Make Goal-Setting Part of Your Family Culture

Setting the example for achieving in life
Family at chalkboard drawing goals

by: Michelle Ogden, CFP®, CRPS®, CKA®

One thing most successful people have in common is that they know how to set effective goals and they do it for everything that’s important to them.

And the people who expand their success to the next generation make goal-setting a family activity that is as natural as anything else families do together—cooking, gardening, playing games, reading, etc. Our children are young adults now, but they’ve been setting goals and hearing their parents talk about goals since they were preschoolers.

It’s common for one of us to talk about a goal we have and another one say, “That’s a great idea. I want to do that, too.” And then we’re working on the same goal together, helping and encouraging each other.

Here’s how you can make goal-setting a part of your family culture.

  • Have your own structured goal-setting system. Remember, more is caught than taught, so you need to demonstrate how it’s done.
  • Write your goals down. Studies show that when you put your goals in writing, you’re more likely to achieve them.
  • Categorize your goals by the different parts of your life—business, personal, family, health, relationships, etc. Get as narrow as you want in defining your categories.
  • Set SMART goals. Make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to define your goals. Don’t expect to sit down for a couple of hours and plot out your goals for a year. Take the time you need to be able to articulate each goal and be sure it’s worthy.
  • Put together a realistic plan for reaching your goals. Without a plan, goals—even those that are written down—are just wishes.
  • Check your goals for alignment. A financial goal of getting out of debt is inconsistent with a personal goal of buying an expensive toy.
  • Regularly review your goals to see how you’re doing, where you need to adjust or get help, and what you’ve accomplished. Goal-setting is not something you do once a year; it’s an ongoing process.
  • Lead by example. Talk about your goals often and encourage your family to do the same. Make it a regular part of conversations over dinner, in the car, while you’re doing chores—any time you’re talking with each other.

A cornerstone of making goal-setting part of your family culture is mutual respect. Don’t allow anyone to make fun of or belittle another’s goals. Of course, you can gently and in a positive way point out issues that need to be considered, but it must be done with respect and love.

Be candid about the money issues you’re facing, even with young children. Of course, make what you share age-appropriate, but have those discussions because kids need to know and understand. Most goals will have a financial component to them that has to be honestly addressed. In our home, we’ve always openly and casually talked about finances, including spending, saving , investing, giving and more. It’s a part of life.

Goals are similar to problems in that you must admit them. If you have a problem and don’t admit it, you can’t solve it. If you have a goal you won’t admit you have, you’re never going to achieve it. So admit your goals, even if they seem totally impossible or crazy. When you have created a family culture of goal-setting, you have a built-in support system to help you reach even those far-fetched goals.

“Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation and make it plan on tablets so that a herald may run with it. (Habakkuk 2:2, NIV)

You’re the herald. If you run with being seriously goal-oriented, your family and those you love will follow.

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