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The 30-Day Rule of Success

The 30-Day Rule of Success

We all want to be successful. It’s imprinted in our DNA. As for me, my desire to be successful in all aspects of my life is a strong driving force of my existence. That’s a general view of things. Now let’s focus on a more specific angle — cultivating a new habit. According to Steve Pavlina, you can start to develop a habit that can improve your life tremendously using a brain-dead simple tool.

He is talking about a powerful personal growth tool — the 30-day trial. Let’s discuss its benefits. For instance, you want to include walking your dog to your routine. This new activity would look daunting when your goal is to do it for one whole year. However, if you think you will just try this for 30 days, it would seem easier to acccomplish. Steve will explicate the nitty-gritty in his article below.

A powerful personal growth tool is the 30-day trial. This is a concept I borrowed from the shareware industry, where you can download a trial version of a piece of software and try it out risk-free for 30 days before you’re required to buy the full version. It’s also a great way to develop new habits, and best of all, it’s brain-dead simple.

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Let’s say you want to start a new habit like an exercise program or quit a bad habit like sucking on cancer sticks. We all know that getting started and sticking with the new habit for a few weeks is the hard part. Once you’ve overcome inertia, it’s much easier to keep going.

Yet we often psyche ourselves out of getting started by mentally thinking about the change as something permanent — before we’ve even begun. It seems too overwhelming to think about making a big change and sticking with it every day for the rest of your life when you’re still habituated to doing the opposite. The more you think about the change as something permanent, the more you stay put.

But what if you thought about making the change only temporarily — say for 30 days — and then you’re free to go back to your old habits? That doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Exercise daily for just 30 days, then quit. Maintain a neatly organized desk for 30 days, then slack off. Read for an hour a day for 30 days, then go back to watching TV.

Could you do it? It still requires a bit of discipline and commitment, but not nearly so much as making a permanent change. Any perceived deprivation is only temporary. You can count down the days to freedom. And for at least 30 days, you’ll gain some benefit. It’s not so bad. You can handle it. It’s only one month out of your life.

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Now if you actually complete a 30-day trial, what’s going to happen? First, you’ll go far enough to establish it as a habit, and it will be easier to maintain than it was to begin it. Secondly, you’ll break the addiction of your old habit during this time. Thirdly, you’ll have 30 days of success behind you, which will give you greater confidence that you can continue. And fourthly, you’ll gain 30 days worth of results, which will give you practical feedback on what you can expect if you continue, putting you in a better place to make informed long-term decisions.

Therefore, once you hit the end of the 30-day trial, your ability to make the habit permanent is vastly increased. But even if you aren’t ready to make it permanent, you can opt to extend your trial period to 60 or 90 days. The longer you go with the trial period, the easier it will be to lock in the new habit for life.

Another benefit of this approach is that you can use it to test new habits where you really aren’t sure if you’d even want to continue for life. Maybe you’d like to try a new diet, but you don’t know if you’d find it too restrictive. In that case, do a 30-day trial and then re-evaluate. There’s no shame in stopping if you know the new habit doesn’t suit you. It’s like trying a piece of shareware for 30 days and then uninstalling it if it doesn’t suit your needs. No harm, no foul.

Here are some examples from my own life where I used 30-day trials to establish new habits:

1) In the Summer of 1993, I wanted to try being vegetarian. I had no interest in making this a lifelong change, but I’d read a lot about the health benefits of vegetarianism, so I committed to it for 30 days just for the experience. I was already exercising regularly, seemed in decent health, and was not overweight (6’0″, 155 lbs), but my typical college diet included a lot of In-N-Out burgers. Going lacto-ovo vegetarian for 30 days was a lot easier than I expected — I can’t say it was hard at all, and I never felt deprived. Within a week I noticed an increase in my energy and concentration, and I felt more clear-headed. At the end of the 30 days, it was a no-brainer to stick with it. This change looked a lot harder than it really was.

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2) In January 1997, I decided to try going from vegetarian to vegan. While lacto-ovo vegetarians can eat eggs and dairy, vegans don’t eat anything that comes from an animal. I was developing an interest in going vegan for life, but I didn’t think I could do it. How could I give up veggie-cheese omelettes? The diet seemed too restrictive to me — even fanatically so. But I was intensely curious to know what it was actually like. So once again I did a 30-day trial. At the time I figured I’d make it through the trial, but I honestly didn’t expect to continue beyond that. Well, I lost seven pounds in the first week, mostly from going to the bathroom as all the accumulated dairy mucus was cleansed from my bowels (now I know why cows need four stomachs to properly digest this stuff). I felt lousy the first couple days but then my energy surged. I also felt more clear-headed than ever, as if a “fog of brain” had been lifted; it felt like my brain had gotten a CPU and a RAM upgrade. However, the biggest change I noticed was in my endurance. I was living in Marina del Rey at the time and used to run along the beach near the Santa Monica Pier, and I noticed I wasn’t as tired after my usual 3-mile runs, so I started increasing them to 5 miles, 10 miles, and then eventually a marathon a few years later. In Tae Kwon Do, the extra endurance really gave a boost to my sparring skills as well. The accumulated benefits were so great that the foods I was giving up just didn’t seem so appealing anymore. So once again it was a no-brainer to continue after the first 30 days, and I’m still vegan today. What I didn’t expect was that after so long on this diet, the old animal product foods I used to eat just don’t seem like food anymore, so there’s no feeling of deprivation.

3) Also in 1997, I decided I wanted to exercise every single day for a year. That was my 1997 New Year’s resolution. My criteria was that I would exercise aerobically at least 25 minutes every day, and I wouldn’t count Tae Kwon Do classes which I was taking 2-3 days per week. Coupled with my dietary changes, I wanted to push my fitness to a new level. I didn’t want to miss a single day, not even for sick days. But thinking about exercising 365 days in a row was daunting, so I mentally began with a 30-day trial. That wasn’t so bad. After a while every day that passed set a new record: 8 days in a row… 10 days… 15 days…. It became harder to quit. After 30 days in a row, how could I not do 31 and set a new personal record? And can you imagine giving up after 250 days? No way. After the initial month to establish the habit, the rest of the year took care of itself. I remember going to a seminar that year and getting home well after midnight. I had a cold and was really tired, yet I still went out running at 2am in the rain. Some people might call that foolish, but I was so determined to reach my goal that I wasn’t going to let fatigue or illness stop me. I succeeded and kept it up for the whole year without ever missing a day. In fact, I kept going for a few more weeks into 1998 before I finally opted to stop, which was a tough decision. I wanted to do this for one year, knowing it would become a powerful reference experience, and it certainly became such.

4) More diet stuff…. After being vegan for a number of years, I opted to try other variations of the vegan diet. I did 30-day trials both with the macrobiotic diet and with the raw foods diet. Those were interesting and gave me new insights, but I decided not to continue with either of them. I felt no different eating macrobiotically than I did otherwise. And in the case of the raw diet, while I did notice a significant energy boost, I found the diet too labor intensive — I was spending a lot of time preparing meals and shopping frequently. Sure you can just eat raw fruits and veggies, but to make interesting raw meals, there can be a lot of labor involved. If I had my own chef, I’d probably follow the raw diet though because I think the benefits would be worth it. I did a second trial of the raw diet for 45 days, but again my conclusion was the same. If I was ever diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer, I’d immediately switch to an all raw, living foods diet, since I believe it to be the absolute best diet for optimal health. I’ve never felt more energetic in my life than when I ate a raw diet. But I had a hard time making it practical for me. Even so, I managed to integrate some new macrobiotic foods and raw foods into my diet after these trials. There are two all-raw restaurants here in Vegas, and I’ve enjoyed eating at them because then someone else does all the labor. So these 30-day trials were still successful in that they produced new insights, although in both cases I intentionally declined to continue with the new habit. One of the reasons a full 30-day trial is so important with new diets is that the first week or two will often be spent detoxing and overcoming cravings, so it isn’t until the third or fourth week that you begin to get a clear picture. I feel that if you haven’t tried a diet for at least 30 days, you simply don’t understand it. Every diet feels different on the inside than it appears from the outside.

This 30-day method seems to work best for daily habits. I’ve had no luck using it when trying to start a habit that only occurs 3-4 days per week. However, it can work well if you apply it daily for the first 30 days and then cut back thereafter. This is what I’d do when starting a new exercise program, for example. Daily habits are much easier to establish.

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Here are some other ideas for applying 30-day trials:

  • Give up TV. Tape all your favorite shows and save them until the end of the trial. My whole family did this once, and it was very enlightening.
  • Give up online forums, especially if you feel you’re becoming forum addicted. This will help break the addiction and give you a clearer sense of how participation actually benefits you (if at all). You can always catch up at the end of 30 days.
  • Shower/bathe/shave every day. I know YOU don’t need this one, so please pass it along to someone who does.
  • Meet someone new every day. Start up a conversation with a stranger.
  • Go out every evening. Go somewhere different each time, and do something fun — this will be a memorable month.
  • Spend 30 minutes cleaning up and organizing your home or office every day. That’s 15 hours total.
  • List something new to sell on eBay every day. Purge some of that clutter.
  • Ask someone new out on a date every day. Unless your success rate is below 3%, you’ll get at least one new date, maybe even meet your future spouse.
  • If you’re already in a relationship, give your partner a massage every day. Or offer to alternate who gives the massage each day, so that’s 15 massages each.
  • Give up cigarettes, soda, junk food, coffee, or other unhealthy addictions.
  • Become an early riser.
  • Write in your journal every day.
  • Call a different family member, friend, or business contact every day.
  • Make 25 sales calls every day to solicit new business. Professional speaker Mike Ferry did this five days a week for two years, even on days when he was giving seminars. He credits this habit with helping build his business to over $10 million in annual sales. If you make 1300 sales calls a year, you’re going to get some decent business no matter how bad your sales skills are. You can generalize this habit to any kind of marketing work, like building new links to your web site.
  • Write a new blog entry every day.
  • Read for an hour a day on a subject that interests you.
  • Meditate every day.
  • Learn a new vocabulary word every day.
  • Go for a long walk every day.

Again, don’t think that you need to continue any of these habits beyond 30 days. Think of the benefits you’ll gain from those 30 days alone. You can re-assess after the trial period. You’re certain to grow just from the experience, even if it’s temporary.

The power of this approach lies in its simplicity. Even though doing a certain activity every single day may be less efficient than following a more complicated schedule — weight training is a good example because adequate rest is a key component — you’ll often be more likely to stick with the daily habit. When you commit to doing something every single day without exception, you can’t rationalize or justify missing a day, nor can you promise to make it up later by reshuffling your schedule.

Give trials a try. If you’re ready to commit to one right now, please feel free to post a comment and share your goal for the next 30 days. If there’s enough interest, then perhaps we can do a group postmortem around May 20th to see how it went for everyone. I’ll even do it with you. Mine will be to go running or biking for at least 25 minutes or do a minimum 60-minute hike in the mountains every day for 30 days. The weather here in Vegas has been great lately, so it’s a nice time for me to get back to exercising outdoors.

30 Days to Success | Steve Pavlina

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Anthony Dejolde

TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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