Companies often use mission statements to describe their purpose, conveying why they do what they do and what they believe, often in a single sentence. While a mission statement might sound like a formal concept reserved for use only in the business world, the principles behind developing this guiding philosophy apply to families, as well. This mission statement, which succinctly defines your family’s values and goals, will be the standard against which all of your decisions – financial or otherwise – are measured.
Each of us makes hundreds of decisions every day. From buying that artisanal coffee in the morning to picking your route to the grocery store, some decisions are so subtle you may not even realize you are making a choice. Others, like purchasing a home or car, are topics that clearly require more thoughtful deliberation. Whether the decision is big or small, a family mission statement will help you and your loved ones stay true to your values and feel confident that you are moving in the right direction. Here’s how to create yours.
Step 1: Get Personal
Any individual, couple, or family can craft a mission statement. In order to get started, you first need to look inwardly and determine the main values that provide you with direction and purpose. Here are a few prompts to get started:
- Identify what matters most to you: Most of us have a few core values that guide our moral compasses and influence our actions. Justice, compassion, service, education, religion, status, or adventure – any of these can be considered values. Once you identify your top values, consider each one and its origin. Perhaps these values were instilled by your parents, education, or life experiences. Do they still serve you? Do they fit within your vision for your family? What values do you want to foster in your children, in your grandchildren?
- Determine your calling: Paying the bills is a necessary part of adult life, but that doesn’t mean your job is your life’s calling. Consider what fuels your passions and excites your mind. Where do you feel drawn to give your time, even if you aren’t being paid? Once you determine your calling, chances are good that it will align with at least one of your core values.
- Grow from failure: Oftentimes, the most profound lessons come from struggle, loss, and hardship. When you look back on those tough times, remember that you showed resilience and tenacity. What did you learn? How have you grown?
Step 2: Make it a Family Affair
If this mission is meant to provide direction and meaning to your family, then it makes sense that every member should have the opportunity to provide input on what goes into it. In fact, it can be a useful bonding opportunity where family members are open and honest with each other about what is meaningful to them.
Setting aside dedicated time in a special space to do this important work provides an appropriate sense of significance and sets the tone for the family. Crafting a family mission statement shouldn’t feel somber. The experience should be exciting and fun. Yes, this is important work, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dull!
Step 3: Create a Safe Space for All
To develop a family mission statement that truly reflects your family’s values, everyone needs a voice. However, sharing what is most meaningful to you can make people feel vulnerable. Find ways to empower everyone – even the youngest family members – to share their thoughts. Here are a few tips to facilitate the process:
– Send your questions out in advance. That way, everyone can consider their own authentic answers without being influenced or swayed by others.
– Set ground rules that everyone – and their ideas – should be treated with kindness and respect. No one shuts down another family member.
– Let children kick things off. As the adults weigh-in, younger people might feel like their opinions are not as valid. Empower them by letting them start the conversation.
– Keep the discussion going by asking open-ended questions. Prevent conflicts by approaching differing viewpoints from a place of curiosity rather than judgment.
Step 4: Be Specific
Remember the tip to send out questions in advance to get your family members thinking about their values? Here are some suggestions for actual questions you might find useful:
● What is our family’s purpose/mission?
● Think about decisions we have made in the past. What felt good? What was difficult?
● What three words best describe our family?
● When have you felt most connected as a member of this family?
● What have been your favorite family experiences?
● What goals should our family set for the next year? The next five years? The next ten years?
● How do you want our family to interact with each other?
When everyone has shared their answers, see where your values overlap in order to home in on your mission. What words or ideas keep coming up? Think about the positive experiences you’ve shared as a family and what values were associated with those experiences.
Step 5: Write It Down
If you truly want your mission statement to guide your family, it needs to be authentic and concise. Keep it short – and if it makes sense, mention how your finances impact that statement. Consider these examples as you craft your own mission statement:
● “Seek adventure and foster connection.”
● “Leave every place a little better than we found it.”
● “Stay present and experience joy.”
● “We value compassion and justice, and we believe that our purpose is to serve others around us by leveraging our unique talents and giving back.”
● “We use our money wisely – to support our family and to invest in the kind of future we want to see.”
● “To strive to be our best selves every day – at school, at work, and at home – by valuing hard work, respect and kindness.”
Remember, there is no right or wrong mission, so write a statement that truly reflects your family.
Step 6: Think Forward and Double Back
Once your statement is written, take it for a test drive. How can you use it to set future goals? Think of potential scenarios and practice using your mission statement. Does it work? Does it fit with your family and your experiences? Remember that your mission statement should evolve as your family evolves. Check back at least once a year to make sure it is still serving your purpose, and don’t be afraid to adjust it as needed.
Mission Meets Money
Every decision you make should fall in line with the values outlined in your family mission statement – and that includes financial decisions. Discussions about money are often fraught with emotion, and they bring up a lot of other topics that can lead to serious disagreements.
You’ve gotten strategic about your mission, now see how your money can align with it. From philanthropy and long-term giving plans to daily spending, you can use your money to support your family’s mission and impact the world around you.
Think about where you are spending your money on a daily basis. If one of your values is improving your community, are you shopping at small businesses that are locally owned? Are you environmentally minded? Then try to find companies that share your interest in protecting and preserving the planet. Before you make a purchase – even something small – think about whether or not it fits your mission.
Invest for Impact
The main purpose of investing is to generate wealth, but what if you could do more with your investments? Impact investing is a strategic approach to investing that aims to generate specific beneficial social or environmental effects in addition to financial gains (also known as Environmental Social Governance or ESG investing). When doing this kind of investing, the investor often defines a certain set of values and then finds mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (commonly called ETFs) that fit within those values. Just like your daily spending, your investments should align with your mission. Take a look at where your money is going and what it is supporting. Are you investing in companies whose practices you believe in and whose missions mirror your own?
Put Your Mission Statement in Action
Once your family mission statement is defined, it’s time to start living it. Be sure to discuss your mission statement with your financial advisor. After all, you want to be sure your hard-earned money is serving your family’s purpose. That statement will be your guiding philosophy and will inform your choices, keeping you on track to achieving your goals as a family. It’s a serious and powerful tool to bring you together and to impact the world around you.