Setting Family Goals

Families with purpose are families who dream together and work together to make their dreams and goals a reality. 

“I want to lose ten pounds.” “I am finally going to finish my degree.” “I am going to go to the gym three days a week.”Do these New Year resolutions sound familiar? We spend a lot of time in life setting personal goals for ourselves in hopes of making our lives happier, healthier, and better, but how often do we set them for our family? How often do we take the time to reflect on the things in our family life that need improved or accomplished? Families with purpose are families who take the time to talk about and plan for their dreams as a family. They dare to dream as a family about taking a fun vacation, spending more time together, volunteering more of their time, or overcoming obstacles at school. And once the dreams have been formed, families with purpose work together to make their dreams a reality.

Why Bother?
Now before you heave that big sigh of exhaustion, just hear me out. I fully realize keeping up with personal goals and resolutions is hard enough and just the thought of adding one more goal or exercise to your list is daunting not to mention exhausting. But there are many good reasons to make it a point of your busy lives to nurture the practice of dreaming and goal setting within your family.

First, goals help set priorities. When set correctly, family goals have a way of quietly dictating the priorities in your life. Secondly, setting family goals teaches kids how to set personal goals and follow through in achieving them. Thirdly, setting goals and establishing a plan in and of itself is a huge stress relief. There is tremendous peace and comfort in having a plan and knowing you aren’t alone in the success of the plan.

How Do We Get Started
Okay, now that I have convinced you, let’s get started.

Planning Ahead
First, start by picking a time when everyone is available and when they won’t be distracted. For example, picking a Sunday afternoon while your husband is trying to watch a football game would not be a good choice. Take a look at your family calendar and the rhythm of your week to pick a time that will be best. No time will be perfect, so don’t get hung up on trying to find it. It doesn’t exist. Add it to your family calendar.

Second, if you are married, talk privately with your spouse before trying to take this on. You can start by emailing them the link to this article and getting their thoughts and concerns. Getting your spouse on board beforehand will make it easier when discussing it with the kids. Kids can sense when parents are disconnected.

Third, gather up any supplies you may need. Begin by printing off the free goal setting chart and gathering pens and pencils. Also, be sure to have a notepad handy. If your family is large, you may want to make extra copies of the goal setting chart or purchase a table top flip chart (kids LOVE writing on these) at your local office supply store.

Fourth, start giving some thought to possible goals you believe are important. It will help to have specific examples when explaining it to the kids.

Setting Your Goals
When deciding on your family goals keep in mind some important elements that every goal should have in order to ensure they are successful.

Family goals should be kept simple. Save the more complex goals for personal goals or goals just between you and your spouse. Kids will get lost if you try and over think them or make them too complicated.

Make sure the goals reflect the entire family. Goals shouldn’t just be about the kids or just about the parents. They should encompass everyone and at least one of them should reflect the family as a whole.

Make the goals measurable. Avoid setting goals that are difficult to measure success. Goals like “getting better grades” are nice goals, but not necessarily easy to track success. Instead, try setting a goal like “getting all B’s and A’s on ALL my report cards” would be a better choice because you can clearly and easily track the results.

When sitting down with your family, begin by explaining what a family goal is to the kids. Simply put, family goals are something families aim for or strive for together as a family. To help their understanding, offer a couple of examples.

Once everyone has a good understanding of family goals, it is time to begin creating them. Begin by having everyone throw out ideas and writing them down on your notepad. No idea is a bad idea. The goal at first is just to list them. If they are having trouble coming up with ideas use these thought starters to get them going.

What new place would we like to visit or see this year?
What new things would we like to learn this year?
What one thing can and should we change about our family life?
What challenges do we want to overcome this year?

Once you have all the thoughts down on paper, begin by narrowing the list down to just 3 or 4. Use the criteria we discussed above to choose only the most important goals. Refine them if you have to make them measurable.

After you have chosen your final 3 or 4, record them on the goal setting chart and begin discussing specific steps towards achieving the goals. Writing the goals down is not enough. You have to take the time to make sure you clearly know how to achieve them. Be sure to get everyone involved in delivering results. Record the specific action steps on your goal setting form and hang the goal form in a central location where everyone can see them.

Schedule on your family calendar a time in the future to sit down and review your progress.

Some Things to Keep in Mind
Don’t rush through this process. Depending on the ages of your kids, craziness of your schedules, and the number of ideas you come up with it may take a couple of family meetings to get this completed. AND THAT IS OKAY. There is nothing that says you have to have all your goals set by January 1st. Frankly, for most families that just isn’t realistic anyway. Take your time and think them through. Make sure they are do-able and embraced by everyone.

If you have young children that aren’t old enough to grasp the concepts, don’t let that hold you back. Put the kids to bed and spend time setting the goals with your spouse or if you are a single parent, by yourself. It is never too early to begin the good habit of setting goals for your family.

Good Luck!

  • Willie Breeze

    I used your info in a paper. I am in a course on premarital and marital counseling. I like your approach to family goals. I tried to open the goal setting plan/calendar, but I wasnot able to open it. Perhaps there is a problem with my computer. Thanks.

  • Polly

    Hi Willie,

    To open the goal setting chart you need Adobe Reader (it is a pdf file). You can get it free here

    If that doesn’t work you also might want to check your pop up blockers.

    Good luck on your paper!