Productivity expert Stephen Covey describes a family mission statement as “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 to govern your family life.” Writing this statement can be a family activity that aligns everyone to shared values and goals while also teaching younger children what improving Return on Life really means.
Work through these four steps with your family to create a mission statement that will inspire and endure.
1. Schedule a family meeting.
If you want to get your whole family on board with a mission statement, you need to solicit input from everyone. Set aside an hour or two when you can all get together so that no one is left out. Try to make the process feel more like fun and less like a chore. Talk over a meal at your favorite restaurant. Make a build your own sundae station on the kitchen counter. Spend an afternoon watching old home movies or sorting family photos into albums. An enjoyable, low-stress environment where you're all enjoying each other's company will help everyone approach your mission statement from a positive place.
2. Explain the exercise and ask questions.
Once you're all settled in, parents should take a moment to explain what a family mission statement is, why you want to create one, and what you hope to achieve with it. You might get the ball rolling by asking:
- What do you think our family values are?
- What causes are important to us?
- How do you think other people see us?
- How do we make a difference in our community?
- What are your favorite family traditions?
- How would you describe your relationships with each family member?
- What words would you use to describe how it feels to spend time in our home?
- What are your responsibilities in our family?
- What are the characteristics that help us succeed in our work, our studies, our hobbies, and our relationships?
- What are some things we can all work on to make our family happier and more productive?
After recording some general answers, it might be helpful to distribute a list of questions and give your family members a day or two to think. There's no need to rush this process or put anybody on the spot. A little reflection time can create space for more personal and specific answers that will improve your family mission statement.
3. Assemble your statement.
There's no right or wrong way to draft a family mission statement. It could be written in story or essay form. It could be a list of common answers that your family member submitted that outline your shared values. It could be a video or audio recording that you all make together.
But it's also important that you save all the answers that your family members submitted, whether that means putting written answers in a folder to typing up individual answers as an addendum to the mission statement. Memorializing everyone's contributions will make each family member feel like they were an important part of the process. You'll also enjoy revisiting these rough drafts over time to see how everyone's thinking and personality has evolved, especially younger children.
4. Make a plan to revisit and revise.
Your family mission statement should be a living document that grows along with your family. When the time is right, new family members should be invited to make their own contributions. You could also make revisiting your family mission statement a new tradition at holidays or parties when you know everyone will be together.
Finally, please consider sharing your family mission statement with us as well. Make an appointment and we can discuss the values and principles your family settled on and how we can incorporate those more fully into your Life-Centered Financial Plan.