We all know the story of the local cobbler who was so busy making shoes for his customers that he didn’t have time to make shoes for his family. I have led and participated in hundreds of organizational visioning sessions but in 1998 it was clear to me that my own family needed a shared vision for the future. I was determined and proclaimed that we would spend New Year’s Eve 1998 together as a family working on our family vision. Under duress my wife and three children amused me and participated. My wife found the actual document I used to facilitate our visioning session in a file. I hadn’t seen it in ten years and the question remains relevant today. Does your family have a shared vision?
Here is the document I used to get us talking as a family ten years ago. Maybe the questions will enable a similar conversation with your family.
Kaplan Family Visioning 12/31/1998
Imagine it is the year 2008. The world survived the dreaded year 2-K disaster and the Kaplan family is thriving in the new millennium. It is hard to imagine that ten years have passed since that silly New Year’s Eve in 1998 when our dad made us stay at home together and develop a family vision. He said it was a mental picture or image of the kind of family we wanted to be. And like any vision it wouldn’t happen by accident but because everyone in our family wanted to achieve it and worked hard to make it happen. Well, ten years have passed. Let’s see how we did in living up to the family vision we created that New Year’s Eve right after dad won the family monopoly game!
Before we can discuss the kind of family we have become in the year 2008 we should start by discussing the kind of individuals we have become. I can’t believe how far we came as individuals. It will help us with our family vision to understand what each of us will be doing in the year 2008. Once we have a picture of ourselves as individuals we can take a look at how we relate together as a family.
How old are you in 2008? Where do you live? What kind of home do you live in?
Are you still in school? What grade (high school, college, graduate school)? Where? What do/did you study? What kind of grades do/did you get?
Describe your personal relationships (boyfriend/ girlfriend)? Husband/wife? Kids! How about friends? Do you have a lot of friends?
What role does music play in your life? Do you play any instruments? How often do you play?
How much traveling have you done? What parts of the world have you seen? What parts do you plan to see?
How much do you read? What do you like to read? Do you read a newspaper every day? (Maybe there won’t be newspapers ten years from now!)
How much do you write? Does your job require you to write? Do you write on your own? What do you like to write about? (your mother has been encouraging me to write more…blame her….she has a habit of encouraging all of us to be better…doesn’t she…I think one of her best traits)
What hobbies/sports are you active in? How active are you? Do you exercise? Maybe we should know how much you weigh! Are you a sports fan? What sports? Have the Red Sox made it to the World Series in the last ten years? Perhaps you live somewhere else and have become a traitor and don’t root for the Red Sox any more!
What are the most important things in your life in 2008?
Now that we can picture what each of us is up to in 2008 and can admire our personal successes we can start to discuss what kind of family we have become.
OK so the Kaplan clan is alive and well in the year 2008. Who would’ve doubted that each of us would have an exciting and positive view of the future? It’s one of the great things about our family….the fact that as individuals we are all smart, funny, ambitious and have a ton of optimism about the future. And of course it is the humor we share with each other which makes for an “interesting” combination with our competitive spirits. I don’t know about you but I am extraordinarily proud and impressed with the individual integrity, talent, and personal motivation that we all possess.
But…(you had to know that there was a but somewhere!) …I am not as clear on what we will be like as a family. What will we be like collectively? That might seem like a corny question to ask and I know you are laughing at me for doing this. I truly believe that what our family is going to be like ten years from now will have a lot to do with the importance we place on being a family and how we treat each other NOW.
Having a vision doesn’t mean you can predict the future. Nobody can do that. It simply means that you have a view of what you would like the future to be like. Once you have a clear vision you can steer yourself toward it. It helps you know every day/month/year if you are doing the things and acting in a way that points in the direction of the vision.
Anyway, here are a few questions to get us thinking about our family vision:
How often do we see each other as a family? Are we together for the holidays? Do we go on vacations together?
What happens when our family gets bigger? Spouses? Are there any nieces and nephews? (I guess they would be grandkids huh? YIKES)
How often do we talk with each other? Do you talk often with your siblings?
What is the nature of our conversation? Are we talking about our lives and what is really going on or are we doing the adult equivalent of NOTHING REALLY!
How about email as an alternative to the phone. Are we all hooked up on line wherever we live?
OK how about something a little tougher….How close are we as a family…..really? What happens if something really great happens for one of us…. Are we all there to help celebrate? I suppose it is fair to ask the opposite question… What happens if someone gets hurt or has something bad happens, or just plain needs our help? Are we all there for each other?
How will we treat each other? Do we respect and love each other? Can other people around us see how much we respect and love each other?
And finally….How much importance do we place on family versus individual? Ultimately the importance we put on it will determine the kind of family we will be in 2008. I am willing to sign up to whatever vision we create and to work hard to make it happen. Are you?
Back to the Future 2009
I cried when I read this, ten years later. Because of its personal poignancy and its accuracy. My family is as close as ever. We communicate incessantly by every electronic means available. We added a new member to our family when my oldest daughter was married this past summer. We just returned from a great family vacation. Newspapers are almost dead and of course the Red Sox have won the World Series, twice. Life is good.