Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 17, Issue No. 3a
July 1, 2018
By Dan Coughlin
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From the time I was a one-year-old until I was 17 I went to family reunions every year. That was on top of attending many other family gatherings each year on both my mom’s and my dad’s side of the family.
At 18 I determined I was too cool for family reunions. Wow, that was a mistake. When my oldest child, Sarah, was born I was 36, and I decided it was time to start attending family reunions again.
I met with people whom I had no memory of meeting earlier in life. And other people I met with whom I did remember, but we hadn’t talked in twenty years. A lot happens in twenty years.
I’m now 55, and I cherish these reunions. Each year I dive into conversations with as many people as I can. They are my link to my past, present, and future.
One cousin named Angell did a very angel-like thing for me. She sent me pictures of family reunions in the 1950s through the early 2000s. I saw pictures of my dad’s parents whom I have no recollection of meeting. I saw pictures of me growing up and some of my siblings as they grew up. I saw pictures of my parents when they were in their 20s.
I engaged in conversations with cousins to understand the relationships between our parents, and how decisions that were made many decades ago affected individual lives to this day. My family is scattered across the U.S., but there are common links that help to piece together the puzzles of our lives.
Uncovering the Basis of Your Values
I define values as the beliefs you consider to be so important that they drive your decisions and behaviors on a consistent basis.
Those beliefs came from somewhere. They didn’t just bubble up one day and take over your life. Go to your family reunions and listen to people. As you do so, you will start to see patterns of beliefs, and you will understand what helped to form you. Ask about your grandparents and their parents. Ask about your aunts and uncles. Ask why people did what they did.
Beliefs will start to emerge about the importance of family, education, physical well-being, integrity, hard work, laughter, humor, community, and what makes good choices. You might agree or disagree with the beliefs you hear, but at least you’ll understand to a certain degree where your way of thinking originated.
Go to your family weddings and funerals and reunions. Stay connected as much as you can to the network of people who influenced you and who influenced the people who influenced you. Your extended family carries within it a great deal of the beliefs that affected you in your lifetime.
Making an effort to understand that configuration of influences can really help you to become even more effective in the future. You can decide which beliefs to keep using, to stop using, and to start using. It’s like stepping into a time machine to understand what got you to where you are today and where it will take you in the future.
Plus it’s a lot of fun to relive memories from the past and make new memories for the future.