I’m willing to bet when January 1st came around, you had at least one or two personal goals bouncing around in your mind. Most of us do. It’s a natural time to reflect on the year behind us, and set our sights on the year that will soon unfold.

As common as personal resolutions and goals are for most of us, the vast majority of families I talk to have never given thought to setting goals for their family.

What could account for this disconnect? Well, quite possibly the craploads of work parents already have laid at their feet. Nonetheless, being intentional about our goals and vision for our family is a process no family should go without, and I’ll explain why.

If we don’t look ahead as a family we won’t move forward

When we take the time to reflect on how we’d like our family to grow, we invest in our family’s success. It’s highly likely that if we don’t take the time to develop goals for our family, we won’t take the steps necessary to move closer to them. When families come together to work toward a common goal, they’re more likely to succeed.

Thinking about goals prompts us to think about what matters

It’s far too easy to get caught up in the chaos of family life, moving from day to day without stopping to consider what’s of main importance to us. What do we want to emphasize as parents leading our family? What goals or accomplishments are of utmost importance in the upcoming year?

When we have conviction in the ‘why’ behind our goals, we’ll be more likely to follow through with them. Having a clear concept of our goals also increases our intrinsic motivation.

When we work together we strengthen our relationships

When family goals are set collaboratively, it provides space for the thoughts and concerns of both parent and child to be expressed. When we hear and understand the perspective of other family members, we’re more inclined to understand and empathize with each other’s ideas. This sets a tone of mutual understanding and respect, while building family morale when we work as a team.

When we develop goals our children learn important life skills

As we navigate through what’s important to each member of the family and deliberate goals, children learn valuable skills in what could be considered the most vital relationship skill of all: communication. Children also learn valuable skills of self-discipline, commitment, and perseverance when they strive toward a longer term common goal.

Goals help families feel a greater sense of personal agency

Many variables in our children’s lives are outside of our control, whether it be the children they choose to befriend or the teacher they get for third grade. Goal setting can leave both parent and child feeling that they have some sense of control in moving toward their intended direction.

Foolproof family goal setting

1 | Be S.M.A.R.T.

The popular SMART framework is the gold standard in business for breaking down goals, so why not use it for our family? It stands for specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timely. In short, the guidelines will help to keep your goals realistic while focusing on the how as much as the what. It’s helpful to differentiate short term goals from long term.

2 | Everyone helps

Plan a time for the whole family to sit down and discuss goals together, whether it be a family meeting or pizza night. Parents can plan out ideas and main points ahead of time, and allow each family member to provide their own thoughts and suggestions as well.

3 | Visibility is key

Write down goals and keep them out in plain sight. For younger kids, drawing pictures aids in their processing of information and well as committing the goals to memory.

4 | Focus on process along with outcome

Of course, attaining a goal is success, but don’t discount all the other good stuff that comes along the way. Small efforts should be positively reinforced, and opportunities to encourage each other can be taken advantage of in order to keep spirits and motivation high. 

5 | Follow up

Research tells us that the more we review and reflect on our goals, the more likely we are to achieve them. Decide how often you’ll follow up, and stick with it. Strategize what’s working and what’s not, and adjust from there.

While it will take a bit of extra effort and what few brain cells you have left at the end of the day, taking the time to set family goals is well worth the investment. When we become intentional about what we’d like to accomplish as a family, we’re not only creating a more meaningful family life, but we’re also creating a road map for our family’s future.