Hopefully last week’s post on Values got everyone thinking about their own… and for those of you could find a moment or two (Promise I don’t hold grudges to those that didn’t) found it easier than it sounded!
That was the beginning though, the real trailblazing comes from figuring out what these values mean to you and the behavior and choices that fit with them… now THIS is where it gets more complicated and messy and maybe make your head hurt. And exactly what I told you not to do, until now.
But so that you don’t stop reading (I need the eyeballs J), it only seems fair I take the first pass … I did start the whole conversation anyway.
So, right away I run into a problem because one, I am a cynic, and two, because I tend to roll my eyes from the grand statements people tend throw around like “my family is most important”, or “I am committed to healthy living”, now what the hell does that really mean? How does knowing that family is important to me help me in the trenches of the day to day, with career choices, the haze of parenting and marriage, when I run around doing endless errands for my family? And… for those of you that know me, you can rest assure that what I consider “healthy living” is likely downright scary for another more “sane” person.
So, where does that leave me? I believe that with all of these values statements there is a lot of grey. … An entire Benjamin Moore palette of grey. And the best thing to do is determine my own special shade. How? Ask myself the questions that really get to the heart of the issues and simply take it … one value at a time. So this week, I started at the top with my first value, FAMILY.
Great, we probably all have that in the top 2 or 3 but if you don’t (not judging), use this as a guide as to how to dissect your own value.
…. And I was off … and, then, silence … Oy, I needed a buddy! . Sue Van Der Hout, my business partner, who has taught and spoke at countless women’s leadership and coaching classes and forums, of course was the perfect person. So as she usually does, she acted as my sounding board, gave me things to think about and set me down a path.
Sue said, first, think about the “what” and the “who”. Hmmm? Come again? Uh-oh.
“O.k. forget it, just try and answer these questions”. Ahhhh. I can do that. We work so well together.
What does family mean to you?
What did your own family look like growing up?
What is currently the same or different? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Did your folks follow the “she cooks, cleans, runs the family, and he earns the dough” recipe? What are the roles in your own family?
What happened when you formed your own family? We often replicate what we know … or in some cases, do everything in our power to do things differently.
What are you trying to achieve with your family?
What’s most important to your family unit?
What do you want your family to look like, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years from now? How will you get there?
And … here comes the grey… because the answers to all of these questions will be different for each of us based on our past, our personality and our perspective.
Having grown up with a single mom, who was widowed at 38, left with three young kids and little money or familial support, our house was simply about survival. Was it loving, yes? But it was also about working hard and getting by, teaching me many life lessons, but usually anything but calm. This childhood experience has made me want family to mean something slightly different, more about safety, love, emotional support, ease, and understanding. Now others who grew up in a different type of household, family might mean other things, loyalty, strength, power, philanthropy, power… there are a million different answers to this one question, add culture and generational aspects and there are a million and one.
We did not have the classic roles in my family growing up and interestingly enough, I have that more now. By nature of my husband’s insane work and travel schedule, we have chosen together for me to be more "available" to our two children. That has sometimes given me angst and conflict regarding my own professional path and use of my schooling and MBA (my 5th value being Intellectual stimulation) but I wrestle with it and try constantly to find the path that is right for me and I know that our choice is based on the needs of our family and economics, not on traditional gender roles. I also married a man who provides the ultimate in safety and security and am reminded and blessed by that all the time.
Now I tend to be a bit of keener and since I felt like I was on a bit of a role, asked for more questions. You can choose to do the same or not.
Is there “family” that you’re adding or leaving out?
Is it the conventional? Spouse, children, parents, siblings?
Are some in the preferred family category because they are supportive and life enhancing or because they are blood? Some being excluded because they are not related by blood?
Do you have friends that you want to build into your core?
If you could pick your family, who would be in it?
What’s the model? Best friends? Trusted advisors? Party sharers?
What’s at the core of being family to you?
This set of questions is a great one for me since I live away from my Mom and siblings. This automatically forced me to find close friends that while are not blood related, are for certain part of my family and probably caused me to pick my second value as Relationships. I have an extended family that I adore, count on and enjoy.
You? Do you have those friends that blur the family lines?
I also realized from this thinking , that my value was FAMILY. Not Motherhood. To me, that’s one of my roles, just like a being wife/partner, a sister and a daughter. Being a mother and a good mother is not my personal mantra. But for many it is. That is an entirely different discussion and one that has been on fire the last week.
And this lack of empathy, to understand the parent…on the other side of the sandbox (or not even at the park) is what does women the greatest detriment. If we all put ourselves in another person's shoes, just a bit more, we would move women forward as a whole, one woman at a time.
Soap Box complete … Now back to turning Values into Behavior
How do you make choices when there’s clear conflict?
For some people the choices are more difficult because their "life rules" are so black and white that they are just too hard for them to navigate….others measure every choice with too much weight. If you don’t go the soccer game this week, you are a bad mother forever.
Once you begin to deeply think about what drives your behavior (rules, desire, time, energy), consider what things you want to keep or change. Next think about the how. Think about how are you prioritizing them right now? Why? Because they are the neediest? The loudest? The youngest? The oldest?
Most importantly I have learned there are no “right” answers. There are only the answers that meet your values and work for you. The ones that make you feel good… at least most of the time. That set a model for your family, That have you moving in the right direction overall. And if they don't, because there will be times when they don't, ask why?
Next week Value #2 – Relationships.