There is nothing like the family into which we were born and we grew up in that is as powerful to influence our lives and decisions. So much of what we learn in our families is unconscious, so it is sometimes difficult to know the extent of its influence. While we may have no recollection of what we learned, the lessons become our emotional and social DNA.
A great deal of the most significant messages are not explicitly recognized. Often, it is an understood, unspoken rule. We unconsciously absorb our parents’ way of thinking and doing, which teaches us how to make decisions about work and our careers. While this identification is natural and allows us to function and succeed in the world, it can also lead us to make decisions that are not aligned with our own values.
It’s important to gather information about our family of origin to effectively interpret our own path and best determine how to best move forward as it relates to our career. This includes figuring out what distinctive, positive lessons you learned in your family, what makes you unique, and how your parents made key decisions in their lives. This will transform you, your thought process, and your future.
Understanding Our Family of Origin by Completing a Family Genogram
We move forward by looking back to understand covert messages about roles, patterns, and expectations in the family. Start by drawing a family tree that starts with you and your siblings at the bottom, and trace back three generations of your family. Take note of the following for each family member:
- What was their primary work?
- How did they come to do that work?
- How good of a fit was there between their responsibilities and satisfaction?
- What were the recurring work choices in your family?
- How were career choices different between men and women in your family?
- What were considered successful jobs?
- What were considered less valuable jobs?
As you learn more about your family of origin, focus particularly on your parents. They likely had the most influence on your career choices. Interviewing your parents can help you to see yourself and your systems with a new perspective. You can explore their career decisions, reasons why they chose their path, and what drove those decisions during their turning points.
Here are some possible questions you can ask your parents:
- What did you want to do with your life when you were younger?
- What was your career path, and how did your parents think about your choices?
- What challenges have you faced? What did you do?
- If you could have done things differently, what would it be?
Do you see any similarities between their lives and yours? Do you see yourself in either of your parents? Examining these factors will help you discover what you really want in your life and your career, rather than following what you’ve been taught to do. This is an essential step in crafting your personal definition of success.
Stay tuned for the next important component of creating your Personal Life Vision: VALUES