Why Getting Outside, and Doing New Things, Makes Your Kids Happy

When you live in northern Michigan like we do, there’s a strong sense of urgency when summer arrives. The season is short so we try to pack in as much sun and fun as we can, while we can.

Judging by the throngs of people at the beach, on the trails, out riding bikes, and on boats in the region, we’re not the only ones who have stepped away a bit from our offices and keyboards to soak in what summer has to offer.

One of the most satisfying (and exhausting) aspects of all of this summer fun has been watching our kids frolic in the great outdoors. They’re wearing us out, but we wouldn’t trade these days for anything, because we know that they are forming the most important moments that will matter over the course of our life together.

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Searching For Purpose: Break the Script and Open Yourself Up to New Experiences

In 1916, Robert Frost published one of the most renowned poems of the 20th Century, “The Road Not Taken,” which begins: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..." The metaphor of the “fork of the road,” upon which Frost’s seminal work is based, is so enduring because it is so universal. Every day, each one of us is confronted with choices, big and small, that determine the direction of our lives. 

In most cases, particularly when it comes to the “big” choices in life, each path is distinctly marked. There is the easy, default path, and the hard, purposeful path. Too often, people look back on their lives and realize that many of the actions they took (or didn’t), choices they made (or didn’t), and priorities they set (or didn’t) happened by default; guided by the expectations of society and others, and not by their own inner compass. They traveled the safe, smooth path, not the uneven, winding one, and ultimately reached a destination, but one they regret in the end. 

 We all grapple with regret stemming from the choices we make (or don’t) in our lives. Again, it’s a universal part of the human condition. What’s important to realize, however, is that at any point in life’s journey, if you can summon the courage, you can stop, assess, and change direction. The key to making positive change, to live a life free of regret and full of passion, is to open yourself up to what truly matters—to you, not others—and to embrace the risks involved in pursuing it. After all, isn’t the risk of not living a life true to yourself an even greater risk?

"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." — Mark Twain

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Routines are Meant to be Broken

Routines are important. Having solid routines in place allow us to have productive days. By making certain actions habitual, such as when we get up in the morning, when we work out, and what we eat, we can allocate willpower and discipline (both finite resources) toward the unexpected variables that life inevitably throws our way. 

At the same time, routine becomes, well, routine. Life marked by uncompromising rigidity can feel like a hamster wheel you can’t get off. One day starts slipping into the next, and before you know it years pass by and you start wondering where the time went.

How can you get off the hamster wheel of monotony? Make a purposeful and intentional commitment to introduce more novelty into your life.

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Jay Harrington
Raising Well-Adjusted, Motivated Children: 3 Reasons to Praise the “Process” not the “Person”

Last weekend marked the midpoint of the spring soccer season in our community. This means we’re just a few weeks away from handing out participation medals to all of the kids on all of the teams, irrespective of whether they worked really hard or exhibited barely any effort at all on the field.

This is silly, of course. As we all know, kids count every goal and chalk up every win or loss on their mental scoreboards, even if we, as parents, refuse to employ actual scoreboards at their games or otherwise judge their performance. Since we’re not fooling our kids, why do we insist on trying to fool ourselves? 

Certainly, our motivations as parents to protect our children in all aspects of their lives are pure. From guarding against a skinned knee to shielding against a bruised ego, we don’t want our kids to experience pain. The question is: Notwithstanding our motivations, are we doing right by our kids when most of us come to realize (through our own personal experience) that unless our kids experience a bit of pain, discomfort, and displeasure, then they’ll never learn, grow, and become inoculated against the often harsh realities of the world.

Accordingly, like most aspects of parenting, trying to raise well-adjusted, motivated children, who become well-adjusted, motivated adults, is a bit of a conundrum. 

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Heather Harrington
The Happiest Moments of Vacation May Not be What You Think

If you recently braved airport security lines, crowded highways, and big crowds to travel with your family to a popular spring break destination, you know that vacation can be stressful. But it’s also fun, of course. And we do it—overpriced blended cocktails and all—because it’s an opportunity to bond with our families and create memories that last a lifetime. At least that’s the idea, if not always the reality. A good friend of mine likes to say that traveling with kids is not a “vacation”—it’s a “trip.

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Jay Harrington
Embrace Life’s Limitations to Unlock Life’s Promise

In 1944, a 39 year-old Austrian man named Victor Frankl and his wife Tilly were processed into the Auschwitz concentration camp. He spent approximately 18 months in the shackles of the Nazis being shuttled from one camp to another, before being liberated by American soldiers. Frankl survived the Holocaust, but his wife, mother, and brother did not. 

What is remarkable is that, despite suffering such great trauma, Frankl went on to become one of the most important and influential neurologists and psychiatrists of the twentieth century. In fact, it was the experience of spending time in captivity, experiencing suffering and deprivation, and watching some prisoners transcend their circumstances while others succumbed to them, that set Frankl on a path to explore life’s meaning and develop a renowned technique called “logotherapy” to help those in need overcome difficulty. Frankl’s big insight, which surfaced at his lowest moment, was gained by observing the resilience of humanity, and teaching others how to find meaning in life even in the harshest of conditions.

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Jay Harrington