Looking for a family activity? There’s one that is not just enjoyable family time – it can move you closer to achieving your goals and making your dreams come true. While we all have things we want to accomplish, lives we want to build, and things we “wish” for — they often remain too far out on the horizon, or too ill-defined for us to take actionable steps toward achieving them.
Bringing these goals into focus can help you work on making them a reality. A family-centered exercise in identifying, naming and then documenting your goals on a timeline (that you refer back to frequently) can keep everyone tracking forward – and uncover some things you may not know about each other!
Step 1 – Taking stock
Taking stock is the first step to any larger goal setting. Determining where you are now, what you’ve accomplished, and what you loved and didn’t enjoy along the way can help you think creatively about what is important to you over the rest of your life. Travel, moving houses, turning a hobby into a career, obtaining an advanced degree, or something as simple as learning a new language or skill can help shape and shift your priorities.
The idea is to bubble up your deepest and most cherished wishes and create a list of them, in no particular order. Do it for yourself and have your partner do theirs on their own. Then schedule time to go through both your lists and come up with the things that matter to you together and as a family. Remember — this is still brainstorming. Anything goes. And don’t limit it to “fun” things; include the things that are important, even if they may have painful or difficult elements.
Step 2 – Put them on paper
You can do this in any way that works for you. The idea is to make a visual representation of your goals, by year. The most effective way —even if you live in the electronic world — is to use a long sheet of paper or a whiteboard. Frame your timeline by starting with 2022 and ending with the year that corresponds with your life expectancy and mark each year in between.
Now take a different color pad of sticky notes for each of you and a third color for shared goals and write down each of your goals on a separate sticky note. Then place them on the timeline in the approximate year you want to achieve them.
You’ll be amazed at the result. The process of naming goals, sharing them and then planting them on a timeline, or “wishline”, is meant to be cathartic and therapeutic. And the result is a tangible, valuable roadmap to your future. Once you’ve photographed your “wishline” to preserve it, you may want to have it enlarged and printed so you can hang it somewhere you’ll see every day.
Step 3 – Get to planning
For the planning step, many people convert their “wishline” to an electronic document or a journal to break it down into the goals you’ll work on for the next several years.
Identify any goals that will require saving up funds and get started with a dedicated higher-yielding savings account and automatic deposits from your paychecks. For goals that require time, you’ll need to prioritize time and responsibilities in a way that gives you the uninterrupted time you need to identify the right solution.
And for the goals with painful or difficult elements — like talking to your parents about caring for them when they are older or planning for children with special needs — you’ll need to enlist support, such as your spouse, a doctor, or financial advisor.
The Bottom Line
The point of the exercise is to create a visual representation of the way you want your life to go, and how you want to get there. Once you’ve got a map, you can marshal the financial resources you need and get going on the journey.