Nearly every successful business-person will tell you that the real secret to his or her success has been finding a mentor. Whether that mentor has a direct involvement in his or her life – i.e. personally knows him, or whether that mentor is a person about whose success much has been published, successful people model themselves on other successful people. We naturally do this without realizing it. Think of the biographies we read, or watch. We are interested in what makes other people who they are, especially when that person is someone we admire.

The same is true, or should be true, of families. Every family needs at least one exemplary family on which to model themselves. For a fortunate few, their own parents provide that model. And that is the way it should be, it is what we should strive for as parents – to be the model for our children’s families to follow. But for many of us, there need to be other mentors. It is possible, even desirable to have more than one family to look to for guidance.

Choosing a mentor family demands some contemplation. You must first understand what you want your family to be. In order to do that, it is important to make a mission retreat as a couple. During your weekend, you may even bring up the name or names of families you know who are successful at family life in its entirety, or in a particularly important aspect for you.

If the couple(s) you choose are people you know personally, consider approaching them about sharing the secrets of their success. Don’t be afraid to say something like, “Your family is such a wonderful example. We would really love to have a family that works together so well. How did you do that?” Chances are they’ll begin by saying that it wasn’t always that way, or that life isn’t 100% perfect. They will follow by telling you what steps they took to shape their family into a beautiful model. It is possible that you will want to delve more deeply into how their family became who they are. You could ask to have them visit one night for dinner, or to arrange to meet somewhere for a quiet night out. The lessons they impart can be the key ingredients to making your family one you hope will be a model to others one day.

If the family you want to take for a model is a prominent one about whom there is a written history, be sure to take the time to read everything available about them, particularly if it is something written by themselves, or by one of their children. Examples of good, and well-known role models for families might be former presidents, prominent businessmen and women, activists, writers, saints. Choose not only those who have achieved the success you want, but also those who have overcome challenges similar to those that your family faces. Finding and traversing a trail cleared and mapped by others makes our journeys easier, clearly sets out our path, and offers us solace and encouragement along the way.

Who is your model family?

Copyright 2011 Brian and Nissa Gadbois