Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Better Way to Make Family Goals

I read a lot of self-help and advice books. Stuff about money, organization, goals and so forth. I guess it's sort of a sick hobby.

There are tons of interesting ideas that pique my interest. And I try most of them, but by and large, the recommended actions are very hard to sustain.

But very rarely, I'll read a book and think, "Wow. I can do this. This is really going to change how I live my life."

I happen to be reading such a book now: Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW! by Stephen M. Shapiro.

I admit it: I'm what Shapiro calls a Goalaholic. You just have to read the December/January entries in this blog to see that. But like most goalaholics, I never reach most of my goals. Some, certainly, particularly the career goals, but no where near most, and particularly not those involving my family. It's very frustrating, ugly cycle. You don't make a goal, you beat yourself up and you set the goal again.

Living your life through goals is also a good way to miss the best in life, Shapiro argues. Even if you achieve your goals, you can miss out on things that you actually wanted more - for instance, he was so focused on career success, he missed the fact his marriage was falling apart. And once the marriage was gone, he knew he'd rather have had the marriage than the great career goal - which he did achieve, by the way.

So, if you don't set goals, what do you do? How do you make sure you don't drift aimlessly through life, accomplishing nothing but an encyclopedic knowledge of sitcoms?

You use a compass, not a map, as Shapiro puts it. This means instead of goals, you set a direction, a theme, if you will. And you change it - as needed, but certainly yearly.

Setting a theme helps guide your decisions in all areas of your life and challenges you to bring more into your life of what you want.

The book offers some examples of themes that various people have used for a year or for their lives:
  • Shapiro's overarching map is "to make a massive and visible impact in the world." One year, his theme was flexibility - which meant creating a lifestyle that let him follow different paths. Another year, the theme was platform, meaning a place to express himself - he wrote this book.
  • Mark Grossman's overarching compass has been to be part of something bigger than himself, but to be true to himself.
  • Another couple followed the following themes: Year of Exploration (She decided to explore her potential as a writer and started a book); the Year of Adventure and the Year of Lightness, (for some calm time, after the year her book was published).
Shapiro explains how you can do this as an individual, but I think the theme idea would work wonders for family. And the idea of setting a compass - an overarching direction - for a family just strikes me as brilliant.

I'll post later with a few ideas on how this could be applied specifically to build family identity and bonding.

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