Exploring Identity

Have you ever been watching a show or reading a book and become so captivated? If you’re anything like me, you have the tendency to get caught up in a really great story. Great stories don’t just happen. They are generally the product of careful consideration and exploration. And there is a difference between an okay story or a great story. And you know which one you would rather be watching or reading.

In the same way, we believe that most families would choose a great family story over an okay story. And at the Intentional Family Project, we believe that the story of your family life can be great. We are confident that the Intentional Family Process provides the tools you need for thoughtful exploration as you create a compelling life. We encourage you to ask the question — “When it is all said and done, what do we want our family story to be?”

While there are variations in how the question can be asked, the heart of the question is the same. Some of our intentional families have asked the question like this:

  • When our kids are grown, how do we want them to describe our family life?
  • What do we want to say we accomplished as a family?
  • How will we know we have lived our best family life?

There is a difference between an okay story or a great story. At the Intentional Family Project, we believe that the story of your family life can be great.

Coming up with an answer to the question can be a daunting task. There is both enthusiasm in the possibility, and a bit of fear in the unknown. As we discussed in An Invitation to Identity looking in can be a useful method to begin answering these kinds of questions. Now, we invite you to look beyond the family you are creating to the role that others might play in the story of your family by looking back, looking out, and looking up.

Looking Back

The story of your family’s history is a powerful place for Intentional Families to begin. This is important because it helps you look beyond the family you are creating, back to the family that created you. Looking back helps you note how choices impact generations — both for the good and the bad. We can learn so much by going beyond the surface of our family’s story in order to ask difficult yet important questions, such as:

  • What do you think they did well?
  • What do you wish they would have done differently?
  • What do you wish they would have done more?
  • What do you wish they would have done less?

Whether you want to adopt similar values, adapt some values, or establish new ones, exploring and even honoring the choices of our family’s past can help you in creating a thoughtful present-day family story.

Looking Out

Certainly, we can begin to answer the question of what we want our story to be from the story of our family’s history. But in today’s connected world, Intentional Families can also learn so much from other families who are living their lives with intentionality. Many of our Intentional Families noted the role that friends and acquaintances have had on their sense of identity. Other families have read books and memoirs or watched documentaries to find inspiration for intentional family life. As you consider who might be your own inspirational examples, ask yourselves:

  • What families inspire us? What are they doing in family life that we like?
  • What stories have we read or watched that encourage us think about doing family life differently?
  • Who do we spend a lot of time around? What can we learn about family life from them?

Looking Up

For most of the Intentional Families we interviewed, their sense of identity and core family values were deeply rooted in faith. They discussed their choice to become intentional as an expression of their belief in God. They indicated that their beliefs required action, and that they sensed they were being called to live life in a unique way. These families found their identity and values being shaped by their faith. Consider how your faith and beliefs might influence your identity by asking questions like:

  • What are our spiritual beliefs? What values do we have as a family because of those spiritual beliefs?
  • What experiences have we had that have shaped our family’s beliefs?
  • What quotes or scriptures that are important to our family?

By looking back, looking out, and looking up, you are better equipped as a family to answer the question, “When it is all said and done, what do we want our family story to be?” To help you in this pursuit, we have developed this 2-page worksheet to help you talk through each set of questions, identify some words typically used for core family values, and begin writing those down. Later on, we will provide you with tools to work through and clarify these ideas. But for now, just focus on identifying all the words that best resonate with what you know to be important to your family. These words will become the thread by which you will create your family story.

Written by Nicole McAninch, PhD, CFLE, Senior Lecturer of Child & Family Studies at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

One Comment on “Exploring Identity

  1. Pingback: Meet the Allen Family – intentional.family

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