In the business world, defining objectives and setting goals is critical to strategic planning. Basically, it boils down to this: You’ve got to be absolutely crystal clear on what you want to do before you can make a plan to figure out how to do it. The same holds true in marriage. Couples who focus their actions on clearly defined goals do better than couples who just let life happen to them. Clear goals are smart, and S.M.A.R.T. too!
Perhaps in your professional work you’ve encountered this great 5-point acronym. It can help anyone, including couples setting smart goals: S.M.A.R.T. While different business experts have slightly different acronyms, here’s basically what each letter stands for, and how it can help you and your spouse:
It never helps anyone, in business or school or marriage, to be vague. Being specific means pinpointing what it is you really want. A couple shouldn’t say simply “We want to be more intimate.” A more specific goal would be “We want to be more spontaneous in our love life at least a couple times every month, while maintaining more consistent scheduled intimacy each month, too.” Or you could be more specific about working together around the home: For example, instead of Susan telling me the vague goal that “It would be nice for you to help me more around the house,” I need to hear “When I’m cooking, let’s agree that you’ll do the dishes, okay?”
By the way, if you’re needing help to think about specific goals and realize you need first to know more specifically what your husband is thinking or what your wife is thinking, here are some great places to start.
Sometimes, even when you are spelling out specifically what you want to do, the end result can be too vague. Having a result that you can actually measure makes that goal have some teeth. What can you measure that helps you know We succeeded in our goal? Again, going back to my earlier example with my wife Susan, if she says “I want you to help me more with the housework,” I don’t know if whatever effort I put forward is really helping meet her definition of “help me more” or not without something measurable. A more concrete goal would be if Susan asked, “I would like your help to do the dishes/laundry/vacuuming at least three times a week.”
Pie in the sky goals are fun fodder for business book publishing, and motivational speakers, but make poor marriage goals. A couple who has fallen into a relational rut would not be well served to say, “I want us to fall madly in love again like two young kids.” I can’t tell Susan we need to love each other like we did when we first got married, if for no other reason than we should be loving each other more, and be more caring, in a deeper way than when we first married. A more achievable, realistic goal might be “I want us to have evidence of greater kindness towards each other like when we were newly married.” Another example: some families we’ve known through the years seem determined to have an immaculate home with young kids. That’s not impossible, but it’s not necessarily realistic or achievable for most couples. So make your goal in this area, and others, achievable.
Making sure your goals for your marriage and family are actually relevant to your life and priorities is also important. Companies sometimes make the mistake of chasing goals that are not really connected with what their business is all about, and they waste time and energy that could be spent in their sweet spot. For example, if you’re in a season of life where your teens have lots of sports and activities, then creating goals that spending more time on the golf course or in a dancing class together may not be the most relevant to your family’s overall needs and demands.
Goals that have no end date tend to be pushed back…and rarely achieved. Think about a specific deadline that makes sense and will help keep you accountable. If your goal is to save up for a big family vacation, pick a deadline for the trip…and a timing for your savings. Don’t just say, “We will go to Florida someday for vacation.” Better to say “We will set aside $100 per month with the goal of going to Florida in no less than 3 years.”
Maybe this post has you thinking about other bits of business or leadership advice that work in marriage or family as well. Share your thoughts below!