Robin Booth
Robin Booth

Creating successful families II

(See part 1 here)

I managed to get my two siblings seated around a table. With all three of us living in different parts of the country, it was not often that we all got together. And every time we got together, we were reminded of how great it was to be together again.

It would be incorrect to claim we were always like this. My brother and I fought constantly as children (our grandparents, aunts and uncles shake their heads when talking about our fighting). Our older sister was interested in other things and it was only in our twenties that we really got to work on dealing with the baggage of our relationships. During that time I recall many tears, shouting, walking out and probably what we all relate to and could easily define as “normal family ups and downs”.

The breakthrough for me came when I started my own personal development journey and took responsibility for my life and for what I wanted. Through this process I came to learn and experience that I can keep building on my relationships, finding ways to celebrate and live with our differences as opposed to them threatening and breaking down our connectedness.

In August 2007, an opportunity arose for me to share with my siblings that I wished to keep building on our relationship and they were open to exploring this with me.

Creating our family vision consisted of a three-step process:

Step 1: Who are we?

Step 2: What do we want more of as a family?

Step 3: What do we need to make this happen?

 

STEP 1: We asked the following questions — What is our family all about? What does it mean to you and what do you value about it? Each of us wrote down our ideas for the next 10 minutes. We then shared what we had written and explained what we meant by the words we had chosen.

For example, I wrote:

  • We have a strong sense of connectedness to each other.
  • We know that we will be there for each other through difficult times.
  • We love doing things together.
  • We understand each other well.
  • We can all handle a lot of stuff.
  • Inspiring conversation — as a group of intelligent people, when we get together and chat, our conversations are fulfilling and exciting.

My sister wrote:

  • Strong connection.
  • Give each other support.
  • Reflective experience in growth that binds us.
  • Shared ideas.
  • Learn about each other’s differences.
  • Common things we like to do.
  • Shared fundamental values.
  • Inner resources from each person.

My brother wrote:

  • Friendship as well as sibling relationship.
  • Support through tough times.
  • Sense of belonging — the Booth Culture.
  • Place of stability — acceptance of each other.
  • Reflection.
  • Fun and adventure together.
  • Source of inspiration to each other.
  • Connectedness.
  • Commitment to each other.

We then circled the words that came up in each of our sharings (common between all of us). These words were support, shared experiences, friendship and connectedness.

We put this into a sentence that would define our understanding of who we currently are as a family and what that experience has been like for us.

 

“Through friendship, support and sharing adventures and experiences we strengthen our connectedness.”

STEP 2: I then asked the question — If we could create the kind of family relationships that we aspire to, what would that look like for us and what would we be experiencing?

We then each wrote down what that would look like for us.

We again shared what we had written and pulled together the shared words and meanings. We found that although our words may at times be different, once we had shared our understanding of them, then we were able to agree on one word that we all understood to mean the same thing. (For example, I shared that I would feel a sense of belonging, my brother shared he would feel part of something bigger than just his own life, my sister shared that she would feel she would not have to “prove” anything. After discussing these, we felt we were saying a similar thing and we could call it “belonging”).

Our ideal relationship therefore came out describing what it would look like for us and what we would experience as a result of this. If we could be understanding, accepting, committed and loving, then we would experience stability and a sense of belonging.

 

“Through understanding, acceptance, commitment and love we create stability and belonging.”

 

STEP 3:

The next step was to answer the question: What do we need to do (or keep doing) that will take us closer to this ideal family relationship we have just described? We each wrote down the answer to that question.

We again shared our answers and pulled together our common ideas.

 

“Through conversation, reflection and sharing we inspire each other to grow and learn.”

 

These three steps therefore encompassed our family.

Step 1 is who were are and what we value.

Step 2 is what we wish for more in our relationship (what we would like to experience more of).

Step 3 is what we would need to do to get there.

By putting it all together, this is what we came up with

This is who we are: (Step 1) Through friendship, support and sharing adventures and experiences we strengthen our connectedness

By doing these things (Step 3) Through conversation, reflection and sharing we inspire each other to grow and learn

We will experience this result (Step 2) Through understanding, acceptance, commitment and love we create stability and belonging.

This was powerful for us. It articulated what we knew was inside of us but now we had articulated this as something that we could actually grow and nurture.

Our next step was to take these three sentences and condense this into a succinct phrase that would support us in continuing to create and nurture in our family the things that were important to us. So in a way, a kind of family vision and mission statement. Something that would be a conscious process that would build our family more.

We wrote: Loving Relationships through Connectedness, Growth and Belonging.

But there was still something missing. We all liked it but the key to making this kind of process successful is ensuring that everyone, at each step, is in total agreement. I sensed that something in my brother was not 100% behind this statement. So I asked the question (tactfully) “Is there anything that we think may be missing from this statement?”

My brother shared that he felt uncomfortable about the “loving relationships” part. For him it limited him from the possibility of being really angry in a relationship, as though successful relationships are only always loving and happy. It was a good point and we needed to find a way that would incorporate the dynamics of different kinds of relationships and feelings. And out of that sharing we added the word “dynamic”.

The Booth Family: Dynamic Loving Relationships through Connectedness, Growth and Belonging.

The sense of excitement and achievement was clear. There was no right or wrong solution, sentence or answer. You know it when you are there. If there is hesitancy or uncertainty, then most likely there is a misunderstanding about shared meanings of words or something that still remains unsaid in the family.

It may take a long time or bring up some other things which may not have surfaced in the relationship. The important part is to remember that such a process is to guide the family where you want to go and bring clarity on what needs to be done to get there. It is not saying that this process will in itself get you there, it is just articulating the vision of what you wish for.

If you want to get to a destination, you need to know first where you are. Therefore you need to acknowledge and accept where you are and not pretend you are somewhere (or someone) else.

With this kind of honesty, you and your family will be able to move closer with greater ease as you spend more energy in creating what you want opposed to you pretending you are getting there.

And now? What next?

I found this next section the most exciting. This part looks at the actions we will now bring into our lives which begin to reflect our vision. It is no longer enough just to say “It’s so great to see you” and hope that in the near future our paths will meet again. If I say I value seeing you and value our connectedness, then are my actions in line with what I value?

After the vision, then what? (coming in the next blog)

  • Benzol

    I have just come back from a family party in Holland where we “celebrated” my mothers 100th birthday. She was missing because she died at the age of 97. The party was complete except for two couples and kids, one in labour, the other one had to attend to a father in law who had a heart attack the evening before. Some 70 people (me and my 6 brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren were present and joyfully mixing, chatting and comparing notes. Even my brother’s son from Shanghai was present.

    The brothers and sisters then spend the evening and the next day to “praat kak”, solve the problems of the world and dug into the joint memories of our youth. “Do you remember…?”

    We never did the conscious exercise you described but a similar spirit did emerge.

    Thanks for defining this so clearly.

  • Grant

    Families have vision statements now?!? Boy am I behind the times…

  • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/robinbooth Robin Booth

    Families have had vision ‘statements’ for centuries. The family coat of arms is just such a form of branding that gives identity to a sense of belonging. Many families have a code of ethics/ values/ ideals that they live by (most often it is unconscious and un-articulated). There is the ‘hidden’ guideline of families which act as influences on our decisions and our actions (My parents would not approve, or I can’t do that because it would upset my family etc). What I have written about is a conscious way of creating the family environment that supports us in getting more of what we all want (whatever that may be for each of us). The vision statement is there an articulated guideline which enables us to change what doesn’t work and to work with what does work. It may sound strange as society doesn’t really bring family dynamics in to the realm of ‘choice’. We can choose our friends but not our family. That statement doesn’t mean that we are powerless to transform our family relationships. It requires some work, energy, compassion and a willingness to engage. When I built my house I got a professional architect who expressed it as a design. I am going to engage with my family consciously and empathically so that we can create what we all aspire to.