’re honest, we’re going to have some difficult conversations, but we’re going to find out what our values really are, and we’re going to find out that we honestly don’t know why we do certain things. This will lead us to God in prayer and to our family in discussion and instruction.

By asking “why,” and in being brutally honest with your answers, you’ll shape your “true north” as a family and get more precise over time.

And let’s get clear on this point- You DON’T lose freedom with this process, you GAIN clarity and you accomplish more of what you actually want for yourself and your family.

You might have 18 roads to choose from, but they don’t all lead to the destination you want. Asking “why” will show you which road you and your family should be on, and you’ll be able to say no to all of those roads that you were never really all that interested in to begin with.

As your values continue to be revealed, decisions get easier to make.

How it Plays Out

So, maybe this looks like asking:

“Why does our 8 year old play baseball for 9 months out of the year, forcing us to drive all over the state and be crazy busy?”

“Because he might FALL BEHIND!”

Oh no! Not the dreaded “fall behind” of youth sports! This cultish fear says something like:

“If my kids don’t do sports for 12 months out of the year by age 8 they’ll never amount to anything in life, they’ll never go to the Olympics, everyone will think we’re losers, and we’ll all die a terrible death.”

We don’t say these things, and we don’t really believe them, but sometimes we act like we do.

So maybe we should reevaluate.

You might decide that you only want your child to play baseball for one season. Or maybe you’ll decide that the family needs a break from baseball for a whole, entire, gigantic, year.

Maybe you’ll decide that your child really should be playing baseball for 13 months* (*not actually possible) a year because he might “fall behind” other kids.

Personally, I think that’s a terrible idea and completely ridiculous but you’re not married to me so it doesn’t matter! The point is, you will decide, and you won’t be following others blindly.

Asking “Why” is actually a huge help to my family when it comes to sports.

My two oldest sons are in wrestling. They practice 2 nights a week and they have one tournament each weekend. There are some teams who do 5 nights a week. I call these teams Cobra Kai. You remember the original Karate Kid? Cobra Kai was the team who was just a liiiiiitle too intense.

Guess what. The Cobra Kai kids are much better wrestlers than my sons. In fact, almost none of the kids on my sons’ team can beat any of Cobra Kai’s wrestlers.

So you know what I’m thinking?

“Maybe my sons should wrestle more…”

But let’s evaluate my thinking and discover together why I’m stupid for thinking that:

1- I don’t want my sons to wrestle more because the season is tiring enough without adding extra practices.

2- I want us to be home more together.

If those are my values, I shouldn’t be swayed by Cobra Kai or by anyone else.

Asking “why” has driven me to tell my son’s coaches: “You can practice for 8 nights a week for all I care, but my sons will be at 2 of them.”

Why?

Because we value family time and a slower pace more highly than we value winning wrestling matches.

Yes, they’ll lose a lot. No, they won’t have much fun. But I’ll just tell them it’s building their character and that they’ll destroy Cobra Kai when they’re in high school because Cobra Kai will be burned out and those kids will hate wrestling even more than my sons hate losing, and I’ll be standing there in judgement over the Cobra Kai parents… fully vindicated! At least that’s how I tell myself things will play out.

Under Pressure

A year ago, when I was going through the fire academy, we signed my oldest up for what would have been his 3rd year of wrestling.  After his first night of practice, I realized this was a bad idea and that this would be too much on all of us.  Natalie was still nursing the baby, and she would have been the one who had to take our oldest back and forth to practice because I had to be studying every night.  It just wasn’t going to work.

So, together, we told our son that there wasn’t going to be any wrestling this year. We didn’t tell him the news in the form of an apology, or offer him bribes.  We don’t owe him an apology, and we don’t owe it to him to put him in sports every year.

We don’t owe our kids anything except to give them a godly home. 

Team Clark comes before the wrestling team, art class, children’s theater, vacation bible school, and whatever other activities we put our kids in. Thankfully, my son understood that and took the news really well. Hopefully, it taught him an important lesson, as well.

It’s funny, when this wrestling season started, and we signed up both of our boys, one of the kids on the team came to me on the first night and asked, “Where were you guys last year?”

I fumbled through an answer along the lines of, “Well, I started a new job that kept me really busy, and we just needed to rest and have some family time.”

As I answered him, you could tell that his whole brain just couldn’t even.  “But what did you do?” he asked.

“We spent time together, and I had to do a lot of studying, and we took things slowly…”

But he still wasn’t getting it. So I started feeling pressure. I was thinking “Maybe I don’t have a good reason…” I laughed later as I thought about how I almost felt bad that I couldn’t justify my decision to this 10 year old.

You don’t have to feel pressure from anybody – your boss, friends, your parents, or intimidating 10-year-olds. God is the head of your household and you and your spouse create the culture you want in your family. As opportunities come they should be judged ruthlessly. Sometimes we’ll find an asset, sometimes we’ll find a liability.

Opportunities Abound

Even something that seems as obvious as a promotion could be a disaster.

“Of course I’ll take this promotion!  Why wouldn’t I?  That’s what promotions are for!”

If you don’t stop and think in that moment, you might torpedo your own family because work is going to demand so much more of your time.  The paycheck might be awesome, and it might earn you that two-week trip to Bermuda with your family, but you might find that you NEED that 2-week vacation because you haven’t seen your family all year!

Who cares if you make more money if you’re taken away from your family in the process?

Of course that’s not always the case, but the point is that we should ask “Why?” even with things that seem so obvious.

Captain Your Ship

These are decisions for you to make.  For you to decide.  I can’t make you. I can just annoy you and challenge you to ask “Why?”

There is so much at stake.  10 years goes by quick, and I don’t want to have an internal crisis as my now 8 year old walks across the stage at his high school graduation. I know I’ll have regrets, but I don’t want to regret the entire arc of our lives and the big decisions we made for our family.

Living a deliberate life is a challenge, but the good news is that it gets easier the more we practice it, and the more we simply ask, “Why?”

Sometimes you’ll like what it reveals. Sometimes you’ll realize you don’t like your own values, and THAT moment becomes a moment where you can change the trajectory of your family for the better.

(Don’t miss the whole point of this post because you disagree with my views. I don’t hate sports. I actually enjoyed one sport in particular for many years and competed at an elite level. Sports can be great, depending on the season of life your family is in.)

When have you asked “Why?” and made a deliberate decision instead of an accidental one? What will you apply “Why?” to right now to make sure you’re living on purpose?