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Articles & Interviews
STEP 2: Clarify Your Convictions

Too often we take action based on emotion—our own or others—which almost always leads to trouble. When people take the time to think through their values, principles, and beliefs, they have solid ground to stand on in tough situations. They are able to hang onto their convictions when they meet with resistance from others or doubt within themselves. Principled people know what they want, where they want to go, and how they intend to get there, and they don’t change their beliefs or direction in reaction to emotional pressure from others. People who have clear convictions only change their principles based on evidence.

Jeff tells the story of his twenty-something son calling him in a panic to ask for help with the rent. “I’ve never been able to say ‘no’ to either of my children, but this time I had to.” Jeff had been working through his convictions in recent years and determined that, in his opinion, it was the top job of a parent to prepare his children for independence. “If I’d given him the money, I would have violated one of my core values—preparing my kids to live on their own after I’m gone. I would have helped him in the moment, but hobbled his independence.” This helped Jeff to see that having an angry young adult child for a while was less important, and less harmful in the long run, than have a dependent adult child forever.

As this example illustrates, convictions are a person’s personal principles, goals, values, and beliefs translated into will-do’s and won’t-do’s in your family system. Jeff would not enable his son’s irresponsible financial behavior. People who are clear about their convictions think carefully about what is really important to them. Our convictions have deep roots in our life experience, and are negotiable only with new information. There was no new data in Jeff’s son’s pleading and whining--only the fact that the younger man had not managed his money effectively, and that Jeff intended to allow his son to deal with the consequences. Your convictions are your navigation system; it pays to understand them before a storm comes along.

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