As I’ve grown older and it has become more evident to me that trying to do it all brings me stress, overwhelm, and misery, I’ve forsaken the idea of having a long list of chores, tasks, or to-do’s on a single day. I’ve also learned to NOT do it all alone.
Big disclosure moment: I don’t mean that I don’t want to do it all, or that I am eager and excited to ask for help. I really, really, really, really, wanted to be all like, “I’m independent, strong, and efficient, all by myself, so thank you, but no thank you.” The tendency, the impulse, and the desire still nag at me, I just choose to NOT be guided by them. No one can really do it all, do it alone, and do it perfectly.
These days, I’m committed to prioritizing doing only what truly matters to me individually, and to us as a family, and ignoring EVERYTHING else. Saying NO to the urgent, so I can focus on the important feels absolutely freeing, and it’s effective. This kind of focus doesn’t happen by chance. It comes from investing time and effort into creating an intentional vision of what we want our family to be like.
I love the quote, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Sometimes we feel like we are all over the place, because we lack a sense of direction. We want our children to “stay on the path,” yet we haven’t really defined what the path is or even where it leads to.
In the middle of an overwhelming day as a single mom with two very active and feisty toddler girls, I realized that knowing what kind of family unit I wanted to have was not enough, and that making mental notes didn’t help; I needed to clearly communicate it to get the message across.
After one of my famous “one-second-silent-prayers,” I decided to create a simple, general rule that would make things easier and we could refer to as a solid foundation, rather than expecting my little ones to just know what was expected of them in our home.
Roy E. Disney once said: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” This is true for everyone, at any age.
When we articulate what our family principles are, our children can truly have a greater ability to uphold to those principles. When they are faced with an opportunity, an invitation, or a request, and need to make a choice, they have a reference as to the manner in which they are required to act and the way that they are expected to go, and an increased willingness to say no, and run from anything that is not in complete harmony and alignment with those ideals.
The first statement of purpose I drafted with my toddler daughters was really simple: “we are reverent, we share, we get along.” Every time I needed to correct or praise, I would go back to those three principles, and the meaning was reinforced with each interaction.
Being a living document, the words evolved with the years, from three glittery words we decorated on poster board to a more elaborate process and a much fancier, teen-friendly display.
There is no wrong or right approach, unique method, or three rigid “simple steps” of doing this, because each family is different, yet every family can benefit from identifying your family’s top passions, core values, and highest priorities, and the qualities, character traits, and what we want to embody.
There’s just something “official” about having a written statement of purpose:
- It becomes your guiding compass for your choices
- It acts like your anchor in shaky times of crisis (and God knows, as parents, we experience a lot of shakiness over the years).
- It provides a proactive approach to life, so that we can waste less time responding to chaos
- It creates a positive culture in your home
- It gives your family a positive focus and identity (what you want your family to be known for)
- It creates a tighter bond within family members
There are three tools I’ve used over the years to create the family atmosphere that works for our family:
- A family motto
- A family mission statement
- A family manifesto
These are timeless, short, and relevant phrases or sentences that reflect your family unit. This summary will ideally be a healthy blend of each individual’s values in your home.
What is a Family Motto?
Your family motto is simply a phrase that is significant to your family long term, something that every member of your family can stand behind, and that reminds them what your family stands for.
In the recent weeks, we have been putting much thought, meditation, and prayer to discern what kind of purpose statement would be fitting to our “updated” family. We
agreed on the motto “BEcome ONE” as something we all find meaningful and can relate to as both our ultimate individual and common goal:
– Becoming one in communion with God
– Becoming one with my spouse
– Becoming one with the best version of me
– Becoming one with my family in heart, mind, and purpose
– Becoming one with the everything and everyone that God created
It fascinates me how those two words can mean so much and can touch us so deeply. We also came up with an acronym that encompasses our family values:
We’re nerdy like that. LOL
What is a Family Mission Statement?
A family mission statement is a short paragraph that defines a clear, coherent, compelling vision of your family’s ideal destination.
In Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, published in 1989, he encouraged families to compose a unified mission statement using the analogy of using a flight plan to refer to when turbulence or errors inevitably happen. Going back to the flight plan allows you to get there, even when you’re off track about 90 percent of the time!
The Covey website has a free online family statement builder to get people started (requires your personal information), but it need not be a complicated process. You can simply use the following templates to formulate your mission statement:
The family mission is to_______ (action steps you will take to make it happen), so that_______ (desired outcome or results)
The mission is to_______ (desired outcome or results), by/through (action steps you will take to accomplish this)
For example, based on our motto and values, our family mission statement is:
Our mission is to BEcome ONE with God, our best selves, and each other, by building a home based on the principles of Belief, Excellence, Charity, Obedience, Mindfulness, Enlightenment, Oneness, Nurture, and Endurance.
PS- We opted to leave the family name out because we have several last names in our home, and it is CRAY/ZEH.
What is a Family Manifesto?
A manifesto is “a verbal or written declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer.” It is a short list of conscious statement that define and formally announce what drives your family and what you intend to accomplish. You can use the words “declaration,” “proclamation,” or even “creed,” if these feel more cohesive.
You want to use juicy power words, adverbs and adjectives to signify the quality of the actions you will be taking to live out the ideal, common purpose, and measurable outcomes that everyone is inspired and driven by in the long term.
The manifesto can include statements like: “we believe,” “we will,” “we are driven by,” “we strive to,” etc. Here’s what our latest family manifesto looks like:
We hold our testimony sacred, as a compass of all our choices
We strive for excellence, progress, and order in all our endeavors and interactions with others
We seek daily enlightenment through fervent prayer, consistent study, and humble inquiry
We will fill our home and our hearts with the fruits of the Spirit and the pure love of Christ
We believe we will achieve joy, prosperity, and eternal blessings through obedience to God’s commands
We are committed to undivided attention, effective communication, unconditional support, and meaningful memories
We are driven by unity within our authentic individuality: one in heart, one mind, and one purpose
We nurture our body as a holy temple, our mind as a most powerful tool and gift from God
We are devoted to strengthening each other and enduring challenges with faith and gratitude
Assure your family that this is not a call for perfection, but rather something you will use for inspiration, motivation to get back on track, on course, and on the path to your purpose.
Discovering your family values – What does your family stand for?
Identifying your personal values is a process, not an event. Each day is an opportunity of self-discovery. However, you don’t want that to stop you from creating a framework to work from. We’re not looking for a final, immovable statement, written in stone.
We’ll probably come up with a reviewed, revised version of all the above guidelines as we become clearer in our journey. When we did this a few days ago, it was late, I was tired, I was in the middle of packing for a speaking engagement, the baby was awake in full energy force, and Taylor Bare was a bit clueless (he’d never done this intense exploration work before), but we were determined to get it done, because it’s never a perfect time anyway.
To get started, I recommend holding a family meeting, and introduce the idea of creating a family motto, a family mission statement, or a family manifesto:
- Tell them what it is, why you want the family to have one, and most importantly, what it’s in it for each of them.
- Ask them to think about what is important to them in the week ahead, and to start taking notes.
- Gather all the ideas and read your own values to spark discussion. Listen, observe, and promote a safe environment by honoring each idea, focusing on the similarities, and not so much on the differences.
It will help to give them a few prompts, examples, or questions to get their creative juices flowing, taking into consideration their age, their learning style, and personal interests. Some ideas could be:
- What makes you feel great about yourself?
- Who do you admire, and why?
- What are your favorite activities to do?
- What kind of family do we want to be?
- What feelings do you want to experience in our home?
After you have a list of values, find what is similar, and what everyone is driven and inspired by. Then, devise a strategy to live out those values and fulfill your common purpose. Those action steps are significant, and even if they don’t end up in the write up, they will be implied. Plus, this activity alone will become an important memory and promote closeness in your home.
Do you find value in having a statement of purpose for your family?
I swear by it. In a world of great worries, pressure, and competing priorities, it is such a relief to find balance with these guidelines to keep our family strong, safe, and sound in a holistic way (financially, intellectually, emotionally, relationally, communally, physically, and spiritually). Plus, it looks great on your family room wall, or above the fireplace.
Have you ever written a family motto, a family mission statement, or a family manifesto? If yes, how was your experience? If you have not yet, will you be willing to do it? I look forward to your comments below!