In my professional life as a marketing executive, one of the most important aspects of my role is casting vision for our company, brand, and business. Without a clearly defined direction, it is inevitable for an organization get sidetracked. Defining and aligning on a clear purpose and mission enables us to effectively use our time and resources toward a very clear ends.
If this practice can be so powerful in the professional realm, it can be even more so in the personal.
September is upon us, so it's safe to say that summer is officially over. The school year is in full swing, and the days quickly fill up with packed schedules, activities, and events. With so much going on, it is all too easy to get pulled in every direction. Before we know it, the calendar can start to control us versus the other way around. Our lives become dictated by what comes our way. And our precious time gets taken up, leaving little behind to spend on other things that may matter more.
Yet that's the key. Without investing the time up front to define what exactly it is that matters to us, it will be hard to know when and what to say yes to. In fact, establishing that clear vision is less about saying yes and more about helping us purposefully say no. It gives us a grid that we can assess our options against, so that we can intentionally and effectively focus our time and resources toward what matters most to us.
So what does crafting a family vision look like?
It doesn't have to be fancy or polished. Even just taking a few moments out of an evening to sit down, reflect, and discuss with your spouse (and possibly with your kids as well if they are older) can make a huge difference.
There are a few components to visioning that I believe are particularly relevant for day-to-day family life.
Vision: Our Purpose and Guiding Why. This should be a larger aspiration that motivates, inspires, and fuels all of your decision-making. Even if it isn't beautifully articulated, it should be something that you can easily go back to and check against whether what you are doing is living into this. While it can change and be refined over time, theoretically, a vision should stand and ensure for some time.
Here are some questions that I have thought through, that can help warm you up and give some insight into what matters to you:
What dreams have been on my heart for my family?
What am I passionate about? What motivates me and gives me life?
What does a fulfilled family life look like in my mind at each stage and season? What is the role I would like to play in that?
How would I want my children to talk about me when they are older? What would they remember? What would they say?
If my life were to come to an end prematurely, what would be my biggest regret?
What would I want people to say about me at the end of my life? About my family?
I've found that as I reflect through these, some common themes will begin to emerge. Those themes are what you can start to hone in on as core elements of your purpose. As you begin to identify it more clearly, it's helpful to try to summarize it in one or two succinct sentences.
Goals: The What That We Want To Be or Achieve. These are more tangible and could comprise of near-term, mid-term, and long-term goals, such as objectives for this school year for example, or for this season in your lives. These goals should ultimately ladder into your vision and purpose.
Questions that are helpful for me to ponder:
If I fast-forwarded to the end of the year, to 3 years ahead, or even 5 years ahead - what would I want to say that we accomplished? What would success look like?
Where do I hope to be from a personal growth perspective?
Where are my children developmentally and how will this year factor into their development? What does successful parenting look like in this season?
What areas in our lives should we all be growing in (i.e. physical health, emotional health, relationally, specific categories of skillsets, etc.)? What would success look like in each of those areas?
How do the big areas we are spending time on (i.e. work, school, etc.) factor into our longer-term goals? Are they developing us in ways that help get us there? How would I like to see them to do?
Having a few goals written down brings an incredible amount of clarity, as it makes it tangible and also introduces some personal accountability into your day-to-day decision-making, as you consider how you are spending your time against the goals you are trying to achieve.
Values: What We Believe That Defines Our How. Finally, values. There are many ways to define values, but the way I like to think about it are that they are the most important qualities to your family that define how you will conduct yourselves.
Questions that have helped me begin to identify what I value:
When I think about instances where I felt great pride or satisfaction in myself / my family, how would I articulate what I was most proud about regarding my / our conduct?
What are some qualities I hope that my family will be known for?
What do I hope to instill in my children? What qualities do I hope will help drive their own decision-making as they grow more independent?
What are the qualities that I hope will define the way I raise my kids, in terms of the "how" behind what we are doing, whether it is playing with them, teaching them, disciplining them, or caring for them?
Examples of values can be love, compassion, kindness, gratitude, respect, honesty, integrity, responsibility. There are also many lists online of sample or common values. After going through these questions to help you think through what you may value, it's helpful to create your own list, and then - either on your own or with your family - to prioritize which ones you feel are the most important.
While this may seem like a lot, it isn't necessary to go through every single step in depth. Even spending a short chunk of time to consider some of these questions and jot down some answers will significantly increase the level of clarity you have. It can make all the difference between experiencing life passively as things come your way versus living life purposefully by choosing into meaningful experiences. The years indeed are short; may we honor that by living them out fully.