16 Jan Want a happier family? Take some time this weekend to try some or all of these 10 tips!
by Marc Chernoff
Last night, an old friend from high school – a hometown success story and entrepreneur who owns and operates a large publicly traded company – a man whom I have a great deal of respect for – came over to our home for dinner. After a delicious meal, he and I chatted for a couple hours in the family room and caught up on old times. And as we wrapped things up, he said, “I admire you. I admire the love in this home – the obvious love between you and Angel. I admire the close relationships you’ve built and nurtured. When I’m here it feels like I’m part of the family. Nurturing a happy family is one of the things I never got around to. So it was great to see it, feel it, and be a part of it tonight. Thank you.”
When I sat down to write this morning, my friend’s remarks immediately came to mind. Which got me thinking… What does nurturing a happy family really mean? What are some things happy families do differently?
Here are some thoughts to consider:
1. Every day, every member chooses to be part of the family.
First and foremost, family isn’t always blood. They’re the people in your life who appreciate having you in theirs – the ones who encourage you to improve in healthy and exciting ways, and who not only embrace who you are now, but also embrace and embody who you want to be. Family members can be your best friends. And best friends, whether or not they’re related to you by blood, can be your family.
Family is built with love; it’s not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and formal adoption documents. Families grow from the heart, through mutual love and respect. The only time family becomes nullified is when the ties in the heart are cut. If you cut the ties, these people are not your family. If you build the ties, these people are your family. So build and maintain ties with the right people and nurture them with love every day.
2. Family members go out of their way for each other.
Family bonds are tied with true love, and true love involves attention, awareness, discipline, effort, and being able to care about someone and sacrifice for them, continuously, in countless petty little unsexy ways, every day. You put your arms around them and love them regardless, even when they’re not very lovable. And of course they do the same for you.
If you want to know what a healthy family is, it’s one where each family member wakes up every morning and says, “This is worth it. You all are worth it. I am happy you are in my life.” It’s about sacrifice. It’s about knowing that some days you will have to do things you dislike to make the people you love smile, and feeling perfectly delighted to do so. That’s what it means to “be family.” (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. Family sticks together through thick and thin.
“Being family” is also about supporting each other through life’s inevitable changes. It’s knowing that your family will be there watching out for you through thick and thin. Nothing and no one else will give you that. Not your career. Not your boss. Not your clients. Not money. Not fame.
You can’t promise to be there for someone for the rest of their life, but you can sincerely be there for them for the rest of yours. Stand by those you care about in their darkest moments, not because you want to stand in the dark, but because you don’t want them to either. Brave the shadows alongside them until they’re able to find the light. On the flip-side, stand by these same people on their sunniest days, not because you want to scorch your skin, but because you’re not afraid to let them shine bright.
And remember, timing is everything. There is a time for silence, a time to let go and allow your loved ones to launch themselves into their own destiny, and a time to cheer for their victories, or help them pick up the pieces, when it’s all over…
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