Three key pillars provide the foundation for a harmonious family: trust, respect and teamwork. When you use a little teamwork to write a family mission statement, there are endless opportunities for your family to engage as a team.
The New Year brings a great occasion for a team challenge. Instead of focusing on individual ‘resolutions,’ families can create a family mission statement: a united goal that will get everyone working together.
Talk it Over
Choosing the family mission statement is half the battle. It may take some time to find a common goal. Start out by brainstorming to come up with a list of possibilities. Make sure everyone contributes at least one idea, so each member of the family has a personal investment in the process.
These questions from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families can help guide your family’s discussion.
Ask your significant other:
- What sort of relationship do we want to have as a couple?
- How do we want to resolve our differences?
- What kind of parents do we want to be?
- What roles will each of us perform?
- Which traditions from our own families do we want to carry over?
- What principles do we want to teach our children?
- What qualities do we want to ingrain in them?
- What sort of people do we want our kids to be in 5, 10, 20 years?
Discuss with your kids:
- What kind of feeling do we want to have in our home?
- What kind of home would you like to invite your friends to?
- What do we want to be remembered by?
- What kind of relationships do we want to have with one another?
- What things are truly important to us as a family?
- What are our responsibilities as family members?
- Who are our heroes? What it is about them that we like and would like to emulate?
Once you have those answers, narrow them down into goals and ideas to incorporate into your family mission statement. If your family is having a hard time brainstorming ideas, here are a few to get started:
- Serve your community: Set a goal to volunteer as a family at least once a month. There are dozens of opportunities in every community from picking up trash at your neighborhood park, or serving food at the local soup kitchen, to walking dogs at the animal shelter.
- Cultivate diversity: Think about your friends and acquaintances. Does everyone look or think just like you and your family? If you don’t feel like there are enough different experiences and viewpoints, branch out. Talk with your family about ways to connect with people of different colors, backgrounds, beliefs, or socioeconomic status.
- Team Planet Earth: Assign your family to an environmental cause. Pledge to bike to work, school, or soccer practice instead of driving, plant a tree every month, reduce everybody’s shower time by 2 minutes, or plant a garden.
- Food for thought: Make a change to the way your family eats. You could reduce the frequency you eat at restaurants, vow to go meatless one day a week, eliminate a junk food, or explore foods from a new culture each month.
- Money matters: Work together on a family budget, or a new financial goal. Save more, donate more; reduce the monthly entertainment expenses, or anything that gets your family thinking about the value of money.
Once you have a list, start narrowing down ideas by crossing off anything that obviously doesn’t work. Talk about the remaining ideas and use the discussion as an opportunity to examine your family values and share ideas for how you can collectively achieve each of the goals.
Write Your Family Mission Statement
“A mission statement doesn’t have to be some big, formal document,” explains Stephen Covey. “It can even be a word or a phrase, or something creative and entirely different such as an image or a symbol.”
Take what you worked through above and craft your statement.
An example of a family mission statement is this one by author Bruce Feiler. It includes input from their five-year-old:
May our first word be adventure and our last word be love.
We live lives of passion.
We dream undreamable dreams.
We are travelers not tourists.
We help others to fly.
We love to learn.
We don’t like dilemmas, we like solutions.
We push through. We believe!
We know it’s okay to make mistakes.
We bring people together.
We are joy, rapture, yay!
Stick With It
So now that you’ve written your family’s mission statement, how will you execute it?
The first step is to hang it in a prominent place in your home so that it’s always top of mind to everyone in the family.
Seattle-area dietician Wendy Caamano, MS, RD, CD, says for nutrition goals, everyone needs to be committed. “Take one step at a time and understand that even little changes make a difference that may lead to achieving long term goals in the future. Simply adding one vegetable to the plate at dinner is a huge step in the right direction, and once you start doing that, your family may decide they enjoy vegetables and start incorporating more of them into every meal.”
Caamano also suggests keeping it light and fun, to avoid making the process stressful. And while these principles are nutrition-centered, her advice for success can be applied to essentially any family mission.
Even for the most active and involved families, there is always room for change, improvement or a new venture. Embrace the new year by forgoing your typical resolutions in favor of a family-based mission that will bring you all closer together and instill new family traditions for years to come.