Family Bucket List: 7 Ways to Pour Generosity and Value into Family Life

What are You Putting in Your Bucket? Building Family On Values Not On Time-Fillers

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

Every once in a while something causes us to stop and re-evaluate what’s really important in our lives. Worldwide tragedies like September 11th , Katrina, the Tsunami, and the recent Earthquake in China; personal losses like the death of a loved one, a divorce, or new knowledge of illnesses in the family—can get us wondering about whether we’re spending our lives doing the “important things” or the things that just take up space. Even the loss of people we don’t know (but feel like we do) like all-too-early deaths of actor John Ritter or Heath Ledger and the very recent death of Randy Pausch get us to jump to attention and ask ourselves, “Is this what I should be doing? Could I spend my time doing something more significant? Am I teaching the children in my life to pay attention to the “right things?”

Movies, like the Bucket List and books like Tuesdays with Morrie can jump start our minds and push us back onto the path we are meant to follow. Our intentional path filled with taking the time, taking a break, taking a vacation, and taking a breath regains front burner position in our brains. Our hearts are filled with gratitude, determination, and generosity.

And then what happens? Life. Carpooling. Arguments. Dinner. School. Work. Stress….Reality.

How can we keep our Bucket List and a bucket list for our children (Do they even have one? Should we find out?) from being pushed into the back of the closet? How can we get ourselves and our children focused on giving over receiving, people over electronics, and facetime over Facebook? As it’s generosity month for all Powerful Words Member Schools and Families, why not take some time to dig into this idea—chew on it—and yes, act on it—even if it’s just for a little while. You may just make it a habit. Your family…might just love you for it.

So, what should we do?

  1. Prioritize what’s really important: Do this for yourself when you have a little down time or quiet time—before bed—before others rise—in the bathroom, whenever you can do it. Ask your family to do the same. What do they really love to do? What do they really want to do? Make a master list.
  2. Schedule a bucket day: At least every month, ensure that someone gets to tick something off their list. Make sure everyone gets a turn…even you! Get away from the TV, the computer, the ipod, the blackberry, the Gameboy and whatever else that can take away from the point of the day. When your children see and experience that the family makes time to do these meaningful goals, they will learn to prioritize and focus on the important things in life.
  3. Get in the habit of giving back: The most fulfilling feelings tend to grace us when we give rather than receive. Schedule in a “charity” day 2-4 times per year when the family either cleans out their closets to donate their unused items or the family gets involved with a charity event such as one at your Powerful Words Member School or one hosted around town like a Special Olympics or Walk for a Cause. You can even go to a soup kitchen, senior center, or hospital and offer your assistance there. When generosity is part of your lives, there will be less room for “gimme gimme.”
  4. Talk about family goals in the beginning of the day: Even if it’s in the car, during breakfast, or when tying shoes, help your family focus on what they want the day to bring. Nobody wants “just another day.” What can make this day special? What do you hope to accomplish today? What’s something you can do today that would really make a difference to you or someone else? Be sure to talk about your goals as well! When you start your family’s morning off thinking about the important things, they’ll be more likely to bring it into focus during the course of the day.
  5. Discuss what’s meaningful at the end of each day: What was the best part of everyone’s day? What were you touched by? What did you do to make someone else’s life at least a little bit better? What did someone else do to make your life at least a little bit better? For what are you grateful? What did you learn today? Let your family know the valuable moments of your days as well. When we end the day by examining the value in everyday, we are more likely to see value in every day.
  6. Show love, kindness, and gratitude: Whether it’s to your family, friends, or strangers, little things can make a big difference. A brief smile, writing a note of thanks, giving a gift for no reason at all, or pulling over a manager to tell her that an employee has done a magnificent job with helping you (something I love to do!), are all ways to bring generosity and caring into your daily life. You will be surprised by how good you feel by making others feel great, even for a moment.
  7. Renew your values: Each year, make it a point to re-envision, re-evaluate, and renew your values with yourself, your partner, and your family. Talk about what’s important. Talk about how you want to focus your time and your energy. Discuss the successes from the previous year and how you’d like to make this year different. I do this my family as well as with my own coaching clients on our “PowerDay Retreats” and they are always extremely poignant, moving, and vital to the wellbeing of the person, relationship, and family.

When reading this list, you may say, “who has the time?” But then I ask you, with what are you filling your time? We must step back and give a good hard look to our days, weeks, months, and years. They’re limited. What can you do today to make them meaningful? Go out—or stay in– and do it.

Make it a Powerful Month—really!

Advertisements

Randy Pausch, known for his last lecture on following childhood dreams, dies

Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon professor whose last lecture on following your childhood dreams became an Internet hit and bestselling book, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 47.

We spoke about Professor Pausch during gratitude month, as he reminds us to thank those teachers who push us to our potential and in the direction of our dreams. As shown in his last lecture, that was the kind of teacher Randy Pausch was. He was also all about exercising your determination:

“Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things.”

–Randy Pausch

According to the New York Times:

Last September, Dr. Pausch unexpectedly stepped on an international stage when he addressed a crowd of about 400 faculty and students at Carnegie Mellon as part of the school’s “Last Lecture” series. In the talks, professors typically talk about issues that matter most to them. Dr. Pausch opened his talk with the news that he had terminal cancer and proceeded to deliver an uplifting, funny talk about his own childhood dreams and how to help his children and others achieve their own goals in life. He learned he had pancreatic cancer in September, 2006.

This inspirational video is of Randy Pausch giving his last lecture. The full YouTube version is posted here– and well worth the view– but here’s is a shortened version (10 minutes) that played on Oprah for your convenience.

Thank you, Professor Pausch, who certainly showed us a thing or two about determination. A Powerful Example, indeed, of what it means to go after your dreams.

With gratitude,

Randy Pausch: On Loving the Teachers who Don’t Give Up on Us (and Are you Ruining My Child’s Self Esteem?)

“Experience is what you get is when you didn’t get what you want…We send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is… for indirect learning..we don’t actually want them to learn football… We send our kids out to learn much more important things; teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etc. etc.” –Randy Pausch

Dear Parents,

This inspirational video is of Randy Pausch giving his last lecture. The full YouTube version is posted here– and well worth the view– but here’s is a shortened version (10 minutes) that played on Oprah for your convenience. In the spirit of Gratitude Month and Teacher Appreciation Week at all our Powerful Words family schools, it seemed fitting to post something about the teachers and role models who push us and never give up on us even when we’re ready to give up on ourselves.

Aren’t you ruining my child’s self esteem?

By Dr. Robyn Silverman

Mrs. Phillips came to talk to me while her son, Patrick, age 8, was in class. “Patrick was upset the other day because his teacher corrected him three times on one of his skills. When you tell him he’s doing something wrong, aren’t you ruining his self esteem?”

This story came to mind today when I was watching a video of the inspirational “last lecture” of Randy Pausch, who’ll likely die of liver cancer within the next few months. I love watching videos like these because they shine such a bright light on learning and put a fire in my belly. In fact, they make me feel like running to the helm of a ship and yelling “I’m the king of the world!”

Anyway, Professor Pausch said; “when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up…your critics are the ones who still love you and know you can.” Boy, do I agree with that–although, it’s not always easy to experience criticism and it can be excruciating to watch someone we love being critiqued.

I’ll let you in on a little secret–I wrote an article on my own experience with this phenomenon. At Tufts, my advisor was known to be the toughest in my department. My dissertation was often filled with red marks and comments like “no!” “wrong!” and “don’t say this” throughout it’s 150 pages. While I’m not recommending my advisor’s blunt delivery, I appreciate his persistent pushing. Would he be helping me by giving me a disingenuous pat on the back? Certainly not.

Interestingly, after I was awarded my doctorate, he did say something to me that I’ll never forget; “I was hard on you because I always knew you could do better. And you did. In fact you did so well that you became one of the very best.” I felt as though I had destroyed every brick wall placed in front of me and I was ready to take on the world.

So, what about the claim Mrs. Phillips made about her child’s self esteem? While too much criticism in the absence of praise can be detrimental, too much praise in the absence of critique is just as damaging.

Feelings of self worth, esteem, and gratification come from overcoming challenges. They derive from hard work, perseverance, self discipline, and self reliance. They don’t come from simply being the best but rather, doing one’s personal best and raising the bar higher every time we approach a skill. These feelings don’t come from our teachers and parents telling us we’re doing well when we aren’t or telling us we’re doing “the best” when we’re not putting in “our best.” They come from when others, whose opinions we value, tell us that they know we can do better and then notice it when we do.

In the end, we gain self esteem when we break through brick walls when even we wondered if we could.

As parents, while it may be difficult to watch out children be critiqued, it is a gift to find teachers who care enough to push them and see to it that they reach their potential. It’s this experience that they can take away from their Powerful Words family school and apply it to everything they do.

Nobody ever feels satisfied while leaning against a brick wall that blocks their dream as their superheroes yell “at-a-boy!” But I’ve certainly felt the rush of achievement when I’ve barreled through brick walls, bruises and all, with my mentors and loved ones nodding their heads saying, “we knew you could do better. And you did.”

Here’s to you– for seeking out teachers who inspire your children to live out their dreams,

drrobynsig.jpg