Hōryū-ji, in Nara Japan, is the oldest wooden structure in the world. It was built under Prince Shotoku and is believed to be about 1,300 years old.

Apart from its cultural significance, what makes Hōryū-ji remarkable is that it is still standing. Every year in Japan, there are thousands of earthquakes and yet, Hōryū-ji is still standing. Why?

Many architects believe the secret to Hōryū-ji’s lasting power is something the Japanese call, “Shinbashira”. A shinbashira is a wooden pillar located in the very center of a building, kind of like the center pole in a tent. Newer studies show that having this central pillar makes a building incredibly stable. In fact, this 1,300-year-old wooden structure has been able to withstand earthquakes that caused many modern concrete buildings to topple.

Families, like buildings, face attacks. Families might not be struck by earthquakes, but they are struck by job loss, extramarital affairs, and even the death of loved ones. Without support, families too may topple. So, how might a family find its center pillar?

Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself, as a parent, to identify your central pillar:

  1. What rules do I give my children? Do you explicitly tell your children what you expect of them or do you
    assume they know? If you have rules, do you enforce them consistently or are there days when you let
    things slip? Research has shown that children do best when given clear rules and boundaries and when parents enforce these rules consistently. If you don’t reinforce rules consistently, children learn you don’t mean what you say and so, there is no reason for them to follow your “rules.”
  2. How do I enforce my rules? Do you find yourself yelling at your kids because they didn’t do what you asked? Do you give up easily? Research has also shown that children do best when discipline is coupled with attention and love. For example, if your rule is, “Do your homework before supper,” then try spending 15 minutes to help them settle down, identify what they have to do (e.g., do these 10 math problems), and walk them through the first 2 problems. This shows them you care and they are not alone.
  3. What am I willing to sacrifice for? On a more personal note, what things in your life are you willing to give up, in order to do? Are you willing to give up a promotion to spend more time at home with your family? Are you willing to sacrifice a night out with friends to volunteer at your church or charity? If so, then this work has great value for you and these values can act as an anchor for you when times get tough.
  4. What energizes me? What would you be willing to get up early on a Saturday morning, in an Edmonton winter, to do? The things that are good for us give us energy. If you can find something that makes you want to get up out of bed, then this has value for you. You will know you have found your central pillar if you feel more energized after you are done, not drained.
  5. What injustice or pain can I not stand? Is there anything that you find so painful to witness that you feel like you can’t bear to ignore it? Is it seeing people sleep on the street? Discrimination? Children starving in other countries? When you find this soft spot, you will find something of value to you.

The idea of a central pillar is having something in your life that is important to you. It gives you something to hold on to when times get tough, and it gives you a support that makes you stronger that you think you can be. It provides stability not only for you, but for your entire family as well. It also gives your life meaning.


Blog post by Dr. Blaine Mullins, Volunteer



Davis, T. (2017, December 17). Five steps to finding your life purpose. Psychology Today.