Guiding Principles ground us in thinking and actions because they provide the guardrails of our life’s journey. They are thoughtful options to our automatic reactions. The following Guiding Principles have been developed over the years via trial and error, personal failure and amazing success. The idea of Guiding Principles comes from the work of Dr. Murray Bowen, one of the founding minds of the discipline of family therapy. Work on You. There is a common denominator in all our problems. Or, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and they are us.”

Emotionally intelligent thinking is not about blaming others or finding fault with certain persons. It is about recognizing your own responsibility for “selfregulation” and your commitment to managing yourself (the only person over which you have control.) We all live in a network of relationships. How you manage your “dance steps” will affect everyone else with whom you are in relationship. Respond Rather than React. Ready! Fire! Aim! How well does this work for you? Emotionally charged topics, which can be anything from the seemingly benign to well known hot buttons, are difficult to discuss with people who are important to you.

Thinking ahead of time when the atmosphere is calmer about how you will respond instead of caving in to your automatic fight flight-freeze mode can save the day. Know What You Believe. We all believe in something, someone, some idea. It is not so much about being religious, but rather it is the exploration and declaration of the deep motivating factors that push you to do what you do. Think about it. Take time to discover what you believe in, what you stand for and what you are willing and able to do. We call this “awareness,” and it is a critical step to impacting your personal goals and your family.

The Past Informs the Present. Grandma’s ghost is alive and well and sometimes haunts even the best of us. Every person is a member of a larger family system and set of multi-generational influences and emotional atmospheres. At Crucible Life Resources we draw a three-generation family diagram with every client (also known as a genogram), to gain greater understanding of the broader context of our past and current relationships. These diagrams allow us to see certain patterns to how our family thinks and behaves. Contact not Closeness. Staying connected with others is a way to affirm that differences are not deal breakers. This applies to family as well as our network of friends, acquaintances and even people we dislike. Everyone changes throughout life – it is inevitable – and that change is what makes opinions so different.

Conflict, distance and emotional cutoff are ways we naturally try to resolve these differences, usually leaving unpleasant results. It is possible in the face of differences for families to remain connected through effective communication. First Things First. Many of us carry around a big bowl of spaghetti – an entangling and confusing set of situations and circumstances with which we are wrestling. Trying to tackle all aspects of a complicated problem at once can be crippling. It is more effective to think about and discern the next, right thing to do; the thought or action that can be leveraged to move your circumstances toward solution or resolution.