Table of contents for The Most Important Project of Your Life
Stage 1 – Planning is the first step in creating your successful family. One extremely effective way to do this planning is to ask powerful questions. These are questions designed to expand thinking and enrich discussions. Don’t look for easy answers – it’s the dialogue they spark that is valuable. And don’t rush through these discussions. Time spent pondering these questions is time well spent, and will accelerate your progress through the other stages as well as towards your goals and dreams.
Step 1. WHY BOTHER? Why bother being a family? Heaven knows it’s not always easy living with other people, no matter how much we might love them. Although many of us wind up in a family situation without giving it a lot thought beforehand – children for example – once we’re committed to being a family it’s useful to ponder what this makes possible that wouldn’t be possible alone. What does being a family make possible that isn’t possible as individuals?
Here’s the first of a couple of exercises to get started building your “Successful Family” muscles.
EXERCISE: Take turns answering the question “What does our being a family make possible?” out loud, and be sure to have some fun with it! Keep going until everyone’s had a chance to say everything on their mind.
Step 2. WHO CARES? Who’s important to us as a family? Hopefully we’re important to each other, but who do we care about, and who cares about us? Who encourages our development as a family? Who relies upon us? These are the people we need to think about when we make decisions, because what happens to us impacts these people. These people are our family’s “stakeholders”. Knowing who matters to you as a family is crucial to the next step as well as the next stage.
EXERCISE: Create a “stakeholder map” that shows the relationships between your family and all of the people, organizations and communities that are connected to you. One terrific way to do this is to get a huge piece of paper, hang it on the wall, and draw a big circle in the center with the words “Our Family” inside of it. Then get some sticky notes and write each stakeholder on a separate note. Arrange them around the central circle. Each individual in your family is also a stakeholder of your family, so list everyone in your family around the circle as well. Re-arrange them so that stakeholders with similar interests are near each other, all the kids together, for example. Be sure you don’t miss anyone – it’s easy to forget about your neighbors, for example. The busy couple across the street who depends on your kids to shovel the snow on their sidewalk isn’t as important as your in-laws, but include everyone! Then draw connections between your family and the various stakeholders, and between different stakeholders, if they are connected in some way
EXERCISE, NOT READING, BUILDS MUSCLE! Keep in mind that just reading a book about exercise won’t make you strong – you have to actually do the exercises. Explore what your family makes possible, and create your stakeholder map.