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Living by Design: Setting Goals as a Family

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Every January, usually around the 1st of the year, we sit down as a family, review our goals from last year, and adjust them for the new year.

As a couple we've been setting goals yearly since we were first married. We would sit down at the beginning of the year, brainstorm and solidify our goals, and about mid-way through the year on our Anniversary we’d review how our marriage was going. This included asking ourselves if we were dating enough, communicating well, meeting our budgets, meeting each other's needs for intimacy, what hobbies we would pursue together (like tap dancing!), and what type of vacation we wanted to have this year. And as our family grew, it was only natural to include our children into this tradition as well.

Goal setting together gave us a scheduled time to reflect on our marriage and keep it a priority.

Goal setting as a family sent the same message.

At the end of the day, this tradition ensures that individually and collectively we are living our lives by design rather than just letting life happen to us.

One year, not that long ago, our two oldest kids had already been anticipating this family meeting. Both had prepared a journal in advance and had written down some goals for the coming year. As a father, I felt like a guy who just reached the summit of a great mountain and threw his arms up in the air in victory, except I was shouting, "I'VE DONE SOMETHING RIGHT!!!!" I felt affirmed seeing my children independently adopt a practice and philosophy that I had spent years trying to impart upon them, all with the hope of one day arriving at this very end.

So what does goal setting look like for our family?

To start, we all set goals in a number of categories.

We set spiritual goals and these could relate to things like: how many daily Masses we attend a week, how often we will go to Confession, what parts of the Bible we will read this year, how often we will go to Adoration, will anyone be preparing for a new Sacrament or be advancing to new roles in the celebration of the Liturgy, and so on.

We set physical goals in order to care for our bodies, and these primarily deal with exercise and eating habits.

We also set educational goals that go beyond just 'finishing my math textbook' and include things we’d like to learn about or study in the new year. We keep this area different from 'personal goals' and make them specific to study and learning, perhaps researching how to market a new board game or learning how to code.

Though we are all reading all the time, we also set specific reading goals, whether it be a book or a series that we’d like to attempt over the course of the year. One year one of my sons wanted to finish the Lord of the Rings series and another had a list of ‘great books’ that he wanted to finish. Daddy’s goal in this category was to get through one Charles Dickens book.

We also make personal goals. This is usually the biggest section and includes anything that isn't already covered, from kayaking lessons, to learning to sew, to catching a pike, or teaching our three-year-old how to ride a bike.

Finally, we add one more category: family goals.

Here we discuss the 'state of the family' in the Biffert home. Is there a goal we can all work towards together? Maybe we can all learn to snowboard, or explore a new lake or island, or get to know a new family and their kids. These goals can also include manners, etiquette, or even virtues we may all need to work on more.

So how do we remember all this and keep track of all these goals with 8 kids in the house? We continue to review the goals on our wedding Anniversary, about half way through the year. At this time we adjust our goals if need be, motivate ourselves to keep going if we’ve been slacking, and some of us congratulate ourselves on staying on track.

Now, one thing we still need to improve on is reviewing our goals more regularly. So we decided that every month, when we sit down and have a family meeting following our ‘family meeting agenda’ (which is always posted on the fridge and the children add to it all month), we plan to make the ‘reviewing of our goals’ the first item to be discussed.

At the end of the day, this tradition ensures that individually and collectively we are living our lives by design rather than just letting life happen to us.

When we are losing control over the forces that are restricting our lives, our mobility and our social circles, as we are now in these times, let us be intentional with the areas of our lives where we do have authority and do the best with what God has blessed us with.

Many blessings to you in 2021!

Semper Fidelis,

Kenton E. Biffert


Kenton is a writer and speaker, and works at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College as an adjunct professor and the Dean of Students. Together with his wife, they homeschool their 8 children, explore the wilds of Ontario in the canoe, and read voraciously. To learn more about the art of fatherhood, visit Kenton's personal page.

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