It’s that time of year again. Although, Rosh Hashana, the time, we as Jews, reassess our values and goals is way past, many people use the start of the secular calendar similarly, to refresh and assess their goals for 2021.
This is actually the perfect time to create a mission statement for your family.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey, is one of the most popular self-help books. In his book, he advises people to do just that. Covey, explains: “A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you really want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life.”
A mission statement, usually used by businesses, states the reason for the company’s existence. A family mission statement goes a bit further. It should identify and encapsulates your idea of a purposeful, productive and good life. This will then enable you to lay out your family’s purpose, goals, and standards. It is best if all members of the family have a hand in developing the mission statement. Children who are included in rule making will be more invested in living by those rules. The same applies for a mission statement. They will be more invested in living a life in alignment with family values.
To develop a mission statement for your family, you want to do the following:
1. Figure out your personal goals:
Many years ago, I took a class with Rabbi Nivin, which changed my life. He helped me develop my personal mission statement. On one paper, we mapped out our life’s purpose, and our strengths and weaknesses. We were then instructed to set goals, goals that we felt would help us improve our lives in the following areas:
Service of G-d
Spouse and Children
Domestic Arts/ Running a Home
It took a lot of thought and a lot of trial and error. Every year, in Elul, before the beginning of the Jewish New Year, we were to rework our “Paper.” It was and still is challenging but extremely rewarding. If this seems like it is too much for you, John Gamades of https://depthnotwidth.com/living-life-on-purpose-your-personal-mission-statement/, suggests using a simpler exercise. You can just ask yourself the following questions:
1. What do I see as my purpose?
2. What do I want to be remembered by?
3. What am I passionate about?
4. What makes me feel the most fulfilled?
5. What do you believe in?
Another simple exercise that he suggests, is to write down 10-15 words that capture your values. You can ask yourself, what single words describe the things that matter to me, drive me, and what I stand for? Once you’ve come up with a list of the words that describe your values, the next step is to group them and choose the 4-5 that are most important to you. Those are your core values.
Why do you need to do this? Understanding your own values and goals will help you create the values and goals you want for your family. Then you can move on to the next step:
2. Discuss your goals and values with your spouse:
You and your spouse are a team. Generally speaking, we marry a person whose goals align with our own. Review them and ‘speak them out loud.’
The following questions can be a springboard for your discussion:
What matters most to you?
What kind of spouse do you want to be?
How do you want to resolve conflict?
How do you want to treat each other?
How do you want your partner to feel because of you?
What traditions do you want as part of your family?
What do you want your children to learn about relationships by watching you?
If these questions are too much for you, then repeat the exercise above of writing down your core values, together.
Note: You may have conflicting values, those can be rehashed and examined in your discussion. After this has been done, it’s time to bring in the rest of your family.
3. Invite your family for a discussion:
Let your kids know that you are going to have a family meeting, or just do this at dinner time. This works best with younger kids. (With older kids, you might get a lot of eye rolling, but still try it out!)
Here are some questions that you can ask:
1. What is the purpose of our family?
2. What kinds of things do we want to do?
3. What kind of feeling do we want to have in our home?
4. What kind of relationships do we want to have with one another?
5. What are our family’s priorities?
6. What are our responsibilities as family members?
7. How can we contribute to society as a family and become more service-oriented?
As Jews, we of course would like our values to align with Jewish values and traditions.
We want to make sure to ask ourselves and our family:
How does our Judaism and service of G-d impact our family?
What are our Jewish values?
How can we incorporate these values into our lives?
You can also give your children a list of values/ midot/character traits, like in the exercise above. You can then decide which ones are important and represent your family.
Here are some examples:
Love of learning
Appreciation of beauty
Make sure to listen to what your children are telling you. Kids have completely original and unique perspectives. They are often idealistic but also have practical ideas!
Remember, these meetings do not need to be long and formal. It can take a while until you figure out your mission statement. You can have a series of meetings or again discussions at your dinner table. That is fine. You just want to make sure that your mission statement includes input from everyone in the family.
4. Make it visible:
After you create your family mission statement, its great if you can hang it up in the public area of your home, like on your refrigerator or near your kitchen table. Some families put it in a frame and hang it in different locations in their home as a reminder.
5. Use your mission statement:
Live your mission statement. It’s extremely valuable to live your life with your end purpose constantly on your mind. It is helpful to say to think to ourselves in the morning, “What is my purpose for today?” and then in the evening, check in with yourself, “Did my actions align with my purpose today?”
It can also be used (sparingly) to admonish children. This can be done silently. If kindness, or calmness is on your mission statement and children are fighting, you can always just point to the value or character trait on your paper. Let it do the lecturing for you. You will be surprised how it can stop bad behavior.
Even more important lesson, when you are not following the mission statement, make sure to own up to it. You can say, “Gosh, I am feeling frazzled today. I am not feeling calm at all. I need to remember what’s on our mission statement and make some changes!”
As Jews, building a strong family system is integral to our faith. Developing a family mission statements is a great way to do that.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.