As the end of the holiday season typically leads to thoughts about the new year, I thought it would be a great idea to do something different this year. Instead of sitting down and doing a family budget or setting personal goals, I thought it would be a great time to consider creating a family mission statement.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a single mom with one child, a family of 10, or an empty nester, you are a family. You are connected to other human beings as a family unit.
The funny thing is that once we form a new family unit, we typically switch into survival mode, placing our focus on functioning from day to day. Our mission from the day our children are born is to keep them safe, healthy, happy, and provided for, to the best of our ability.
We establish a home, make sure we have health coverage, decide on the best education for our children, encourage them to go after their dreams, and save for retirement. But how many of us have really considered what our purpose is as a family?
There are plenty of books and courses on finding your purpose, whether it’s for your career or your life, but when was the last time you thought about the purpose of your family? Or even questioned why have a family in the first place?
If you think about it, as a mom, you and your children are not traveling this life alone. You are making your way through the world connected, as part of a family.
So why does that matter? Because it gives you the opportunity to not only know your own purpose – who you are and where you want to go – but to also determine the purpose of your family unit. Why does your family exist? What does it stand for? Where are you going together? What matters to you? Why this combination of personalities, likes, and dislikes?
If you’ve never taken the time to answer these questions, or even contemplated them, it may be time to draft a family mission statement. As accountants, we are usually familiar with the fact that companies often use mission statements to direct their purpose, decisions, and operating procedures.
Many companies even use excerpts from their mission statement in their advertising. For example, Apple’s mission statement is “Bringing the best user experience to its customers through innovative hardware, software, and services.”
As a company, they are clear on their purpose – on why they exist – why they have formed as a group of individuals. Their mission statement highlights Apple’s commitment to offering the best products and services to meet each of its customer’s unique needs and it guides the company toward its long-term goals, which has contributed to its success.
But instead of manufacturing iPhones, you are molding children. You are making memories, making the most out of what this life has to offer, and a family mission statement can help.
This week I’m going to discuss why you should consider creating a family mission statement and how to create one.
Why you should consider creating a family mission statement
Have you ever been around a family that seems to have it all together? Maybe it was a family that you knew growing up, where everyone loved hanging out at their house, and you felt like you were at home when you stopped by.
It was a home where the parents were happy, the kids were relatively well behaved, they all seemed to genuinely love, respect, and care for each other, they enjoyed spending time together, had fun, and supported each other no matter what. Maybe you didn’t even realize it as a kid, but thinking back you envy that family unit.
But now that you’re an adult with your own family, you might wonder how that family made it happen. How did they seem so happy, loving, and supportive? What did they do to make it seem so effortless?
As with anything worth having, it takes work, but it also takes intentionality. There are intentional decisions made along the way to having what you want, whether it’s a successful accounting career or a loving, supportive family.
A positive family culture doesn’t just happen – it takes a lot of intentionality. And the best time to begin is now.
As a mother you want to provide the best for your children, and one of the best things you can provide for them is a vision. Deciding what’s important, what you value, and then creating a vision with that in mind is one of the best ways you can be a provider.
Just as company cultures are typically described as supportive or toxic, you want to be intentional with the vision for your family’s culture. No matter how old your children are, it’s never too late to create the type of family culture you want going forward.
This is where a family mission statement comes into play – it lays out a vision for your family about where you want to go together and how you want to get there. Like plugging in a destination into your GPS, it allows you to see the available routes and shows you the traffic and detours ahead.
Stephen Covey, the time management expert and author is a big proponent of family mission statements and detailed the topic in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. He says, “Without this vision, kids can be swept along with the flow of society’s values and trends. It’s simply living out the scripts that have been given to you. In fact, it’s really not living at all; it’s being lived.”
In other words, the less intentional we are with our children and ourselves, the easier it can be swept up in what everyone else values. When we’re more intentional, we get to choose from what’s available rather than having things chosen for us.
The reason it’s important to have a shared vision, shared sense of values and purpose, is that it can bond parents and children together. It also helps guide your parenting decisions and offers your children guidance in their own choices.
It’s not a set of instructions or rules, but rather guidelines that help and encourage each member of the family, making it easier to make decisions for themselves and for the family unit. It gives each family member a sense of meaning and of being a part of something important, as well as giving them a voice and helping them take part in the group decision-making process.
How to create a family mission statement
The reason I wanted to do this episode this time of year is that this is typically when most children are off from school. Whether they’re in grade school, high school, or college, the family typically has more quality time to spend with each other this time of year.
But before I share the steps to creating a family mission statement, I want you to make sure you drop your perfectionist tendencies. Since accountants are notorious perfectionists, I want you to be honest with yourself and make sure you’re not trying to create the “perfect” family mission statement because what’s important is the process, not the end product.
The process is about listening, having meaningful conversations, and bonding. It’s about sharing ideas, connecting, and building confidence and appreciation for each other.
Don’t get discouraged if anyone isn’t on board or if they’re resistant; it’s just about having a conversation about what’s important to you individually and as a family. The simpler you make it, the better.
Step 1: Call a Special Family Meeting
Stephen Covey recommends making these meetings special occasions. Whether you make a nice dinner, order pizza and have a pajama night, or sit outside making s’mores over a fire pit, the key is to make the occasion different from any other “family meeting” or night of the week.
He suggests that to ensure a positive and productive family mission statement meeting, keep in mind the following guidelines:
* Make sure everyone gets a say – remember, where there’s no involvement, there’s no commitment.
* Listen empathetically – even if you think your six-year-old is just spouting off weird six-year-old-things like “Our family loves pizza!”, really focus on listening to them. Kids, like any other human, want to feel like their contributions matter.
* Write things down – make sure someone is taking notes in a journal, on an easel, or a dry erase board so everyone can see.
Just know that you don’t have to do this in one sitting; break it down into 30 minute meetings if you want and depending on the age of your kids. The last thing you want to do is to turn creating a family mission statement into a chore that your kids find unbearable.
Step 2: Ask Questions and Discuss What Your Family Is All About
Now it’s your chance to communicate with your children about your values and hear what they want their family to be like. Here are some suggested questions from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families to help you do that:
What is the purpose of our family?
What kind of family do we want to be?
What kinds of things do we want to do?
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 embarrasses you about our family?
What makes you want to come home?
What do we want to be remembered for?
What kind of relationships do we want to have with one another?
How do we want to treat one another and speak to one another?
What things are truly important to us as a family?
What are the unique talents, gifts, and abilities of family members?
What are our responsibilities as family members?
What are the principles and guidelines we want our family to follow?
Who are our heroes? What is it about them that we like and would like to emulate?
What families inspire us and why do we admire them?
How can we contribute to society as a family and become more service-oriented?
Step 3: Make a List of Your Family’s Core Values
After you’ve discussed what your family is about, you want to make a list of your family’s values. Instead of imagining what you think other people would approve of, or what you’re “supposed” to value as a family, focus on those values and principles that truly resonate and inspire every member of your family.
Don’t worry if your list is long because you’ll narrow it down later. Some values could be:
Adventure Creativity Discipline Education Faith Fun Health Honesty Humor Integrity Kindness Service
Step 4: Think of Phrases that Capture What Your Family Is All About
Now it’s time to come up with a phrase that captures what your family is about. San Covey’s, Stephen Covey’s son, family chose a line from the animated film Meet the Robinsons that captures their goal as a family: “Keep Moving Forward.”
Your phrases can come from books, movies, poems, or speeches. Or they can be catchphrases you completely make up yourselves but make sure it’s something everyone in the family resonates with.
Step 5: Decide on 10 (or Fewer) Big Ideas
Now that you have a long list of your values, goals, ideas, and some phrases that capture what your family is all about, it’s time to narrow that list down to 10 (or fewer) “Big Ideas” that encapsulate your family’s mission.
One effective and democratic way to hone your list that was described in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families is to all the words on a big flip chart and gave everyone ten votes. They can use up to three votes per item if they wished, but they cannot spend more than ten votes in total.
After the vote, you’ll be left with about ten items that are important to everyone.
Step 6: Write Out Your Family Mission Statement
Now that you have your list of 10 big ideas, it’s time to turn them into a single mission statement, but don’t expect to do this in one sitting. As you work on creating your family mission statement, keep in mind the following guidelines:
* Keep it short – mission statements work best if they’re kept short, because short is memorable. Try to keep your mission statement under 100 words.
* Make it collaborative – suggest doing it collaboratively where each member of the family writes phrases for 2-3 of your Big Ideas. Then have them present their work for family discussion and approval. Get plenty of feedback from the other members of your family and give them a final vote of approval.
* There isn’t one right way to write a family mission statement – some families write out their mission statement essay style; others create a bullet point list of the values that they strive to live by. Remember, it’s the process that matters more than the end product.
Take as much time as you need. Write, edit, and re-write until everyone is happy with the final product. This is something you’ll look at for years and years, so it’s okay if it takes a few weeks to get it just right.
Here are two examples from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families:
Our family mission is to:
Value honesty with ourselves and others.
Create an environment where each of us can find support and encouragement in achieving our life’s goals.
Respect and accept each person’s unique personality and talents.
Promote a loving, kind, and happy atmosphere.
Support family endeavors that better society.
Maintain patience through understanding.
Always resolve conflicts with each other rather than harboring anger.
Promote the realization of life’s treasures.
Our family mission:
To love each other…
To help each other…
To believe in each other…
To wisely use our time, talents, and resources to bless others…
To worship together…
Step 6: Hang Your Family Mission Statement in a Prominent Place in the House
However you choose to, once your mission statement is complete, hang it in a prominent place in the house. This way, you now have a constant visual reminder of what your family is all about and what you’re striving for together.
Step 7: Refer to Your Mission Statement Daily & Use It
As you go about your day-to-day life, be intentional about referring back to your family mission statement. Use the mission statement to help you make decisions and try to find teaching moments where your children can get a better sense of why your family mission statement is important.
Step 8: Re-Draft When Appropriate
As your family changes, so should your family mission statement. Feel free to adjust your mission statement when you think it’s appropriate, but not so often that it loses its importance.
As you can hopefully see, creating a family mission statement can be a great bonding experience for your family but it’s not necessary to make it overly complicated. It’s truly about putting into words what your family’s purpose is, what you value, and what’s important to each of you, providing guidance as you travel this journey called life.
* As with anything worth having, it takes work, but it also takes intentionality.
* Just as company cultures are typically described as supportive or toxic, you want to be intentional with the vision for your family’s culture.
* No matter how old your children are, it’s never too late to create the type of family culture you want going forward.