By Beverly K. Bachel, author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens
“Travel to Japan.”
These are just three of the family goals that parents I’ve talked with have set.
Why are family goals important?
For the same reason individual goals are important: they provide us a sense of purpose, they hold us accountable, and they transform our dreams into reality.
By setting family goals, your family learns to work together as a unit. When families work together, enthusiasm soars, as do empathy and creativity. And by making the most of each family member’s talents, you can often achieve family goals more quickly than individual goals, even if the family goals are more challenging.
Plus, when you take time to reflect and set shared goals as a family, you invest not only in individual success, but also in family success. Your family learns how to work better together. In the process, you strengthen your family relationships—and aren’t relationships what family is all about?
Here are three examples of family goals.
Project Laugh Lines
A desire to laugh is what led the Fletcher Johnsons to their family goal.
“Last summer, I noticed that my husband has the most gorgeous laugh lines,” says Jacque Fletcher Johnson. “But when I looked in the mirror, I was devastated. I don’t have any.” This, combined with the fact that the couple’s 11-year-old daughter Eva describes her mom as the family’s “serious one,” led Jacque to decide that it was time for her family to amp up the humor in their lives.
“It seems that children laugh so much more than adults,” says Jacque. “I know I used to laugh a lot more than I do now. There are even days when I don’t laugh at all.”
So, the family set a goal to laugh more often, which they combined with another family goal: hiking Minnesota’s 70+ state parks. To make the hikes fun and ensure the success of what they’ve dubbed “Project Laugh Lines,” the family makes up stories, sings silly songs, and shares jokes.
“Eva really lights up in the woods, and we laugh until our sides ache,” says Jacque. “Even mosquito attacks don’t dampen our fun, nor does the fact that we now put on our masks and keep our distance on the rare occasions we encounter other hikers.”
Japan Is Still the Game Plan
Elizabeth di Grazia, her partner Jody, and their two teenage children, Antonio and Crystel, have set a family goal of traveling to Japan.
It all started with a PowerPoint presentation.
Elizabeth explains: “Crystel got interested in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics because a runner from our Minneapolis suburb was an Olympic hopeful. So, Crystel did what she often does when trying to convince us of something: she created a PowerPoint presentation. It included facts and photos of the Olympics and Japan, and it vibrated with excitement.”
Before long, the family was all-in on planning the trip. “Crystel agreed to be our travel planner and tour guide,” says Elizabeth. “She did all the research and set our itinerary.”
She also led the way in establishing a Japan vacation fund. “The kids agreed to clean the house, which meant we could give up our housecleaner,” says Elizabeth. “The money we would have spent on that went into our fund, along with the money we saved by eating at home or forgoing other expenses.”
Although the pandemic put an end to the 2020 Olympics, all four family members remain determined to visit Japan. “We’ve saved enough for our plane tickets and lodging, and we plan to go as soon as it’s safe to do so—hopefully for the rescheduled 2021 Olympics,” says Elizabeth.
With a shared desire to be better stewards of the environment, the Hawes have set a family goal of reducing their environmental impact. That means recycling their organics, carrying refillable water bottles, and buying more items in bulk, something that has come in handy during the pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, when they were eating out in restaurants, it also meant keeping a to-go kit in the trunk of their car. “We would grab our kit whenever we headed into a restaurant,” says Mike. “That way we could package up our leftovers without taking a plastic container that could end up in the ocean forever. Our kit also included silverware, reusable straws, and cloth napkins so we didn’t have to use the plastic and paper ones offered by restaurants.”
And because both parents and all four kids are committed to the family goal, they frequently remind one another to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
“We’re also doing a pretty good job with the fourth R: refuse,” says Mike. “For instance, when ordering from Amazon we request our orders be consolidated into the fewest number of packages and shipments, even if they take longer to arrive. And while we rarely shop in stores these days, we always say ‘no thanks’ to plastic bags.”
The Hawes also hold each other accountable for achieving their goal. “We have one daughter who buys most of her clothes secondhand, and she encourages the rest of us to do the same,” says Mike. “And our son, who’s in charge of taking out our recycling, reminds us whenever we’ve inadvertently thrown away something that should be recycled or put into our compost bin.”
How to Get Up and Goal
Here are some tips for setting and achieving your own family goals.
- Involve the entire family. Family goals shouldn’t be set in a vacuum, nor should they be just the adults’ responsibility. Instead, involve your kids in setting goals via a formal family meeting or during a spur-of-the-moment family pizza night. Be sure to give everyone a chance to share their ideas and suggestions.
- Make your goals SMART. SMART goals are savvy (easy to understand and use), measurable (define exactly what you want to do), active (spell out the specific actions you need to take), reachable (stretch, but don’t break, you), and timed (come with a clear date or time by which you can say, “We did it!”).
- Keep your goals in sight. The di Grazias have a map of Japan hanging in their kitchen where they see it when they sit down for meals, and Elizabeth regularly emails Crystel articles about Japan to keep the goal of their trip alive.
- Keep track of your progress. To tally the Minnesota state parks they visit, the Fletcher Johnsons joined the Minnesota State Parks and Trails Passport Club. Each time they visit a park, their passport gets stamped.
- Reevaluate as you go. While the Hawes found it easy to reduce their environmental impact at home, it took some experimentation to develop their to-go kit. “At first, it just included plastic containers,” says Mike. But then we noticed how many paper napkins, plastic straws, and plastic utensils the six of us were leaving behind, and we knew we needed to create a more comprehensive kit so we could say no to these items as well.”
- Celebrate success. Some goals, such as the di Grazia family goal of traveling to Japan, are a reward in and of themselves. But other goals, especially those that can take a long time to reach, require rewards along the way to keep everyone motivated. Take the Fletcher Johnsons, for instance. When they visited their 25th state park, Minnesota State Parks awarded them a free night of camping; when they visit their final state park, they’ll receive a customized Passport Club plaque that Eva is already looking forward to displaying at home in a place of honor.
So, call your family together, get goaling, and reap the rewards!
BONUS! Download a “Setting SMART Goals” worksheet.
Beverly Bachel is a freelance writer and the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens. One of the current goals she’s set with her family is to text each other more often.
Beverly is the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens.
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