In our society, we emphasize defining your purpose as an individual. We do sports and extracurriculars to try to find our gifts and talents. In college, we explore electives. We “eat pray love” our way to finding meaning.
Then you and your DrSpouse got married, and you became one.
Now that you’re two people who now act as one unit, it makes sense that you define your purpose and where you’re going — together.
I read Stephen Covey’s bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, not once but several times actually. I became very inspired by the idea of having a Family Mission Statement.
If it’s your first time hearing about a Faily Mission Statement, it sounds like a good exercise in theory. Companies and churches have one, so it makes sense that families could have one, too.
But like brushing your teeth after breakfast, or exercising regularly, how many of us ACTUALLY do it?!
My dear friend Stacy C. Dunn, author of the book, Real-Life Physician Family: Secrets to Surviving, Even Thriving During Medical School, Residency, and Beyond, told me that she and her family have one. I met her amazing family and watched her kids and husband have such spectacular relationships with one another. You just know, when you look at them, that they are doing something right…
So I decided to give a Family Mission Statement a go. And after my husband and I made one, I can tell you that it did really make a difference in our family.
Why You Need A Family Mission Statement
The activity of putting together into words what you stand for, your reason for being, and your values and goals really changes you. As you write it, you articulate what’s in your hearts on paper. Basically, what was invisible, now becomes visible.
I imagine it was the same for our founding fathers who wrote the Constitution:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
So when issues like slavery comes up, well, you abolish it!!!
Likewise, what is written on Your Family Mission Statement contains what you both believe, and from which you move and operate.
Most of you are young couples and that makes it a perfect time to write a Mission Statement. You have just begun to reconciled your differences having come from different families of origin. For instance, you may have come from a family who really loves the outdoors and you plan to go on great nature adventures. Your DrSpouse may come from a family whose idea of a vacation is to be in a resort, relax, eat, swim, and lie down.
So what do you do when deciding on where to go for vacation?
You discuss, review, and have meaningful conversations about each other.
By articulating your values and goals upfront, you can be aware of what each of you wants to keep or change from the values you grew up, and how you plan to move forward.
How To Write A Family Mission Statement
Let me summarize Covey’s book’s exact steps:
- Schedule dedicated time for a family meeting to write your statement. When you put it on your calendar, you commit your making it happen.
- Be empathetic listeners. Even if your child says something like, “We love Taco Tuesdays as a family!” they still get a say. Nobody talks over anyone. Everybody participates.
- Everyone’s inputs gets written down. Don’t edit anything until the very end.
- Maximum you should meet is 45 minutes. After that, your ideas start to diminish. Adjourn and come back to it with a fresh mind.
What Your Mission Should Say
First, you need to figure out your family culture.
Art of Manliness includes these questions as starters:
- What kind of marriage partners do we want to be?
- What is the purpose of our marriage?
- How do we want to treat each other?
- How do we want to resolve our differences?
- How can we both support each other in our respective goals?
- How do we want to handle finances?
- What kind of parents do we want to be?
- What principles do we want to teach our children to help them prepare for adulthood and lead responsible, caring lives?
- What roles will each of us have?
- How can we best relate to each other’s families?
- What traditions do we bring with us from the families in which we were raised?
- What traditions do want to keep and create?
- How do we want to give back?
- Are there things from our respective family histories that we’re happy or unhappy with? How can we change them if we’re unhappy?
Second, figure out your 10 core values.
Core values are what you value the most in your life. Have each family member write down all the values they think your family has and vote for their top 5. Then tally the votes. At the end of this, determine the final list of 10 core values.
Here are some values in alphabetical order to jog your brain:
Third, create a slogan.
Slogans are short, memorable phrases that sums up what your family is about. Here are some ideas:
- Happy as a clam
- Just do it
- Collect things, not moments
- Explore the world
- Faith, Hope, Love
- No big deal
- Live free, die hard (This is for you Die Hard fans!)
Putting it Together
Now it’s time to take everything you wrote down and wordsmith it together. Don’t get hung up whether it’s too long or poorly worded. The format also doesn’t matter. Some like to use long sentences. Some like bullet points. But keep it under 10 points.
Here are examples of Family Mission Statements:
May our first word be adventure and our last word be love.
We live lives of passion.
We dream undreamable dreams.
We are travelers not tourists.
We help others to fly.
We love to learn.
We don’t like dilemmas, we like solutions.
We push through. We believe!
We know it’s okay to make mistakes.
We bring people together.
We are joy, rapture, yay!
By Bruce Feiler, author of The Secrets of Happy Families
Seek out new adventures
Love each other, always
Be curious and learn
Attitude is everything
Act with kindness
After you’re done, hang up your Mission in a prominent place like the kitchen. Etsy had some great artists who can custom-make it using nice fonts that you would make you happy to frame it.
Now you can use it with your DrSpouse and as a teachable moment got kids. For example, this scene in Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse comes to mind, where his mom said, “In our family, we don’t run away from our problems.” You, too, can tell your child, “In our family, we…”
Remember, this won’t be the last time you write one. Review it when you have a major life event like the birth of a child, finishing training, kids moving out of the home, or retirement.
“What if my partner is not interested in writing this at all?”
You might feel disappointed, angry, or frustrated that they aren’t.
But if they need a CV or personal statement and you’re an amazing writer, you’d write it. If you’re great with finances, you’d make a budget and investing plan. If you are great at taxes, you prepare them. You wouldn’t hesitate to serve your family in whatever way it needs.
I think it’s the same with Family Personal Statements.
So for whatever reason, if they can’t do it, go ahead and do it and involve them as much as they can. In the process, they may get wrapped up in it and participate. You never know!
You wanting a Family Mission Statement means you have the vision and foresight to right the ship before it goes off I’m the wrong direction. And that’s the whole point. Also, that makes your family very lucky to have you.
At the beginning, you might be thinking “Wow, I would never do this.”
But now, I hope you also say “Wow, I need to do this.”
I did it and I know it will help you create a strong family.
To your strong medical family,