What is a Flourishing Family?
As I've started thinking of a family of my own, I found myself wondering what is a flourishing family? By that I mean a family where every individual flourishes - reaching their full potential, feeling fulfilled and inspired, feeling authentic and anchored in who they are with a certain unshakable confidence that is not anchored in the ego, but in a deep knowing that they are worthy.
And for these flourishing individuals to also be in a family where their relationships flourish - they feel deeply connected to each other, they feel supported by each other, even if they are not together physically they know they can count on each other and that they are fully loved and accepted as they are. A home base that serves as a safety net when we need one and also as a springboard that launches us out into the world to be the best version of ourselves. That's the vision I have for a flourishing family.
I looked at the example I had of my family growing up. My siblings and I (there are four of us) are all very different and lead very different lives now. The youngest (25) is pursuing her passion in documentary film making related to inequality and unfairness in the world. My brother (27) works in the crypto-currency world as a CTO (Chief Technical Officer - programming things I don't understand and managing a team of programmers) and he lives as a digital nomad - one month in Japan, one month in Berlin, then in San Fransisco, etc. My other sister (30) always wanted to be a mom and is now a mother of three. She also discovered she loves making things (sewing, working with cement, restoring furniture, etc.) and so she opened an atelier with a friend where they teach workshops and also have a creative space for people to come and realise their own projects. And me (32)... after a zig-zag career starting with Hotel Management and marketing, it took me a while to realise that what I'm passionate about is working with people and in particular guiding families to realise their potential and be equipped with the resources they need along the way. We, my siblings and my parents, are an incredibly close family partly perhaps also due to our expat life that meant we were each others only constant.
During my research on Positive Psychology in relation to families many things became clear to me. I read things that I could then identify in my family and which helped me to understand how we are so close and yet so different at the same time. I also discovered things that helped me to understand why it took me so long to find my path - I was busy trying to be the perfect daughter, top student, great friend and big sister and along the way disconnected from myself and what I really wanted.
It was like the puzzle pieces were clicking into place and with every piece I was more and more excited. I didn't find a magic answer or solution for all families - there is no such thing. I also didn't find a plug and play mechanism that removes all challenges. But I did find a roadmap that I know will guide me with my family one day (and already does with my husband). It's a roadmap that helps me to remember what really matters, that guides me to keep my beliefs and my actions in line with what I most want for myself and for those I love.
What does it take for a family to flourish?
This is the question I asked myself for my thesis and what came out of my research was a Flourishing Family Model. The model is a wheel with several layers. At the core are our beliefs that impact everything else in our lives: how we act, the relationship with our partners and children, how those around us behave and ultimately how our lives unfold. These beliefs are sometimes conscious and very often also unconscious.
The second layer addresses the basic psychological needs that every human being has: Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness. These needs are the equivalent of a plant needing water, soil and sun to grow into it's fullest version. We need all three of these basic needs to be met and yet sometimes in life we find ourselves in situations where we are forced to choose between them. Like when a decision we make is between being who we really are and doing what is important to us (Autonomy) and pleasing those we love because we know they would feel disappointed if we don't (risking our Relatedness). It's a dance to support these needs in others and to make sure we address them in ourselves - a dance where knowing some basic steps is helpful so that we can avoid stepping on each others toes and also have more fun (For those of you who don't know this about me, I used to do a lot of Ballroom Dancing. Learning the steps at the beginning was hard and it was often frustrating, but once I mastered them, I sometimes felt like I was flying and it was magical).
And the third and outer layer is about emotions and emotional intelligence. After all, our emotions are what make us human and are with us all the time, whether we like it or not. There are also the emotions of others that we sometimes don't understand or know how to respond to. Let's just say, that we can struggle through the seemingly muddy emotions, or we can learn and equip ourselves with tools and practices that make the journey much less messy and much more fun.
These different parts of the model are all equally important and also inter-connected. So once any one of them is addressed, the whole wheel starts to turn and you gain momentum to flourish. The other part I love about it is that it's contagious. What we start and we do, rubs off on those around us and again gets the wheel to turn even more, adding to the momentum.
So this is what I have found and what I deeply believe is what it takes for a family to flourish. Some parts will be easy for us and some parts might take some effort to change habits. But in and of itself its simple and it's a guiding roadmap that we can customize and tailor to each family and to every situation we are in. I'm very excited to be teaching workshops on this (see my workshops).
What is a flourishing family to you? I'd love to read your thoughts and comments.