Updated: Apr 5, 2022
My wife Heidi and I have a Dream Meeting every week. We have a calendar meeting every week. We have a menu meeting every week. We have a homeschooling meeting every week. We grocery shop from a planned list every week. We have a financial meeting every month where we go over every single in and out. We have intentional family conversations with specific question prompts every night during dinner. We have cleaning schedules posted in our house. Our workouts are scheduled. We have a digital family calendar displayed in our kitchen syncing everyone’s activities for each day. “Wait, back up” you might be asking, “what’s a dream meeting?”
I’ll get to that. Spoiler alert, it’s a game changer.
But first let me take you back to my lost decade. I jokingly refer to it as my lost decade but it is really unfair to use that term. It’s unfair to some people and it’s unfair to the experience I had to go through to get me to where I am today. It’s easy to compartmentalize this subset of my life as a decade because it coincided with the ten years I lived in Tampa and the ten years of a relationship.
Here’s a snapshot of my life during that time. Mountain Dew for breakfast. Speed eating a massive lunch during the day. Watching ESPN all day long in my golf store. No exercise. Measure the day by what TV shows I was watching that night. Slowly gain weight while losing muscle. Void of affection and communication in my relationship. Letting the day happen to me. Lazy. No ambition or goals. Hoping for something better but not doing anything about it. At a certain point during that decade I did re-find exercise and I carefully placed that in my life as a coping mechanism for my unhappiness. I even ran a marathon.
And then, the crash happened.
You know when you see those lists of the most stressful things you go through in a lifetime. You’ll always find divorce, going broke, losing a job, changing jobs, and moving across the country, generally making it on that list. Well, I did all of them AT THE SAME TIME, and for good measure, I added moving into my sister’s old bedroom in my parents’ house at age 33. Yep, I hit the motherlode. Check, check, check, check, check, and check. The silver lining? I now had a clear and distinct line to draw to end my lost decade. It was over, and I moved on and left it behind.
So, how would I reinvent myself in what I was considering a second chance on life? What would I change? How would I be different? Intention. I’m not sure I knew then what intention actually was or how to apply it, but as I look back, this is where the seed of living a life driven by radical responsibility and choice would be born.
I did some healing. Spent time alone. And worked a lot. My stress, I realized, was only circumstantial. Change my circumstances, change my stress. Be like Andy Dufresne and get busy living (Shawshank reference). There is also a strange psychological thing that happens when you come upon hard times. There’s something inside you that says you’re supposed to be sad. You’re supposed to mope around. You’re supposed to feel sorry for yourself and seek sympathy. I realized in my case, I was actually relieved and a little excited but thought I was supposed to act sad and broken. Once I decided to move forward with intention, the world of possibility opened up to me, and that was exhilarating.
I never made to-do lists but got things done. Never took notes in class but was a really good student. Never wrote down goals but was still accomplished. I wasn’t unorganized. In fact, I was quite organized and rarely let anything slip past me. I was pretty disciplined in my life and held pretty high standards for myself. I had experienced a lot of success, even in light of my most recent stumbles, and was generally a high performer.
Something had to change though because doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of, well you know how the saying goes. So, what needed to change for me? How could I go from the lost decade of letting life happen to me to flipping the script and making the day happen for me? The answer - intention. But how?
Enter Heidi. About 18 months after my dip, I met her. We came to each other at the perfect times in our individual lives. We both wanted something better, knew we could have something better, and weren’t afraid of going for something better. The first night we talked we said we wanted to keep growing as individuals, support a partner to grow as an individual, and also have a relationship that we insisted upon growing as well.
While my whole life was organized as floating thoughts inside my brain and random pieces of paper finding hiding spots in my bag, Heidi’s life was organized in the more practical color coded calendar and spreadsheet kind of way. Heidi was the ultimate GSD (get s**t done) kind of woman. She had an intense dislike for inefficiency, and still does today.
The next eleven years would be an evolution of figuring out how to operate. How could we stay true to our first night pledge of individual growth and relationship growth? The hardest part was already out of the way. We were both committed.
I described all of the meetings we have each week and some of you may be thinking, “hell no, I have enough stupid meetings at my job, I don’t need any more at home.” I get it. And honestly, I have an aversion to meetings as well. It usually takes a little prodding from Heidi to get me to each meeting.
It may be helpful to describe why we have these meetings. This will sound funny, but we treat our family life like a business. Businesses rarely survive if ignored and they certainly never thrive. The key to almost everything is paying attention. Ignore the finances and you go out of business. Ignore the operations and you go out of business. Ignore the progress and you go out of business. Ignore the people and you go out of business. Our goal in our family life is to operate out of intention and eliminate chaos. Intentionally and regularly pay attention. If I’m going for the opposite of lazy and apathetic during my lost decade, the goal now is engaged and intentional. These quick meetings guard against entropy, the gradual progression toward disorder.
So, calendar meetings, menu meetings, homeschool meetings, financial meetings, and grocery lists all are pretty self explanatory, but what is a dream meeting?
Once a year, generally late December or early January, Heidi and I lock ourselves in a hotel room for a couple days. It’s not all work because you have to take advantage of being locked in a hotel room with your spouse, wink, wink. We use this time to dream. We each come up with the categories of our life that mean the most to us. We have come up with eight but it can be any number. Then, we spend time thinking about each category on its own. We rank them in both importance and current state. For each category individually, we imagine what it would feel like if that segment of our life was a 10/10. We come up with a theme expression or mantra for that category. Although our categories are the same, our mantras might be different.
Once we have done this, we drill down into each category and talk about what is going well and what we would want to add and delete. We come up with new initiatives and potential projects for that category. It’s helpful that we are doing this with each other so we can express our wants and needs and how we are viewing these different aspects of our lives. All sharing, no judging.
The conclusion of the yearly dream meeting is to have a template for our weekly dream meeting. That template is in the form of a digital working document that we visit each week to talk about each category. This exercise keeps the intentions front and center while tracking progress. We type in to-do’s as they come up and we erase them once they are done. There might be a project that is six months away but we see it and it doesn’t leave our radar. The exercise of the yearly meeting is an important one for connection and intention for us. It allows us to manifest our dream life. But the meat is in the weekly meeting. All the good comes from keeping the dreams right in front of us while we nurture and tweak all along the way.
One of my favorite quotes reads “don’t live the same year 50 times in a row and call it a life.” The best compliment I could get would be that I’m not the person I used to be. Growth. That’s the key to happiness. The trick is that growth is a work-in-progress and focusing on the process rather than a result makes all the difference. Intention will set you free.
If you are struck with curiosity about the dream meeting, here are our 8 life categories
Health and Wellness
Fun and Recreation
Dharma (creative outlets or side endeavors)