Many fathers develop a strong sense of self through their work. The structures and systems of the workplace offer opportunities to develop skills and abilities that can be strongly aligned with innate gifts and talents. Generations of fathers have gained a sense of purpose in this manner.
But on many levels, times have changed. Many of the protective factors that buffered and surrounded youth are gone. Many of the benefits of a close and cohesive community have faded. And the webbing of the virtual world extends benefits and risks to both ends of the continuum. So, fathers and mothers wear many hats and the world is simply more complex. And a deeper and evolving understanding of self, relationships, and how the world works no longer seems optional. Fortunately, the Inner Circle, the space where these three understandings reside, offers unlimited opportunities for personal growth.
As fathers, if our time and commitment is slanted too far towards work, we miss opportunities to deepen our own perspectives and personalities. We may be missing the critical interactions within our inner circle that make us better in every role we inhabit.
The inner circle provides a compass of time, energy, and commitment. Intuitively, we know who resides in this space. But stepping back and considering the connection between what we value and how we spend time helps us to see how much we value our role in the give and take of these connections.
Here are five ways working within the inner circle can help fathers develop authentically:
Establish rituals with your children.
One-on-one time is the foundation of social-emotional development. In a family we all have roles, but one-on-one we get to be who we are. Spending regular time in an intentional manner with each of your children creates the space and conditions for growth and deepening connections. Let your children lead and follow them with a sense a wonder. Provide a mirror for their developing self.
Within these rituals we evolve as fathers, our children grow on many levels, and the relationship is enriched and deepened. With commitment, the ritual evolves over time and becomes a focal point of connection, a time that is highly anticipated, and a buffer to the challenges of family life.
Start simple whether it is getting on the floor for play or exploring the great outdoors. Make the relationship (spending time, rather than money) the centerpiece, and over time the ritual takes on a life of its own.
Establish relationship rituals with your significant other.
The same holds true in committing a devoted time to your significant other. These rituals are often neglected in the early years of parenthood and this comes at a high cost. The beautiful aspect of a ritual is that offers a sense of continuity. You pick up where you left off and create a space to honor the meaning in your relationship.
Daily routines are the place of checklists, “have to’s” and small talk, a place of being efficient with time and managing the basics of family. Rituals are a place where time alters and disappears; a time and space not of doing but of being.
Make quiet space in your day.
This is not a passive time; it’s a reflective space between what we do, our relationships, and what we attempt to produce each day. In a product-oriented world, this quiet space is not particularly valued or talked about. But it is crucial. It is beyond “planning” and serves as a time to ask the “How?” and “Why?” questions, a time to re-orient ourselves.
In this reflective ritual, you actively consider the process of your days. The relationship you have with yourself and a Higher Power becomes evident in this space. With this commitment to self it becomes easier to see where you came from and where you are heading — and if you are aligned with what matters most. Keeping a journal or a record of this ritual helps with clarity and provides a concrete way to witness your development.
Dive deeply into something outside your field. A hobby or subject matter outside your work provides a powerful way to challenge yourself and expand your mind. Music, art, playing a sport or the vast information at your fingertips are all ways to go deep and wide in learning and maintaining our sense of curiosity and adventure.
Bringing another into your inner circle, whether a child, an adult or another father, creates an expansion in your sense of self. You realize that certain attributes are not limited — one of those being investment in others. Interestingly, mentoring starts with giving ourselves to others, but over time most mentors reveal how much they received in the process.
What matters most resides within our inner circle. So do the important questions and answers and chances to grow in our roles and relationships. As fathers, our family benefits from the time and energy we devote to this important space. If you haven’t looked to your inner circle in a while, there is never a better time than right now.