Goal Setting for Families: Facing The Same Direction
Does your family have goals? If you’ve got a newborn you might be glaring at me right now and thinking, “sleep. Our goal is to sleep!” Which I totally get, you’ll get a pass. Go take a nap and come back in a couple years. The rest of us though, I’ll ask again, does your family have goals?
Not long ago it wasn’t something I’d even thought about. Goals seemed like something for corporate flunkies, not my husband and I. (Or your kids, who still think boogers taste amazing.) But here’s the thing. A goal is just a target, without a goal we’re all facing every which way firing off whatever. It’s sort of chaos. And honestly, as my mother used to say, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
Having a target gives you a shared direction to face. Which, it turns out, is actually a good thing for a family (who knew, right?) When you’re all facing in the same direction someone is way less likely to accidentally get hit by friendly fire, and you might get somewhere (together!)
Goal setting for individuals is complicated enough, but goal setting for families doesn’t have to be a nightmare, it can be a great experience with the right tools!
But it’s more than just a little bit of organization to your regular chaos. It’s becoming pretty well established that what we do on a regular basis actually changes our brains. We literally become the things we do, we wear ruts into our brains that make our habitual actions easier and more automatic. We can effect real change to how we think and act based on what we do. If you’ve got children, that’s really important. Because the old adage “do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t work with kids.
Kids aren’t stupid, if we say one thing but we spend all our time doing another what they’ll learn is the thing they’ve actually done. If we say that eating healthy is important to us, but we spend all our time grabbing food from the drive through at the last moment our kids will learn pretty well that convenience is more important than anything else, and that nutrition and care of their bodies comes after everything else.
Making It Real
So having shared family goals, based on your values, will help teach those values to your children based on what you do, daily. Say, as in the example above that health was one of your family values. From that you might set a goal as a family to run a 5K together and cook six healthy dinners in every week. That goal (cooking at home for health) will directly affect the decisions you make and the things you do. You’ll probably end up dropping some after school activities, you might shuffle work schedules a bit. And in the end you’ll be home as a family cooking and eating together. Your kids will learn, organically, what matters to you.
Strengthening Your Coupling
When you’re single setting goals and determining your values is pretty straight forward because it’s all about you. Once we add another person to our lives, everything gets more complicated. (Awesome, but complicated.) Shared goals can do a lot to strengthen your relationship. Often we meet, we fall in love, we make some sort of commitment to one another and then we’re on auto pilot.
Once we’ve gotten married, or moved in together the planning and intentional exploration often stops. We’re just too busy with our lives tokeep up the intensity that comes with early dating. And that’s natural and just fine (I mean really, dating is exhausting.) But, and this is a big but I cannot lie, there are dangers there too. What happens when you’ve been on cruise control for four or five years and the fights are getting bigger and more frequent? Ever wonder why that is?
Often it’s because our goals and values have drifted. We’ve been coasting for so long that we’re not headed in the same direction anymore. We thought that marriage, or moving in, was the destination and forgot that our whole lives are a journey. If we want to stay together we’ve got to keep setting common waypoints.
Couples who set shared goals are far more likely to still be headed in the same direction years down the road.
Setting goals does not have to be overwhelming or difficult. It starts by understanding your values (click the link for a post and worksheet on that topic if you haven’t already). For family goal setting I would suggest using the same worksheet but sit down together as a couple or a family group and work through the worksheet together. Discuss the options and take the time to let each person (even your kids, who are wiser than you might think) explain why they think certain values should be your top three. With a family I would suggest focusing on your top three values to give everyone a voice, and still remain focused.
So. How do you go about setting goals as a family? Well it’s one part negotiation, one part chaos, and one part flexibility. But it’s worth it. Learning to work together as a team will change the way your family functions. It will teach your children determination and show them at no matter their age they can contribute to your family life in a valuable way. So here are some tips for getting started. And at the end of this post you’ll find an off for a free worksheet to help your family walk through this journey together!
- First know what your most important values are as a family! See the tutorial here.
- Think big. There’s no point in setting little goals. Aim high, aim big, and have fun. You might not achieve everything you set out to do, but you’ll do more than if you set small goals.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Here you should listen to some kids (yours or otherwise). Kids are willing to try stuff when they are very young, they’re not afraid to fall down or mess up. And as a result they grow and learn faster than any other time in our life. Take a risk.
- No dictators. If your goal is to become a millionaire but the rest of your family just wants to spend more time together with you that’s something to listen to. Entertain the idea that the goals you think are important for your family might not be as important to everyone else.
- Avoid trips to Abilene. Abilene is a nice place (if you like flat, and dry, and flat), but all to often we go there every darn week because we assume the other person wants to. So talk to one another. You might discover that you’re child doesn’t actually want to become a world class ballerina. Or that your husband has been working himself to death because he assumed (wrongly) that you wanted to be a stay at home Dad. Talk.
- Listen to the kids. All of them. The ones who always talk, and the ones who sit there quietly and rarely say anything. Get everyone’s input and honor all of it.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Keep your values in mind! Your goals should serve your values, not the other way around.
- Choose no more than three goals like you choose three values. Too many and you’ll end up overwhelmed and get nowhere.
- Check in, and check up. This isn’t a once and forget it exercise. Make it a habit in your family to set and review goals on a regular basis. Maybe you do it every 3 or 4 months, or just once or twice a year. But come back, review how you’ve done, and make sure your goals still make sense for your lives!