Would You Rather Get Pity or Peace at Home?

06/07/2011 07:40 pm ET | Updated Aug 07, 2011

I believe we already know everything we need to know in order to succeed in every area of our lives. That's not the problem. The problem comes with the challenge of following our own good advice, our inherent wisdom.

Painfully, we usually fall down most often in the part of our lives that is most dear to us: our loved ones, our family, the ones with whom we share our lives most intimately. We've had a tough day at the office, at school or wherever we put our energy in the daylight hours. We come home exhausted, distracted and worried. Every fiber of our being has been putting it out there, helping others, fielding problems, handling unexpected emergencies and dealing with the ups and downs of the day.

Then what are we thinking when we finally head for home?

"That was a rough one -- glad that day is over!"

"I'm really running on empty."

"Can't wait to get home and unwind."

"Looking forward to talking about it to clear my mind."

We're looking for a peaceful place where we are taken care of instead of taking care of everyone and everything else. We need to be heard, touched and understood.

In the early days of being with Tim, I started a coaching business. It took off quickly and was going well. However, it took everything I had to get through the day. Being present to each client, listening fully, helping them see the way forward, making the next plan -- then goodbye, off in a rush to the next one. I loved every minute, but I ached from tiredness when I finally got home. And I was cranky. Tim finally said, "Would you talk like that to one of your clients?" Ouch!

At the same time, Tim had just started a computer direct marketing business, doing everything by himself: selling, answering the phone, fixing the machines, keeping the data tapes running and overseeing the printing. On the way home, he would fall asleep at stoplights.

Those were heady days, full of promise, but we both needed care and loving by the time we got home. Instead we took turns listening to one another talk about how exhausted we felt, what had been the challenges of the day and how glad we were that we were home at last.

And instead of providing each other with compassion, caring and kindness, we were complaining about what a bad day it had been. Rather than sympathy -- or better yet, gratitude and acknowledgment -- we were making one another's burdens heavier because now we had someone to agree with us about how bad it had been! Self-pity ruled!

After several more impossibly busy months, we woke up to what we were doing and decided to transform the situation. Tim came up with the brilliant maxim: "The front door is not the finish line!" We saw more clearly that we were leaving everything on the playing field -- perhaps a good thing when it comes to being successful -- but forgetting that the game is not over when we come home. Our major focus had been giving everything we had to our new businesses.

It's understandable, but it's not right, is it? As John Lennon wrote in his song "Beautiful Boy," "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans!"

We were living as if there was a difference between what happened outside our front door and inside, and it was making us feel worse, not better. What gave us the courage and determination to change our behavior was letting go of the paradigm that we had nothing left to give. That it wasn't fair that we couldn't just let out a deep sigh and collapse into a chair at the end of the day. Nope, not fair at all, but as some wise person once said, "Life isn't fair."

What made it possible to make this shift was not sacrifice for the greater good ("I don't want to, but it's the right thing to do"), but knowing that we wanted to give our best here, more than anywhere. Filling one another's wells, so to speak, was much more rewarding and energizing than dumping the disappointments of our days.

What does it look like to practice the philosophy of "the front door is not the finish line"?

  • Remembering what you believe about kindness and love
  • Helping with dinner when you don't feel like it
  • Giving a big hug or a deep shoulder rub, instead of asking for one
  • Listening with compassion rather than pity
  • Whatever works in your home, with the one or ones you love most
  • You know the answers

Above all, dissolve the stories about how difficult life is for you, and how you deserve better than you're getting. In one of my favorite little books, "A Short Guide to a Happy Life," Anna Quindlen shared, "I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that life is not a dress rehearsal, and that today is the only guarantee you get."

Let me know what you think or how you're doing creating peace rather than pity. Either leave a comment here or email me at