LIFE Institute for Family Excellence Newsletter

"Practical and Principle-Based Support for Families"

In this issue:

The Four Areas of Needs

Vitruvian man(Editors Note: Helping define and address the needs of families and their individual members forms part of the foundation on which all LIFE Trainings and Adventures rest upon. This article includes discussion of tools and processes families can use to identify and respond to the legitimate needs of one another. While LIFE helps families deal with the challenges and opportunities surrounding the Four Areas of need in facilitated processes in our Training and Adventure programs, any family can benefit from the following information and from a self administered analysis. If you have any questions about this information or about the LIFE Institute for Family Excellence, please contact us.)

In well-known humorist Garrison Keillor's fictitious hometown of Lake Woebegone, the Nice-Try Health Club sells special memberships at New Years. The Bronze Package is a four-week program for the semi-committed; the Zinc Package goes for two weeks and will serve the mildly self disciplined. Then there is the Aluminum Foil Plan for those that discover after one afternoon that perhaps exercise is really not for them. The motto of the Nice Try Health Club is “Working out sounds like a good idea until you do it.”

We are over six months past the traditional time for making new resolutions for our lives, but if you are like most, perhaps your New Years resolutions made last January have already fallen by the wayside. The fact is that simple will power is rarely enough to raise us to that next level we seek. Thus, it might be a good time to look at a part of the solid base upon which all successful resolves must be built.

Spencer W. Kimball wrote, “Inappropriate behavior is wrong but we must recognize that it springs from deep and unmet needs on the part of the offender. This permits us to condemn the action without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others (and ourselves) to see the basic causes for their (and our) failures and shortcomings.”

The individuals and families that come to understand the results of unmet needs and the life areas where these needs lie will be prepared to help create a family and home environment and support structure within which members, rather than misunderstanding and attacking each other, instead enjoy an environment where healthy needs can be identified and suitably nourished.

Counterfeits and Short-Cuts

We don't necessarily refer to falling off our diet or exercise commitment wagon as bad behavior. But the above insight applies to any choice we make that slows our progress, damages our relationships or that simply does not work for us. We can trace virtually all of our poor choices, and the painful results stemming from those choices back to misguided attempts to fulfill needs. (The good news is that we can trace our times of peace and joy back to having made appropriate choices in meeting our needs.)

In our very human world there is no shortage of influencers offering us “fulfillment” of all our needs and dreams. The message we hear day after day is that more possessions, more hyped excitement, or more stylish clothes will bring us everything we want in life. Some believe that there is nothing that a little plastic surgery or a well-placed lie won't make better.

Many mistake their wants and various itches for legitimate needs and/or accept counterfeit and harmful methods of attempting to fulfill needs. Then when they fail to find the sense of well-being that they hoped for, they search ever more frantically, or numb their disappointment with drugs and alcohol, excessive television or video games, pornography and promiscuity, or the acquiring of more things, status, etc.

Others believe they can fill those holes they sense within themselves with just a little more teeth-clenching determination. They believe if they just try harder, run a little faster, work a little more, they will fill the empty spaces. While self discipline is a necessary trait in anyone seeking peace in their lives, teeth gritting determination alone will not suffice over the long haul. We deserve to recognize the legitimate needs of ourselves and others, and to seek appropriate means of fulfilling them.

Identifying Legitimate Needs

The guarantee is that as we, through honorable means, fulfill our legitimate needs, peace, satisfaction, and well-being will follow.

I hesitate to attempt to lay out in neat rows and columns all the human needs that a person might have. We are too complex for pat answers. But neither is this the place to get terribly philosophical and deeply analytical.

So in the interest of offering something usable, let's take a simple vantage point, understanding that there is much left unseen in this particular vista. What we want to do is break this concept of needs down into some bite-sized pieces that can at least set us on the path of beginning to understand ourselves and those with whom we are in relationship.

The Four Areas of Need

Family snowmobilingMost experts would agree that human needs can be broken down into four areas or quadrants. Some might quibble with names of the quadrants, but at the end of the day we can place all the things that we need to experience balance and wholeness in one of these areas:

Self awareness and an ability to be honest with ourselves are key to making an assessment of our personal four areas. Some are reluctant to look closely at themselves, or to evaluate their feelings. Others tend to be too brutal on themselves, mistaking a legitimate need for a weakness that should be endured, ignored, or buried. For a moment let go of your fears and biases and simply feel.

Let's drill down a little deeper and see some of the general and specific needs that might be listed in each area. Use this process as something of a self-analysis in taking a first swing at defining some areas in your live that might currently be a blessing or a challenge to you:

Physical (including things such as sleep, nutrition, exercise and stress management)

  • Are you getting 6 ½-8 hours of sleep per night? Do you feel rested in the morning?
  • Are you nutritionally balanced? Are you drinking at least eight glasses of water daily?
  • Do you exercise for thirty minutes at least three times per week, raising your heart rate to the appropriate level for your age and health?
  • Are you aware of your personal signs of stress and do you have healthy ways of dealing with stress and its impact on your well-being?
  • Do you suffer from any chronic illnesses or debilitating physical conditions?

Mental (realistic evaluation of life and information, uplifting reading, learning, pondering, organizing and planning, etc.)

  • Are you able to look at life and its opportunities and challenges realistically?
  • Are you able to accurately process the constant flow of information that life sends to you?
  • Do you watch excessive amounts of television?
  • Are you currently reading a good, challenging book and pondering its meaning?
  • Do you engage in a stimulating hobby or in any type of continuing education?
  • Do you work effectively alone and with others in identifying and solving problems?
  • Do you set goals and work to achieve them?
  • Do you have a good idea of what your chief objectives will be for tomorrow? For the more distant future?

Emotional (relationships, trust, self worth, love, contributions to the world, etc.)

  • Do you set aside significant time for your relationships?
  • Do you regularly engage in meaningful conversation with your loved ones?
  • Do you consistently deliver on promises made to your relationships?
  • Are you aware of your own feelings?
  • How well do you cope with change, disappointment, etc?
  • Do you beat yourself up over perceived failures or shortcomings?
  • Do you have a clear sense of your own identity?
  • Do you recognize your own great inherent worth and value, and that of others?
  • Do you volunteer time to worthy causes?

Spiritual (inspiration, prayer/meditation, uplifting reading, moral values, faith and hope, worship, serve and be served, etc.)

  • Do you have a well defined sense of purpose in your life?
  • Do you have an overall sense of hope and optimism, even on a “bad” day?
  • Are you able to define your personal moral values (as opposed to simply an institutionalized list)?
  • Can you consistently tap into inspiration to help you make choices and accomplish goals?
  • Do you practice any form of meditation?
  • Do you regularly commune with your “higher power” (such as utilizing a form of prayer)?
  • Do you read spiritual and/or inspirational material?
  • Do you spend contemplative time in nature?
  • Do you seek opportunity to serve those around you?

These are just representative of at least dozens of activities, practices, and processes (along with a few examples of things to avoid) that can help us to find balance and fulfill the important needs in our lives.

For many there might be little that is new about this list, but it is worth reiterating, as much of our pain can be traced back to a failure to honorably meet these needs. Conversely, our earned happiness grows out of appropriate fulfillment of the needs. It is also worth remembering that these areas of need are all interrelated and overlap with one another.

The Personal Keystone Quadrant

The most important quadrant for any of us at any given moment is the one that contains the need currently not being met. Our pain can come just as powerfully from an emotional wound as from a physical ailment. A sense of loneliness can result from a dormant spiritual quadrant just as easily as from an emotional bereavement that many may be more familiar with.

But many people do come to find their own personal “keystone” quadrant, the one that if they have in good order seems to have the greatest positive effect on all the others, and vice versa. As a personal example, when my spiritual quadrant is appropriately nourished I seem to be more open to the many exciting possibilities of fulfillment and balance offered by the other quadrants.

When I am in what I like to think of as “spiritual alignment” bananas and apple slices are more tempting than chocolate cake. Thoughtlessness from one of my relationships does not kindle an angry response from me, but a desire to reach out to the other person and to amicably resolve differences. When I am living in my spirit, my creativity is enhanced and my mind has a powerful partner to help navigate through life.

Others might find at some given point in their life that bringing their physical needs into alignment will be the most effective way to begin finding balance in the other quadrants. You are the one that can make the most accurate assessment for the here and now, and make the commitment to bring yourself into wholeness.

The Domino Effect

Each of the four areas of need is deeply interrelated with the others. If we have significant deficiencies in one area, we will almost surely exhibit some struggles in the others as well. We are all familiar, for example, with some of the physical results of emotional distress. It is common to react to emotional upheaval through unhealthy eating patterns, sleep disturbance, losing our motivation to exercise, and others that can lead to a quadrant negative domino effect. If not addressed, such conduct can quickly turn into a dangerous cycle that will impact all areas of life.

Fortunately the other side of this particular coin is bright and shiny. As we begin to successfully fulfill needs in one quadrant, the result will always be needs in the other areas coming more easily into alignment.

As a word of encouragement and caution, remember that small actions and steps, taken consistently, can take us quickly enough to the next level of effectiveness and fulfillment, and will help prepare us for an even higher level of commitment. Just taking the first small steps in this journey will bring immediate rewards of greater peace and balance in your life.

Focus on Core Principles: Communication

Editors Note: Part of the foundation of all LIFE trainings are eight core principles. In this issue we take a sobering—yet fun—look at some of the simplest components of one of the most complex principles: Communication.

Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell, 1930, At the Breakfast Table

Take a moment to look at this Norman Rockwell painting.

Now, what was your reaction to this image?

  1. A slight smile
  2. An all-out-can't-stop belly laugh
  3. A dramatic eye roll
  4. The feeling that you know this situation all too well
  5. An uncontrollable urge to yell at the top of your lungs, “WHAT A JERK!!!”

No matter what your response was, you most likely had some thought about communication—or in this case the lack thereof. Whether you relate more to the yearning but irritated wife or the oblivious husband, this painting can shed some light on the way you personally communicate with those around you. Maybe you can even learn something from this frustrated wife and (what I imagine) a soon-to-be hurting husband.

Communication is a complex process of words, tones, gestures and body language, wrapped up in our and our relationship partner's differing histories, perceptions, needs, and beliefs. Clear and effective communication that enhances a relationship is, for most of us, a learned skill. For now, let's lay the more complicated stuff aside and just look at a few simple nuts and bolts that can at least start us out on the right path.

What You Probably Already Know But Might Not Practice When You Communicate

  1. Eye Contact! How often do you find yourself reading, working, watching TV, (or reading the newspaper, in this case) when you claim to be listening? Now, look at the painting again and think about just how effective that is and what message you are sending to the person talking to you. Eye contact and putting away distractions tells those around you that you truly care about them and what they have to say.
  2. Be Outwardly Attentive! Part of being attentive is outwardly showing that you are listening. Take another look at the image and notice that the husband and wife, surprisingly enough, are demonstrating something good! They are both sitting down facing each other and even leaning in towards one another. Now, get rid of the newspaper and bada-boom! There could be some great communication.
  3. Open your mouth! One of the obvious things that is hindering communication between the couple in this painting is that their mouths aren't open! We can't do all of our communicating through grunts, nods, or even through physical affection. Perhaps this “issue” in the painting could be completely resolved if the irritated wife would just open her mouth. Her husband is, perhaps, unaware of how she's feeling (and maybe even of the fact that she is sitting there in front of him). When we open our mouths and share with those around us how we are truly feeling, we are opening the door to not only communication, but healing as well.

Even though you most likely know these principles, challenge yourself to live them this week! When communicating, think back often to this Norman Rockwell painting. Are you taking the role of the one too busy (or too oblivious) to listen? Or are you realizing that you're not even opening your mouth? Don't mimic this scene in your life. Instead, choose to create open and honest communication between you and your loved ones.

Family Time in the Summer!

Have you ever heard a group of kids being asked what they did this summer? Inevitably answers like, “We went to Disneyland,” or, “We went to the beach,” surface quickly. Other kids wait in silence until further prodded and then unenthusiastically answer, “I watched TV.” I hope that the ideas discussed here will help ensure that your child isn't the one that waits in dread to answer, “My life is boring, all I do is watch TV!”

You don't have to be able to afford Disneyland to have a fun, event-filled summer with your kids. In fact, I have found you don't even have to be able to afford the local water park! Wherever you live, your area is full of free activities for the family all summer long.

The greatest resource I have found in finding fun and, many times free, events is This easy and comprehensive website allows you to search in many different ways: by the age of your child; the day; the month; the event (i.e. concerts, story times, parades, fairs, workshops, etc.) and even if it is an inside day or an outside day.

Every day is packed full of fun things offered throughout the city or state selected. The state used in these examples is Utah, but is available in many states around the country. If gocitykids does not cover your area, most communities and states will have their own sites with lists of fun things to do and cool places to visit.

Monarch butterfly

Since I am writing this article on Thursday, I looked up all activities offered today (mind you, it isn't even a weekend). 41 were listed and 21 of those were free. Some of those activities include: free concerts, a display of 500 Monarch butterfly eggs with the ability to watch as the eggs hatch, turn to caterpillars, into butterflies, and are then released. It lists an arts festival with music, dance, and reading, arts and crafts projects, plays, musicals, and dance concerts. I found information on magic shows, baseball games, aerial trams and zip line thrill rides. In the more sedate categories I discovered activities centered around drawing, photography, trivia, and reading contests, as well as children's story times throughout my local area.

This all adds up to turning what could be another boring Thursday in front of the tube into a day of education, fun, and adventure at little or no cost to Mom and Dad!

Whether you lock the kids outside and turn on the sprinklers for some impromptu wet fun, visit one of the numerous and exciting events going on every day in your area, or simply pull out all the ingredients in the cupboard and have a creative cook-a-thon contest, I would encourage you to stop what you are doing and take time to play with your kids this summer! Some of my favorite memories in the summer don't include the long summer vacations we took, but rather the spontaneous adventures we took around town in a single day with just mom or dad and my siblings.

Playing with your kids and introducing them to the joys of discovery and creativity will pay dividends in your family and in the lives of your children for years to come. And it just might help you stop longing quite so hard for the start of school! Have fun!

Family Mediation: Uses and Benefits

Editors Note: The LIFE Institute for Family Excellence and LIFE Family Training and Adventures uses professional mediation techniques in many of their programs. Effective Communication is one of the core principals taught in our trainings and it has been consistently shown that mediation can help break down barriers and resolve conflicts that might be inhibiting meaningful communication in relationships. The following is part of a series of brief articles describing mediation and how families might use mediation techniques (whether relying on a professional facilitator or using only internal family resources) to resolve conflict and solve problems.

The most basic definition of mediation is “a facilitated negotiation;” in other words, a neutral third party assisting two or more disputants to resolve a conflict between them. According to this definition, the process of mediation can be applied to any situation where multiple parties are at a disagreement on the same issue. In many cases the atmosphere in a dispute is emotionally charged and those emotions as well as perceptions and beliefs of those involved can be impediments to a positive solution.

The key to mediation is that the third party is not emotionally involved in the conflict, has no vested interest in any of the possible solutions, and their focus is only on helping the parties reach a mutually satisfactory agreement, whatever that might be. Anyone hoping to convince a true mediator that they are right and their adversary is wrong will be disappointed; that is not the mediator's purpose. Instead of being a judge, the mediator will assist the antagonists in setting and adhering to certain ground rules for the mediated discussion, and will help them stay on track and consider all the possibilities.

meditationThe possibilities of mediation do not exclude the most delicate and important relationships that are found in families. Families are the basic building blocks that make up our society; therefore the strength of our society is a reflection of the strength of our families. Mediation is a tool that can assist in strengthening families.

Many people have heard of divorce mediation, but that is by no means the only application of mediation in families. In addition to helping husbands and wives gracefully end their marriage, mediation can also be used to strengthen marital bonds. This also extends to parent child relationships.

Many adolescents struggle to connect with their parents which makes it difficult for them to spend quality time together and increases the likelihood of disobedience and rebellion. Acts of disobedience are usually a result of unmet needs and mediation can help families to recognize and meet those needs.

Mediators can help families to rationally tackle complex issues that might have divided the family into multiple opposing camps. A mediator can help individuals set aside their need to be “right” and help them focus instead on finding solutions that will benefit everyone.

There are three main benefits to applying mediation in these family dynamics:

  1. First, mediation has the potential to be transformative. Even though a mediator facilitates the process, the outcome is in large part based on the disputants' willingness to change. As a result, a successful mediation fosters improved communication and enhanced awareness of personal and relational needs.
  2. Second, mediation heals relationships. Conflicts regarding emotionally charged issues often burn bridges between people when they disagree. Mediation assists in rebuilding those bridges and/or strengthening them.
  3. Third, mediators can also train families in the very concepts that the mediator utilizes. That way the families are better equipped to resolve future conflicts without necessarily calling upon a professional mediator.

Look for more information and tools on mediation in future newsletters. If you have questions regarding mediation and how LIFE utilizes mediation as a tool to serve families, please contact us.

Family Physical Fitness Program

We all know how our physical health plays such a significant role in our overall sense of well-being. You might have heard the “old-timers” say things like, “If you have your health, you have everything!” While we might not have everything if we are healthy, we are certainly in more of a position to be able to pursue all of our goals and meaningful activities if our bodies are fit and able, rather than being a distraction and impediment.

exerciseWhile things like age, chronic or temporary disabilities and handicaps, and genetics all play a part in determining our optimum level of physical activity, very few of us could not benefit from more consistent exercise.

At LIFE Family Adventures and Training we stress the importance of involving the entire family in as many activities as possible. While you might find that some solitary time at the gym or on a daily walk is therapeutic, don't underestimate the long-term physical and emotional benefits of family activities that will elevate your heartbeat and stretch your muscles even as you bond with family members.

We have found a good tool that recognizes both the exercise activities you might engage in alone or outside the family circle, as well as those backyard games with the kids. Go here and check out the physical fitness charts and activities suggestions.

The free charts are built around a point system that rewards participants with Gold, Silver, and Bronze recognition. Charts can be downloaded for each family member and are flexible and suitable for young and old alike.

Figure out some fun rewards and prizes as individuals and the collective family achieves milestones on their way to the major recognition that will come as they earn “Gold Medal” status! Give your family the gift of a healthy future by using this or some other program to help motivate physical activity and the many benefits it provides!