Are We All Looking Forward to the Same Thing?

Recently while dealing with a family where some of the members kept wanting to rehash events from the past, it became nearly impossible for me to get them to concentrate on leaving old squabbles behind and instead try to focus on looking forward instead.

That got me thinking about how simple this can sound, yet still be hard to get people to buy into.

There are of course many reasons to look backwards on occasion, but if you drive your car while staring at the rear view mirror, you will run into trouble (or something else) relatively quickly.

So this week, I want to share some of my thoughts about the whole idea of looking forward as a family.


Setting the Past Aside – At Least for Now

I’m not suggesting that families never think about or talk about the past.

There are plenty of times and occasions and reasons to do that, but if you spend too much time there, when you really should instead be trying to work productively towards some common desired future, those looks backward too often end up usurping all of the positive energy you’ll need to make progress.

There are times when you need to agree to set the past aside, at least for now.

I wrote about this many years ago in There is No “Rewind” Button.


“As a Family” Changes Over Time

As we turn our focus to looking forward “as a family” I guess the first musing I have is that the idea of looking forward as a group of people can get a bit tricky, because each member of the group has their own pair of eyes with which they do their own looking.

So the group, the family in this case, needs to do some work to try to establish a common future towards which they are all looking.

This is important work that I think many families should undertake because the results will usually be useful in making sure that everyone understands where they are trying to go together, so all of their efforts can be aimed in the same direction.

Okay, so let’s say the family does that today and they all agree, are they then set for life? I assume you recognize a rhetorical question when I ask it.

Of course that common vision of where the family is looking to go needs to be revisited often, as each person’s view will also differ a bit over time as the family advances.


By Generation, By Individual

One way to try to tease out the variety of viewpoints is to look separately at members of the same generation, who at least are progressing through their life stages on a similar timeframe.

When the rising generation in a family enterprise is in their 30’s and 40’s, most of them will have at least some common views that will differ from their parents’, who are likely in their 50’s and 60’s.

However, fast forward a couple of decades, and those rising gen members will now likely view certain things in a way similar to how their parents saw things not that long ago.

And of course, each of the individuals in each generation will have their own unique things that they are looking forward to as well.


Re-Calibrating the Vision – It’s a Process

As any family sets out towards a future together, the simple passage of time, along with daily, weekly, and monthly events and happenings all combine to change where they are now.

Hopefully they will be closer to where they were planning to go, but things don’t always move forward as planned, nor do they always move in a straight line.

Figuring out if you are all still looking forward to the same thing requires frequent re-calibrating of that vision.


Looking Forward Together Regularly – Family Forums

Some regular readers may already see where I’m headed, and that’s to make sure that you don’t just have occasional, ad-hoc meetings as a family.

You need to develop a habit of having regularly scheduled meetings as a family, as noted in Live from the Forum – Successful Transitions.

Families who get together regularly (often quarterly or annually) can easily take stock of where they are, how they got there, and where they’re trying to go next.

Refocusing together also re-energizes everyone.

There’s always something to look forward to, and figuring it out together, over and over again, will help you all get there.