My 4 year old always wants to understand the why’s of life. Why can’t she have another piece of candy? Why can’t she play outside? Why won’t I be home this evening? Why does she have to clean up her room? Part of this is the normal curiosity of a 4 year old, but when you stop and think about it, what she is really trying to understand is the purpose or reason behind the things going on around her. A truly noble effort that over the years tired hurried parents often forget under the pressure of looming deadlines, homework assignments, and soccer schedules. And as parents, if we stopped a little more often and asked ourselves the seemingly obvious question of 4 year olds, “Why are we doing this?,” maybe we would be a little happier, make better choices, and be better parents.
One of the reasons we encourage families to write family mission statements is because they help us pause and ask this question. Family mission statements help families remember the purpose behind their choices by forcing us to focus on the things in life that make us happy, fulfilled, and truly want. The problem with family mission statements though is that often they are hard to enact because we don’t know how to take the wishes and desires of the family mission statement and turn them into real life day to day actions. A family mission statement without concrete actions behind it is just another piece of paper much like the corporate ones your company has posted on their website and lunchroom bulletin boards, a lot of talk but not much walk.
So to help families avoid the trap of talking the talk, but not walking the walk, we wanted to spend a little time on specific ways families can use their family mission statement.
The Difference between Family Goals and a Family Mission Statement
Before we dig into how to actually use the family mission statement it might be a good idea to re-cap what we mean by family goals and family mission statements.
Family goals are written expressions of specific things the family wants to do or achieve. Family goals are measurable and are time constrained or phased. Family goals are one of the means by which families live and express their family mission statement.
Family mission statements are expressions of the overall intention, purpose, and priorities of the family. They help families keep focus not only on the things they want to achieve (i.e. family goals), but the manner in which they want to achieve them, and the benefits or results the family wants to gain. A family mission statement has three parts, an action, the quality of action, and the benefits.
Ways in Which Families Can Use a Family Mission Statement
Use a Family Mission Statement to Create Meaningful Family Goals
When writing family goals and the specific actions needed to make them happen, families should always be asking themselves, are the goals and our actions to achieve them consistent with how we said we wanted to live our lives (the in such a way that phrase) and do they result in the benefits we said were important (the so that phrase). When you write your goals in this context you can avoid chasing goals that aren’t adding to your happiness and fulfillment.
Use a Family Mission Statement to Help Make Big Decisions
Because family mission statements are expressions of our priorities and values, they can help keep us focused when it comes time to making some big decisions. For example, does taking the big promotion clear across the country in line with what we said we wanted in our mission statement? Is career progression one of mom’s or dad’s goals, dreams, or aspirations? If so, will the move and promotion enrich the family life and add to the family’s happiness and closeness? These are the kinds of questions you should ask whether you are facing a career change, move, or any significant lifestyle change.
Use a Family Mission Statement to Help Regain Focus
Sometimes we are moving so fast in our lives that we often forget why we made the choices we did to get us to our current place. It is often easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of life and suddenly say to ourselves, why are we doing this? What was our original motivation? Why did I take this job? Why did I volunteer to do this? This is where a family mission statement can be extremely powerful. By looking back at the priorities and fundamentals your family identified in the family mission statement, you can better see and ask yourselves whether or not the choices you have been making are consistent with what you said was important. If your choices haven’t been consistent with the family mission statement, ask yourselves these two questions: “Why haven’t our choices been consistent” and “What do we need to change to stop making the choices that make us unhappy?”
Use a Family Mission Statement to Remember Your Passion
Because family mission statements are an expression of every family member’s dreams, goals, and aspirations, they are a great place to go to when we need some motivation or are feeling burnt out. Take some time to browse through all of your family’s hard work, vision drawings, and plans to help motivate yourself and reignite your passion.
Remember, a family mission statement can be a very powerful tool for any family as long as you use it and keep it a center of your family’s focus. Post it in a central location and make it a habit to revisit it frequently.