Many years ago, as a young family of three, my husband and I met and made friends through our church and community activities. We recognized we were just beginners when it came to parenting and we began to observe similarities and patterns in families we regarded as successful - not in terms of dollars and cents, but in closeness to one another.

We were fortunate to be surrounded by several emotionally healthy, loving and functioning families. They weren't perfect - they regularly experienced struggles and challenges like everyone else. But they seemed to make good role models, something for which we were looking - families in the day-in, day-out routine who had finely-tuned their family dynamics and parenting skills. They could take on a problem, work through it and solve it. I felt like a dry sponge ready to soak up the wisdom they gained from their experiences.

One family had a particularly deep impact on me. Besides the closeness and commitment they had for one another, the father, a successful businessman, made his living by examining, in great detail, companies that were struggling. He'd analyze a company from top to bottom, explain its strengths and weaknesses to the organization's leaders, and if desired, project where the company could be in 10 years. Sometimes, the company would just accept his findings and his job was done. At other times, the firm's leaders asked if he could draw up a plan for the next 10 years and then seek his help in reaching company goals. It was fascinating work. We were intrigued by it, and the stories he told of companies that he helped turn around.

It was apparent to us that some of his organizational principles could be applied to our young family. So we went to work! We began to think about where we wanted the Smurthwaite family to be in 10 and 20 years.

We started by asking ourselves some questions:

  • Where did we want our family to be spiritually in 10 years?
  • How could we achieve ongoing family closeness, trust, and communication?
  • How could we keep a pulse on our responsibilities at home and in the workplace, yet still make time for _recreation,_

social experiences, and developing personal interests and hobbies ?

  • How could we encourage our young family to develop a work ethic and embrace learning?

We had a lot to consider!

While our intent was not to run our family like a business, we knew we could use some of the principles of an effective business model to help our family be more successful. We knew it would take time and commitment, lovingly executed. We also knew there could be no shortcuts. The stakes were high and we had to commit the time and energy that were needed. Along the way, we had to learn how to prioritize and balance the basics, ditch the unnecessary, and keep our long-term goals in sight.

Thirty-five years of marriage and four children later, here's what we've learned:

  • You will make mistakes. Learn from them and alter your course.
  • Your goals need regular evaluation; make it a priority.
  • Love is the most vital element in your family circle.
  • Forgiveness, admitting fault, and apologizing quickly are crucial.
  • Helping your spouse, your children, and yourself reach personal goals is enriching and necessary for esteem and emotional well-being.
  • Work hard and play hard together.
  • Celebrate successes, especially the small ones.
  • Create your own traditions and memories.
  • Wit and wisdom will always be golden.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk really do help.
  • Your family members should truly be your best friends for life.

A decade or two of dedication to family holds millions of small teaching moments that will linger in the hearts of your children for a lifetime. While you will be a parent for years, childhood is fleeting. Embrace the journey and never underestimate your influence for good, even in the minute corners of your life.

Our friend, the consultant, knew much about rescuing troubled businesses and some of what he taught helped us as a family. How willing are you to invest in your own family? The rest is up to you. Decide today that you will focus your energy on your family first and be willing to invest yourself fully, in love and commitment, to this sacred trust.

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