Finding your life's balance: Family

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In our regular feature Nina Grunfeld presents a wellbeing series for HR professionals. It's time to focus on yourself

Last month we were looking at how you feel about the work you’re doing. This month we’re back to our holistic Balance Chart (‘10’ being very satisfied). So notice your scores now and pay special attention to your work (we hope your score has increased from last month) and your family – those who created you, those who grew up with you and those you’ve created. You may even want to give each of those groups a different score.

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What I hear from your colleagues about family is fascinating. I remember once running a workshop on feedback, thinking there’d be lots of participants wanting to give their managers or even members of their team feedback. But instead everyone felt members of their family needed a piece of their mind.

Even if you choose to ignore them, families are complicated and they don’t go away. They can be inspirational and supportive, destructive and oppositional – or a mixture of both – and they’re a powerful presence in your life. Whether you choose to have any contact with them or not, you can’t ignore their influence and it can oppress you even if you’re not speaking.

Conversely, having a good relationship with your family can enhance your life like no other. They understand you intimately, having known you for longer than anyone else. And you can’t swap your family so there’s no point wishing your siblings were more like the sisters in Little Women. And if they’ve never felt like the ‘right’ family for you no doubt you’re stronger as an individual for having to find your own way.

It can feel easier to remember the times you sobbed yourself to sleep than the times you bonded over ice creams at the beach. What’s important is how you choose to react to your family and how you can find a role within it that works well for you. There’s no point waiting for them to do anything differently. Instead appreciate what they do have to offer you. By accepting and forgiving them you will get back the energy you have depleted hoping they’ll one day be different.

Even feeling so disillusioned by your family that you consciously decide to reject them may mean you find that you’re behaving exactly the same way as they did. You may discover you’ve made choices and are repeating patterns that have been going on for generations. By doing the opposite and choosing a new pattern you might unconsciously be following the script of another part of your family – the part that always broke the patterns. It is only by exploring your family and coming to terms with the fact that you cannot be an island that you can broaden your vision about who you can become. Rather than blame your family for not having given you everything, embrace the good things that have come out of your relationship.

Three tasks for August to enable you to get more out of your family:

1. Notice family patterns

Every time you think something ask yourself which member of your family you got that thought from, and if there isn’t a totally opposite view that you could adopt from another relative.

2. Focus on other families

What did you enjoy about the other families you knew growing up? Can you bring a little more of whatever that was into your life?

3. New families

Often we create families – colleagues, friends, club members, sports teams – that mean more to us than blood relations. Make time this month to spend with them.

Nina Grunfeld is a self-help and wellbeing guru, author, and founder of self-improvement workshops Life Clubs

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