Have you and your family seen The Incredibles? It is not only an amazing family film, it is also a fantastic illustration of the importance of crafting a Family Purpose Statement based upon the personal strengths of each member of your family.
The movie begins with Supers (particularly Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl) exercising their individual gifts in order to save the world.
Flash forward 15 years, when Supers are forced by the government and the tide of public opinion to blend in, stay hidden, and somehow survive. Mr. Incredible is now just Bob Parr…working in chair that doesn’t fit him, in a job that he hates, gaining weight while growing small in his soul.
The existential similarities of Bob’s resignation to mediocrity and Thoreau’s Walden statement are palpable, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”
BUT….do you also remember what happened when he was called on to don his supersuit again? How he started to feel and act like Mr. Incredible, playing with his kids, flirting with his wife, taking care of his health, and just generally thriving?
Remembering and acting on what made him Mr. Incredible gave Bob a vital first step in the direction of enthusiastic purpose…but it wasn’t enough.
This is because Mr. Incredible now had a family: his wife Elastigirl, daughter Violet, son Dash, and baby Jack-Jack – each with their own unique gifts and powers.
You are probably asking yourself where on earth we are going with this…buckle up – it’s about to get awesome!
We talked previously about the importance of creating a dynamic, fun family identity. And we told you a bit about how taking on personas from The A-Team was one way we successfully did that.
But that was really an aerial view of what we hope to hone in on in the next few posts. In our opinion, family identity is a by-product of the bigger picture of you identifying and crafting your Family Purpose Statement. But before you begin, we want to encourage you to help each member of your family discover their strengths, which will eventually lead to constructing their own Personal Purpose Statement.
OK - that was backwards.... so the forward version is: discover Individual Strengths, craft Personal Purpose Statements, blend all Personal Purpose Statements into one Family Purpose Statement, then reap a Family Identity on steroids!!!
We know that doing the hard work of helping each person create a Personal Purpose Statement, and then collaborating from a point of strength to amalgamate a Family Purpose Statement can be daunting…unless you keep it fun and remember the end goal: unleashing superheroes on the world!
Although the concepts of Personal Purpose Statements and Family Purpose Statements have been around a long time and employed by countless successful people, somehow we are only now really understanding and fully implementing these fantastic tools! We had some pieces of this process throughout our journey but not the whole enchilada. Our hope is that you will avoid our frustration and implement these strategies as soon as possible in your family.
So, in keeping with the spirit of The Incredibles, here is your mission, if you choose to accept it:)
Help each member of your family to discover their personal strengths.
This exercise will vary based on the ages of your family members, but you could begin this way:
- Have each person write down what they believe are two of their own unique personal qualities. (It can help to make a larger list and narrow it from there.)
- Then, have each family member do this for every other member….
- Now share your qualities with each other. Were they consistent or wildly different?
- Let each person talk about ways he or she enjoys using these qualities.
- Even very young children can share what they are good at ("I am good at putting my toys away" or "I am a good at giving hugs.")
You could make this whole concept a fun dinner table topic, or turn it into a crazy game….it’s totally up to you! That being said, there are a few things we have found crucial in the beginning phases of creating Personal Purpose Statements:
- Remember to keep it positive and fun!
- Make this a safe space...there are no wrong answers.
- The process should be repeated often as your children grow and develop, so associate this activity with things your family loves to do (camping trips, pizza night, or surprises!)
We can’t wait to hear what your “superpowers” are! Would you email us or comment at the end of this post to share keys your family used in discovering their strengths? We will expand more on this next time and would love to include your stories!
The reason our section of the blog is called "The Rearview Mirror" is that our family continually talks about what experiences during our lives have been beneficial and why, as well as where we missed the mark and what course corrections could or should be taken. Learning from the past keeps me humble as well as excited about the future.
So here's one of those "I wish we had done" moments.... From the time our children were young, we discussed family goals and our family's identity - what we should be doing in our home, in the community, and in our church. The problem is that it was a "top down" approach. Without realizing it, we didn't really include our children in the process. We planned, we decided, and we issued the decree (all wrapped up in a package of fun and excitement!) As expected, our obedient, eager-to-please children mimicked our excitement and went along with whatever we decided. However, we missed the critical element of letting them discover their individual strengths and then be amazed at how God had intentionally placed each one in our family to complete it.
By God's grace my children did discover many of their strengths on their own through the years, but we missed the golden opportunity during their youth that could have helped them avoid some detours as well as capture some missed opportunities. (To be clear, identifying strengths does not negate the need to correct weaknesses or develop all aspects of your child's character. In fact, this exercise will significantly promote both activities.)
I am happy to report that for the last several weeks, even though my children are grown and independent now, together we are helping each other clarify and implement our strengths in new and exciting ways. So don't despair if you are getting a late start - it is never too late.
So let the fun begin! An internet search will provide a wide array of tools to enable you to personalize your approach to include even the younger members of your family in the foundational skill of discovering individual strengths. For older children, you can find great tools to help them dig deeper to understand their motivating strengths vs. simply activities they enjoy.
Remember to make this a positive experience. The process is as important as the outcome, since it will be repeated continually as each person matures. There are many resources to help you such as Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Family, as well as a free purpose statement builder at: http://www.franklincovey.com/msb.
So give the "Incredible" gift to your children.... developing the process of discovering and activating their God-given strengths. Now that's a gift that keeps on giving!
“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass-produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on Earth by the Master Craftsman.” – Max Lucado
p.s. For all you Supers out there (those who have already completed this process), would you share with us how discovering each member's strengths has impacted your family? Can't wait to learn from you!