Most often, families just happen. You wake up one day and there you are, a family with parents and children and responsibilities and daycare and school and jobs and house payments. Every day can seem the same with random bursts of activity or the occasional family road trip to grandma’s house. The idea of your family having a destination or a mission (thinking Tom Cruise and saving the world, anyone?) isn’t even on your radar. But what if it could be? What if you could guide where your family heads, what you do to shape its future, and how you impact the world?
Knowing the destination is the first part of the process of getting there. In business and the non-profit sector, it’s called a mission statement: the answer to the questions:
- Who are they?
- Why do they exist?
- Where are they headed?
- What do they value?
Once a business knows the answers to those three questions, they guide every corporate decision. A non-profit uses its mission to rally support. In a family, your mission statement helps you navigate decisions like what school children will attend, where you'll worship, and how you'll participate in your community.
What it’s not
To be clear, a family mission is not a list of rules to follow. It is not parents imposing their will on their children. Nor is it a tally of past accomplishments. Most of all, it isn’t adopting someone else’s mission onto your family.
Your family mission is a guide to the culture you wish to create in your family. Life just happens unless you intentionally choose otherwise. According to Stephen Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, "A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you truly want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life."
In an article titled “Creating a Positive Family Culture: How and Why to Create a Family Mission Statement” by Brett & Kate McKay, they define a family mission statement as a “statement encapsulates your idea of the good life and lays out your family's purpose, goals, and standards. All members of the family have a hand in articulating these values, and all agree to live them.”
The takeaways from that definition are that in addition to your family identity, your mission is your purpose (why you exist), goals (where are you headed), and standards (what you value). The time spent determining these, together in conversation as a family, are more critical than the verbiage you end up with. The purpose of the verbiage is to create a family rallying point so that when things are tough like experiencing bullying in school, or hard decisions need to be made such as whether or not to move across the country for a job, the whole family can come together confidently to decide together what to do. Take these steps to get started:
If a family value is living in a particular neighborhood or going to a specific school, talk to your real estate professional about what it would take to get you there.