“What makes your family unique?”

In his book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family, Patrick Lencioni writes this about that question:

“Another way to phrase this question is, what differentiates your family from every other one on your block, or at your school, or in your church? Two primary topics help us identify our uniqueness: values and strategy.”

There are a lot of different ways to answer this question of core values and strategy, and I have found that each family goes about it a different way. If you want to see exactly how Lencioni describes it, well then I recommend you buy his book. But today I want to tackle the above question in this second post in a series on this book (go here for the previous post on this topic).

So let me tell you a little bit about how Heather and I went about it.

Step 1: What are the values that are important to you and your spouse. Sometimes a way to identify these is to talk about what drew the two of you together in the first place (what Lencioni recommends), or to think of it in terms of: what “attached” my partner and I together?…so much so that we decided to get married (a question I ask couples in marital therapy).

Write down these values on a piece of paper. As many or as little as you can.

When Heather and I answered this question words like faith, humor, passion, family are what emerged.

Answering this question in my opinion just begins to get the wheels turning…to help people to begin thinking…but the work in my opinion will emerge out of step 2 & 3.

Step 2: What is true about your family. This in essence starts to answer the question of what makes our family unique or different. In my opinion, it’s more helpful to focus on that phrase “what is true” about us, rather than what makes us different. Because what makes us unique as a family may be shared by other families. It may seem very commonplace, but is nonetheless true.

Brainstorm as many things as you can and write these down on a piece of paper. It could be ten things, it could be 80 things.

When Heather and I did this we had about 45 things we listed…anything from we love to eat Mexican food to we don’t like clutter, to being debt free were important.

Step 3: Identify the values that emerged in the list. As you look at the list you just brainstormed in Step 2, you should begin to see similarities. There might be 5 things regarding faith. Well, then faith might be a core value. There might be 3 things on athletics. Well, then athletics might be a core value.

Usually when a family goes through this process there are about 3-5 core values that emerge.

For Heather and I values like faith, living simply, family and friends began to emerge.

These core values are now your guiding strategy — for how you make decisions — for how you choose to live life. In the words of Lencioni, they are “strategic anchors.”

Step 4: Write out a statement (mission/vision) that spells out these themes that you have identified as important to your family. This is not some fancy literary work. Rather, it’s a simple, short statement that exemplifies who you are. Many families get stuck here trying to come up with something elegant. The key is to just get something done, and continue to work on it if needed.

Heather and I then came up with a statement that reflected the core values that emerged for us.

“We desire to serve God and live out our faith in the choices we make.

We value time together as family and make it a priority to be present and engaged with one another.

We value developing life-giving friendships and desire to share life with those families.

We live simply and intentionally in order to have the freedom to pursue our passions, creativity, and healthy living.”

There are several nuances in the book that I could get into, but I want to try and keep it as simple as possible.

But here are a few tips I recommend following

  • This should be fun.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist.
  • This can be done in an hour or less.
  • This should focus more on who you really are, rather than those things you are trying to be, or who you think you should be.
  • Incorporate your kids when and where possible in this process.
  • If you are single, divorced, widowed, etc., I recommend doing this with a friend who knows you well to help with insight and perspective in the process.

That’s it…you can do this.

Why not start today?