5 Steps to Reaching Family Goals
Guess what? It’s my birthday this week. Yes, I’m one of those girls who still finds joy in birthdays. It’s also a great time to reflect on the goals set earlier this year and tweak them.
If you’ve read any of my recent blog posts, you already know that you need a firm foundation before starting on the goal-setting process. The foundation is comprised of three key concepts:
1. Begin with an abundance mindset that is focused on possibilities rather than limitations. Recognize that your past isn’t a script for your future.
2. Next, take a long, hard look at your definition of success. Examine your personal and family values.
3. Finally, create a family vision statement. Parents are leaders of their families. It’s wonderful to have a personal development plan for yourself, but please take it one step further and outline the grand vision that all family members should share.
Goal-setting is an age-old process, but it’s easy to overlook key steps. Ensure you have the three foundational items in place before you set concrete goals.
Most of us are familiar with SMART goals. They are:
Familiarity is one thing, but application may be difficult. If you’re serious about reaching your individual and family goals this year, keep reading.
Achievement vs. Habit Goals
First, recognize the difference between habit and achievement goals. Habit goals are regular routines that set you up for success, enabling you to reach bigger aspirations.
Let’s suppose your achievement goal is to increase your toddler’s vocabulary by 100 words in 3 months. In that case, you may want to review flash cards with your little one up to five minutes daily. This routine supports the broader achievement goal.
Likewise, assume your 5th grader’s achievement goal is to increase his science grade from “C” to “B” by the end of May. You can encourage your 5thgrader to read the science textbook for 10 extra minutes each day – a nice habit that improves your child’s chance of success.
Now, for a final example. Suppose you and your spouse have decided that you’d like to cut your family’s food expenditures by $100 monthly. You can adopt any of the following habits and encounter a similar result:
Option 1. Eat-in two additional times each month if you’d normally spend $50 on dinner.
Option 2. Eat-in four additional times monthly if you’d normally spend $25 dining out.
Option 3. Actively clip coupons, only buy groceries on sale, and forego one meal outside the home.
In each of these examples, the habit goal is the micro-action that enables you to achieve a broader goal.
Don’t Let Obstacles Get in Your Way
Alright. You understand the difference between habit and achievement goals. Inevitably, an obstacle will present itself, and you have to figure out a way to move past it.
There are two wonderful books on goal-setting that have been instrumental in my life: Finish by Jon Acuff and Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt. Although they follow a similar theme, the approach and writing styles differ tremendously. Acuff adds humor, plenty of practical examples, and research-backed evidence. Hyatt offers a structured 5-step plan to achieving important goals, based on his popular “Best Year Ever” e-course.
One of the biggest enemies we face during goal-setting is perfectionism. It shows up the day after we get started and then rears its ugly head again when we’re close to finishing. To combat perfectionism, take it from Acuff: make goals fun. If it’s painful for you to complete a triathlon because you’re a weak swimmer, run a half-marathon instead. Also remember to celebrate small wins as your habits become consistent. Mini celebrations keep you motivated.
Another potential obstacle to reaching your goals is known as shiny-object syndrome. You pursue one goal but fall behind and then choose the next semi-attractive goal. Instead, focus on one goal at a time rather than trying to work simultaneously on different goals. Mastery is far easier when you intensely concentrate on one or two items instead of three or four. Limit yourself to a maximum of two “high priority” goals each quarter even if you have six to eight annual goals.
One other possible stumbling block is losing sight of our key motivations. Revisit your “why” from the foundation section to reconnect with your original insights and proactively spot stumbling blocks beforethey occur. If you’re truly open to change, you’ll willingly select goals in life domains that need improvement.
The Best is Yet to Come
Establishing and monitoring individual goals is hard enough. But I’m challenging you to an even greater task: goal-setting for the entire family. Below is the goal-setting process I’d suggest for your family.
1. Believe the Possibility. Start with an abundance mindset and identify limiting beliefs that may have held you or other family members back in the past. Consider developing a simple mantra that you repeat verbally each day, such as “We are worthy of a brighter future.” Even if you’ve struggled with something in the past, don’t let that hold you back from achieving this goal.
2. Design your Future. Work through the SMART framework, establishing both achievement and habit goals. Focus on one or two goals each quarter.
3. Determine your Why. Figure out why this goal is truly meaningful to your family. Will it help you spend more time together? Will you and your spouse enjoy financial freedom one or two years earlier? Does this goal enable your family to take a well-deserved vacation? Reconnect with your original motivation.
4. Cut the Goal in Half. What if your family’s original goal is truly out of reach? Would cutting the goal in half (or changing the timeline) make the difference between achieving that goal and letting it disintegrate? Goals can be revised.
5. Use Data to Celebrate Progress.Know ahead of time what rewards you will use to celebrate small wins. Make the incentives meaningful to your family. Utilize a tracking tool to monitor how far you’ve come.
This goal-setting framework can be used for individual and family goals alike. And don’t forget the following quote:
“With God, all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26
Foundational items (i.e. abundance mindset, family values and vision statement) and actionable goals are critical to purposeful living. Don’t rush yourself as you go through those exercises; it takes time to contemplate and document the important items. But it’s well worth the effort!
I’d encourage you to explore tactics - actual tools you can use for goal achievement - after you’ve clearly articulated your family’s values, vision, and goals. Many financial advisors are tempted to skip straight to tactics with clients, and I’m one of them. I’ve already written several “tactics” articles: budgeting, debt, college savings, insurance, tax strategies and so on. Visit the Tactics section of the Redefining Family Wealth blog for details. And please don’t forget to subscribe for book updates. You’ll receive my top 10 wealth-building tips as a small token of appreciation
Deborah L. Meyer, CPA/PFS, CFP®, is the author of Redefining Family Wealth: A Parent’s Guide to Purposeful Living, which will be available for presale on 5/17/19. She is also the proud owner of WorthyNest®, an independent financial planning and investment advisory firm that helps Christian parents build wealth without compromising their values. Deborah has been featured in national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc., Yahoo! Finance and CNN Business. She is a regular contributor to Kiplinger and a recipient of the 2018 AICPA Standing Ovation Award in Personal Financial Planning. Deborah lives with her husband Bryan and their three sons in Saint Charles, Missouri.