January is always a great time to reflect on how we want our life to pan out over the next 12 months. For families, January also presents a good opportunity to set goals together. We are all used to doing individual resolutions, but why family goals? The answer is that goals are how we will make our family vision a reality.
The first time I learned of the concept of a family vision was when we attended parenting classes in our daughter’s school. The workshop was conducted by two very respected corporate executives, and one of the first questions they posed was: “Have you ever seen a company succeed without a clearly articulated vision?” It made perfect sense to me: if companies take time to formulate one, families who want to be strong should have one, too. And when you get to the stage when children are beginning to leave home for studies or to start their own families, it becomes more critical to have one unifying description of who you are as a family unit. This is what a family vision is.
Strong families do not happen by chance; a strong positive family culture is built intentionally through the years. Culture is defined as a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way. A clearly articulated family Vision Statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about – what it is you really want to do and be – and the principles you choose.
How do you go about creating one?
The first step is to schedule a special family meeting. Ideally, it is away from home, and can take anywhere from two hours to even a whole day. There should be a strict “no gadgets” rule so that the family members can focus on each other. Some guidelines: Make sure everyone gets a say, listen empathetically and write things down. There is no pressure to complete this in 1 sitting – the process is more important that the output!
Second step is to ask questions and discuss what your family is all about. These are the main questions:
• What is the purpose of our family?
• What kind of family do we want to be?
• What things are truly important to us as a family?
• What are our values?
• What are the principles and guidelines we want our family to follow?
• How do we want others to describe our family?
Everyone gets to give an answer to the above. To make it easier on the next step, it would be good to write the answers on post-its – one idea per page.
Next, group similar ideas together and identify the few big ideas. From there, write down the essence of the clusters and notes. Here is one example of a family vision statement:
Our family is our safe haven, where everyone is loved, nurtured, cared for, helped, understood and forgiven. We are men and women of character; responsible, hard-working and with unquestionable integrity. We will always remain close and united, even if our desire to grow as individuals will keep us physically apart. We aim to help and inspire other families through our good example and genuine care for them. We draw our strength in faith and prayer; we carry a deep-rooted joy that comes from knowing we are God’s beloved, no matter what happens. Ultimately, our final goal is to see each other in heaven.
One thing to remember is that vision is not reality. Thus, the final step is to do goal-setting. This will make new year’s resolutions more directed and meaningful because the family has a clearly articulated vision of where it wants to head.
Throughout the year, it is important to check on progress periodically against the vision and the goals. This is ultimately how each individual, and together as a family unit, experiences growth, anchored on a common vision.
Our families are our greatest enterprise in our lives; it is worth the time and effort to define what kind of family we want to aspire to.
Pauline Gatera Fermin is a high-caliber strategy executive with 20 years experience working for P&G, The Coca-Cola Company, and Beverage Partners Asia, and 10 years consulting experience across various industries in the Philippines. She is part owner of Acumen Strategy Consultants, where she serves as Managing Director and Senior Strategist.