How to Set Family Goals

When it's resolution time, don't go it alone.

Family goals - eat vegetables together
Tim Robbins / Mint Images / Getty Images

When you think about family goals, remember the proverb: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." That's how to set goals you really can achieve. Set them together, as a family. It works whether you're dreaming up New Year's resolutions, a family fitness challenge, or plans for the start of a school year.

Even if, usually, you're not optimistic about setting and achieving goals, it helps to think about them as joint efforts—or even something that you're doing just to help someone else, and not yourself.

In one survey, about 55 percent of Americans said they believed that it benefits them to help others achieve their New Year's resolutions. And a similar number (57 percent) reported that if they helped friends or family make changes toward a healthier lifestyle, they themselves would feel rewarded. So it makes sense to turn healthy goals into family projects. (See an interview with fitness advocate and actress Ali Sweeney on how she does this.)

How to Set Family Goals

You can approach goal-setting in two ways: By choosing shared goals you'll all work toward, or by looking for ways to support each other in your individual goals. You might even do some of each type.

When thinking about what your goals should be, remember the acronym "SMART." It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. As you brainstorm goals, check them against these values. Let's say you decide, together, that you'd like to eat more fruits and vegetables.

How can you make that a SMART family goal?

  • To make it specific, add detail: Eat at least 5 servings of produce a day.
  • That also makes it a measurable goal. You could even use a game or tool like Rounded Plate to help you keep track.
  • If most family members are already eating, say, 2 or 3 servings of produce a day, then boosting that number to five seems attainable: It's a stretch, but not a gigantic one. Make your goals small and incremental, so that success builds on success.
  • If most family members are already eating 4 or 5 servings a day, then the goal might not be relevant, and you should consider setting a higher target or choosing a different goal.
  • As stated, the goal isn't time-based. You could add a target date, so the goal becomes: Eat at least 5 servings of produce a day, 4 days a week, in January. Make it 5 days a week in February, 6 in March, and so on.

How Working Together Helps You Achieve Family Goals

Making your goals or resolutions a team effort helps you succeed. You'll motivate each other and hold each other accountable. The same survey mentioned above (commissioned by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council) found that when people work with friends or family to accomplish goals, they are more likely to stay on track with their own goals.

The survey also showed that for some people, working together on goals also meant continuing to set small goals throughout the year. This is a smarter strategy than concentrating all your ambition and motivation into the first week of January!


Survey by ORC International on behalf of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, December 2015.

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