You don’t often hear of families having a mission statement or core values. There are cute posters that I often see in home decor stores with lovely (albeit, generic) statements like “Be Kind” or “In this family, we do real. We make mistakes. We laugh…”
And while I also decorate my home with these sweet sentiments, I don’t consider them to be family mission statements.
Where mission statements soar in popularity is in the business world. Every major corporation and most small businesses have corporate mission statements. These statements proudly declare an organization’s core purpose and focus.
Some popular examples:
Facebook: “To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
LinkedIn: “To connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”
American Red Cross: “To prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
All of these statements are direct, simple, and explicit. They are describing the organization’s core purpose. Underlining where they choose to place their focus.
Modern American families are overwhelmed by choices of kids activities, events, work obligations, consumer debt, and keeping up with other people’s expectations.
We spend more time working and commuting than generations before. We are stressed out and our kids notice. In fact, in Ellen Galinsky’s book “Ask the Children: What America’s Children Really Think About Working Parent’s,” she writes about her experience surveying 1,000 kids and asking them about their biggest wish surrounding their parents. The parents believed it would be that their children wanted to spend more time with them. In truth, their children wished that their parents would be less stressed out.
I believe that by holding ourselves to what we perceive society’s standards are, we are stressing ourselves out. And to what outcome? Studies show that people are more depressed than ever.
Better, I think, to hold yourself accountable to what YOU believe you should be doing. And the best way I know to do that is to sit down and have a conversation. When we decided to try this for ourselves, we held the family equivalent of a “corporate retreat.”
We ordered a pizza. Poured some lemonade, grabbed a notebook and started a conversation.
We asked ourselves things like:
- What makes our heart soar?
- What’s most important?
- What are our values?
- What are some things that we do “right?”
- What’s our story? What do want it to be?
We came up with 8 core values and a statement of our core purpose and focus. My husband designed a cute graphic and we printed our a large canvas that we display on our mantel. A daily reminder of our values.
What I loved about this exercise is that it guides us in all decisions. Big ones, like when we’re pondering a job change or smaller decisions like accepting every social engagement that comes our way.
Your family mission statement and core values will be vastly different from ours. But ask anyone who knows us well, and they will tell you that our statement and values align perfectly with our family. I wanted to share my families’ personal mission statement and core values to give you an example of how we use this list in helping us make decisions.
Our family mission statement is:
The Swank Family
In this family, we chase our dreams and inspire others to TAKE ACTION.
We are travelers, not tourists.
We live lives of passion.
We don’t like problems, we like solutions.
We help others fly.
We dream big dreams.
We know education doesn’t just happen in a classroom.
We value progress over perfection.
We strive for LIFESTYLE DESIGN, and not the BOTTOM LINE.
When we find ourselves overwhelmed, we return to our core values and allow them to guide our decisions. Here are some recent examples:
- WE LIVE LIVES OF PASSION: Our CMB contributor and fantastic photographer, Aaron, recently invited all of us out to get headshots taken for the blog. Aaron is one of the most amazing photographers that I have ever met, and he was offering us his services for FREE. Honestly, I was probably a fool to pass up on such a generous offer, but the thing is – it had been forever since my husband and I had a quiet moment to ourselves. My grandparents invited our little one over to celebrate an Indian holiday, which left my husband and I with a few free hours. I really struggled because who doesn’t want FREE photos taken by a talented photographer?! But being thrifty and vain is not a core value of ours. Living a life of passion is. And so I politely declined, and instead spent some time celebrating with my family before running off on a romantic, passionate date with my husband. We ate our way through a fabulous new Asian spot and relived the adventures on our past trip to Hong Kong.
- WE HELP OTHERS FLY: We mean this statement both literally and figuratively. In the chaos that is parenting a young child and own our own business, it’s often a challenge to find time for social events. We occasionally find ourselves having to decline fun invitations because we just can’t find the time. But if our friends ever ask us to help them figure out how to afford to take a trip or help them gain confidence to travel somewhere that seems a bit scary, we will always find the time to have coffee and strategize. We will always respond to texts, emails and phone calls about figuring out award travel or sharing travel advice.
- WE KNOW EDUCATION DOESN’T JUST HAPPEN IN A CLASSROOM: Our little one just started kindergarten. And she’s in a pretty intensive “full day” program. And you know what? We’re pulling her out of school for a week so we can take her on a trip. I know taking your child out of school is controversial. But for us, we believe one can get an education outside of the classroom as well. And we know just how much she’ll learn wandering through Spain and Germany.
- WE STRIVE FOR LIFESTYLE DESIGN, NOT THE BOTTOM LINE: This is an important core value of ours. A decade ago, we found ourselves climbing a corporate ladder. We were making great money but at the expense of living a great life. I’ve had 2 career changes in the past 12 years, and each new position has been a step-down, financially. But for us, our income is less important than our lifestyle. We now find ourselves with enough time to do the things we love – cooking together as a family each night, taking frequent trips, or taking a nap at home during our lunch hour if we feel like we need to recharge.
I hope you can find the time to sit and think about what’s most important to your family. This daily reminder of our core family values has helped us calm the crazy storm that is parenting with a young child, and I know it can help your family, too!
What are some of your core values? I’d love if you shared some in the comments!