Today my daughters and I spent some time together playing an online role-playing game. Usually when I play with them, I have a fantastic time, but today my experience was mixed. It took some reflection for me to identify why I wasn’t enjoying it as much, but I figured out that we were spending too much time playing as separate characters and not as a team. We weren’t going for different objectives—the game was designed so the objective was clear—but as we progressed through the adventure, we weren’t communicating about what we were doing. We were each acting on impulse or reaction, often splitting the party, and the chaos created a lot of tension which in retrospect I saw was making the experience less fun for my daughters, too.
Until this past summer, Jung and I operated in a very similar way. We both wanted more-or-less the same thing so we were working generally towards the same goal, but we didn’t have a truly shared vision and because of that we weren’t well coordinated. We didn’t really argue because we didn’t really disagree on what we wanted, but the way we were pulling each other slightly off kilter much of the time created stress and tension that wasn’t fun, just as the tension in the game with my daughters was making it markedly less fun.
What I’ve noticed with Jung lately, is that because of our shared vision, we have developed a new level of trust that allows us to be more frank and honest with each other without needing to worry about bruised egos. Now, when we have a misunderstanding, we generally “have at it” in a much more direct way. To an outside observer, it may sound like an argument, but there is no residual emotion once we reach understanding. We know it’s nothing personal, it’s just part of clarifying our vision. This makes even our rare disagreements more akin to play, unlike our unconstructive arguments of the past. We always talk things out to ensure that we’re pulling in the same direction and words cannot convey how much more fun and playful our relationship is.
Once I understood what was bothering me about the game with my daughters, I reminded them to talk, to explain things to me and to each other, and most of all to stop and envision what we were going to do before doing it. Playing with a shared vision made all the difference. It was a lot more fun for me, and I sensed that the personal tension between them went way down as well. (Sibling rivalry never goes away altogether…)
I believe that the key to building a strong community is creating a shared vision, to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction. This applies to work, school, neighborhoods, friends, role-playing parties, and perhaps most of all, First Communities, the family.