With every new year come the best intentions to grow, learn, and thrive, often through making resolutions and goals. But many of us find ourselves back in the old swing of things by mid-March, meaning we often set the same goals year after year. But I’ve learned some things that have made goal setting fun, intentional, mobilizing, and achievable. And the best part? I do it with my husband and kids, meaning we get to make family goals.
I get it. You may think that it’s hard enough to keep your personal goals—so why would you even add in family goals? But I’ve found that having the support of my family on all of my goals—shared and personal—helps hold me accountable and encourages me to keep them. So, here’s what I’ve learned about making and keeping family goals:
I would argue that one of the most important parts of goal setting is reflection. Before you can take time to focus on your family goals for 2021, it’s important to do a wrap-up of 2020. I know, I know. 2020 brought an incredible tidal wave of challenges, but I think taking time to reflect with your family will also bring up 2020’s bright spots.
To reflect on last year, sit around a table with your family and acknowledge the lowlights and highlights from January to December. Take time to sit in the loss and sadness that the lowlights brought and take time to celebrate the growth and joy that the highlights brought.
Here’s the thing: The negative things will be so much easier to recall. We don’t have to seek out negativity; it actually seems to seek us out. But when we shine light on the positive things, and when we begin to take time to acknowledge the good things that happened, we train ourselves to identify them more quickly and regularly.
This last year has been full of curveballs, not only for us but also for our kids. They are learning, adjusting, growing, and overcoming—just as we are. This time of reflection will not only be a great starting point for 2021 family goals, but it’s also prime soil for your family to connect more deeply and grow stronger together.
2. Dream and cast vision
After you’ve taken time to reflect on the past year, you get to dream and cast vision for your family during the new year. We’re all walking into 2021 with great uncertainty, but many things are still certain: God holds the whole world in His hands while still holding our fragile hearts. He is all-powerful and personal.
Before jumping into all of the practical goals you want to set, spend time brainstorming who you want to become. Spend time asking yourself questions like: What do we want our family to be known for? At the end of this year, what do we want to be true of us? How might our family make a difference this year?
As Pastor Craig Groeschel says, “When you know who you are, you know what to do.” So, cast vision about who your family is. What values do you have? What traits do you want to display? Use those to inform what family goals you set.
3. Stay focused
We’ve talked about reflecting and dreaming. But how do we lead our family with grace, purpose, and inspiration? How can we work together as a family to encourage one another to increase in skill, meet a goal, or perhaps let go of something? How can we use what we know about the people we love most to set goals that will keep them motivated and inspired—all while having fun?
First, remember that we’re doing the greatest work right inside our homes. We, as parents, are responsible for meeting our children’s basic needs—changing diapers, making school lunches, etc.—but we have also been called to teach our children how to live a full life.
When I think about leading my kids into this coming year, the verse that is etched deep in my spirit is Nehemiah 6:3: “So I replied by sending this message to them: ‘I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?’”
If you know the story of Nehemiah, he was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and his enemies came to him four times with the same message: “Yo. Nehemiah, we just want to have a quick word, can you come down here?” And each time, Nehemiah’s response remained the same: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come.” In my family goal setting this year, I want to respond the same way Nehemiah did because our goals are worth the intention and focus.
So, while it may be tempting to come up with a whole list of goals—start small. Stay focused. Choose just a few family goals to focus on, and spend your time on what’s most important—not what sounds good in the moment.
4. Set your goals
Once you’ve narrowed your focus, it’s time to set goals—both personally, and as a family.
Maybe you brainstorm some family goals, like eating more vegetables, doing more family nights, saving for a family vacation, or reading a YouVersion Bible in a Year Plan together. Maybe you also brainstorm individual goals, like taking an online art class, being a penpal, or something abstract like being more present. These goals should be in line with your passions, gifts, and callings. They should also be manageable—not overwhelming or impossible.
This process is a great way to encourage each member of your family, and it’s a great opportunity for you to make it fun! You can point out what each person is naturally gifted at, and you can challenge one another to continue growing in that area. Consider having different members of your family come up with goals for someone else. Or celebrate your goal meeting by treating everyone to ice cream afterward. (Unless that’s against one of your new goals. ?)
5. Write them down, and review them often.
We often do our best work when our family is cheering us on. And we encourage one another regularly when we make it a priority. Just look at the advice in these two Scriptures:
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. … 1 Timothy 4:15-16 ESV
… “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.” Habakkuk 2:2 NLT
Write down your personal and family goals so you don’t forget them. Look at them often, checking in on one another’s progress. Pull out your calendar and pencil in times to focus on your goals. If one of your goals is more family nights, sit down now and pick your dates for the year. If your goal is to be present at home, block time at the end of every workday to tie up any last-minute loose ends, so you can focus on your family without distraction.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, wrote, “… you fall to the level of your systems.” What can you systematize, plan, and protect to help you reach your family goals?
If we are able to intentionally pick up one new habit every year, and better yet, if we are able to teach our kids how to intentionally pick up one new habit, learn one new thing, and overcome a bad habit every year—we are giving them an incredible gift. So, this year, you can make family goals. And you can keep them. You were chosen for the family you have, and you love them deeply and endlessly. When you create a space for purposeful, collaborative growth, deep roots strengthen and remind us that we are always better together. Here’s to your best year yet.