Goal setting can easily become camouflaged vanity. Self-focused, self-centered, and self-serving. Now, many goals do require personal improvement and an intentional focus on one's behavior. However, goal setting is never about the goal; it's about who will benefit from the results of the goal being accomplished. For some cases, that's solely the individual. For others, it's their family, their spouse, and their relationships.
As a husband and father, I don't set goals which only benefit me—I don't think many healthy family men and women do either. If I'm getting fit, it's because I want my future grandchildren to be able to enjoy me. If I'm getting smarter, it's to fuel my ability to provide for our home. If I'm improving our finances, it's to fulfill the desires of my wife's heart and our dreams. If I'm working on my personal character, it's for the benefit of those who know me, meet me, and work with me.
My grandfather always said, "The more you think about others, the less you'll think about yourself."
A few years back, Veronica and I decided to host an annual goal setting meeting. A meeting that would year-by-year improve the central areas in which our family's character, integrity, and fruit would stem. Now typically, this meeting occurs during that last week of December, but in reality, you can adopt our model and host your meeting at any time.
Together, we've developed what our family calls the five golden pillars of success. We believe if these five areas continue to improve month-after-month and year-after-year, it's quite impossible to diminish the strength of your family and your freedom. Below, I have listed each pillar, a quick description of its function, and an example of how we set a goal.
But first, let me speak to the tactics of how we set goals. We begin by listing off 3-5 possible annual goals for each pillar. We follow this up with a 45-60 minute discussion to narrow each of our options down to one goal per pillar. Not one and a half. Just one. Next, each goal is set by simplifying it to only one sentence that begins with the word "To...". For example, "To take a two-day family vacation every eight weeks." My advice, do not lose focus on the timeline. These are not highly intensive one-month objectives. These are sustainable and realistic annual goals. If you can keep your eyes set on the long game, you'll likely end up winning.
Pillar #1: Faith
As many of you know, we're Christians. We believe the strength of our faith is the apex of our lives. When we say 'faith,' it encompasses all areas of our walk with God—from our obedience to his Word and the practicing of prayer to the reading our Bible and living out our beliefs in within our relationships. For this pillar, focus on the one area of your faith you’d like to improve this year.
Example Goal: To pray as a family every morning before breakfast.
Pillar #2: Family
'Family' is a broad category. Not only does it include a marriage but it often includes relationships with children and their relationships with siblings. So family goals should not focus on private members but include elements that strengthen the entire culture, trust, and love within your home. For this pillar, concentrate on the one area of your family that you'd like to improve this year.
Example Goal: To create four new family traditions that bring everyone closer together.
Pillar #3: Friendships
Not everyone can carry the title "friend." Friends are those 4-5 families or individuals to whom you feel responsible. Furthermore, this pillar should focus on goals which can apply to all friendships in this pool, not merely a portion of them. Consider focusing on ways to increase the emotional elements of your relationship (trust, transparency, commitment, generosity, loyalty, etc.) over the practical features (time, activities, dinners, etc.) that might come more naturally. For this pillar, focus on the one area of your friendships you'd like to improve this year.
Example Goal: To speak less and listen more during conversations with friends.
Pillar #4: Fitness
Fitness means health and wellness, not self-admiring body sculpting. Furthermore, this should remain a family affair. In my experience, independent fitness routines requiring a multitude of alone hours at the gym can become the kindling of not only a self-conscious spouse but the birth environment of visual infidelity. As a married man or woman, the enhancement of your body should be for two things: To increase health for the benefit of your loved ones and to improve your physique to your spouse's liking. Secondly, the time required to meet fitness goals should never compromise the time required to fulfill your responsibilities to your faith, your family, and your friendships. For this pillar, focus on the one area of your fitness you'd like to improve this year.
Example Goal: To walk or jog (together) 6 miles per week.
Pillar #5: Finances
Healthy finances are made up of having no debt, 3-6 months of expenses in savings, a $5,000 emergency fund, a retirement plan, and ongoing education and qualifications to continue to provide for your family. On the contrary, shaky finances are often the sign of undisciplined spending, irresponsible living, and immature thinking. However, healthy finances are often a decades-long process. That being said, give attention to the many pieces of your financial puzzle but highlight one critical goal. For this pillar, focus on the one area of your finances, you'd like to improve this year.
Example Goal: To add $25,000 to our savings.
Veronica and I realized that even with all five pillars in healthy operation, a poor reputation could compromise your family's success. For that reason, we believe the five pillars must rest upon the foundation of a good name. Which means we must concern ourselves with what people are saying about us when we're not around. You might ask yourself if people's experiences with you have been edifying or denigrating? Do people find you cheap or stingy? Do you fail to meet expectations with poor punctuality? Do you lie or spin the truth or exaggerate? Do people leave business deals or agreements eager to work with you again? Is there anyone in your life that's due for an apology from you? The answers to these questions make up your public reputation. So for the foundation of your five pillars, what one action can you take this year to protect or restore your reputation?
Example Goal: To no longer talk about people who are not present unless it's positive or encouraging.
At the end of this exercise, you should be left with a simple list that looks similar to the example below. Print it out, place in a prominent viewing position in your home, and attack every single day.
- Faith Goal: To pray as a family every morning before breakfast.
- Family Goal: To create four new family traditions that bring everyone closer together.
- Friendship Goal: To speak less and listen more during conversations with friends.
- Fitness Goal: To walk or jog (together) 6 miles per week.
- Finances Goal: To add $25,000 to our savings.
Reputation Goal: To no longer talk about people who are not present unless it's positive or encouraging.
In closing, we must realize the tragedy it is to be in the same place today as you were this time last year. Remember, a goal without action is merely a wish—and we humans are fantastic escape artists. We run to what's easy and avoid the discipline required to create lasting change. Ultimately, goal setting means nothing without the fanatical will to purpose your days and behaviors toward accomplishing these commitments.
In my experience, goals are fueled by dreams. But if your dreams are unclear you might put a great deal of effort in the wrong direction. If you feel lost, my wife and I wrote new his and her's books to help bring clarity to your calling. They're titled: "Find Your Calling: Discover What You're Meant To Do: A 21-Day Guide For Him/Her". Consider reading these before completing your five pillars exercise. The books are short, interactive, and cheap. Get your copy by clicking the link below.
Was this article helpful to you? Do you have a goal setting process? Let me know in the comments below.