A Primary Goal is that thing you to which you dedicate your life. You strive for it, it’s becomes your life’s ambition and the reason you get out of bed every morning. It’s your purpose on this planet.

You can, and should, have several Primary Goals in different areas of your life. For instance, you can have a Primary Financial Goal, Primary Relationship Goal, and Primary Personal Development Goals, all of which are great and important.

It’s not hard for people to understand the importance of having primary life goals. When we set a goal, we have a much better chance of achieving something worthwhile because our actions are on mission and on purpose.

I think a very interesting thing happens when we take the concept of primary life goals and apply them to the family. Sadly, that interesting thing is an awkward silence because almost nobody sets a clearly defined, measurable goal for their family. Which is a shame, because all business endeavors grow out of the home life.

I don’t think a lot of people ever think about developing a Primary Family Goal because we’re so content to meet the status quo that we do just that, and no more than that. We pat ourselves on the back for keeping up with all the things that are important to other families without carefully deciding if that’s what’s best for our family, because we haven’t set any kind of goal for our family.

What would ever possess us to let other people decide out goals for us (which is what we’re doing when we mindlessly match step with our culture)? I’d much rather be my own person and make the decision as to what I want my family to strive after. And I think you would too.

Uncovering Your Primary Family Goal

There are two questions that are key to this whole idea. The first question helps you define your current family culture, which gives you an idea of the traits you want your family to exhibit. The answer to the second question tells you how well you’re doing it.

Question 1

If you could summarize your family in one word or phrase, what would it be? Let’s get a clear idea of what you value enough to pursue, and more so what you value enough to model as a family.

Try to come up with at least a handful of characteristics you want your family to live out. I think if you take a few minutes you can fill a sheet of paper three times over. If you do need help getting started, here’s a few from my own list.

  • Gospel-centered
  • Joyful
  • Disciplined
  • Wise
  • Compassionate

Once I have a list of attributes I want my family to exemplify, I trim it down (above is my trimmed down list, by the way) into a handful of broad ideals that I want us to live out. I take all these qualities and characteristics and roll them into a single, easy to remember phrase. In this case my Primary Goal becomes: a strong home.

If any of these characteristics are lacking in my home, my home is fixin’ for trouble. Something is going to go bad. Maybe it’ll be a short season of trouble (like several months of unruly kids, or a lack of intimacy, or whatnot). Maybe the consequence will be longer lasting and more subversive, like a slow decay that will leave us wondering what happened while we’re sitting in a nursing home.

In any case, its going to be destructive, and I don’t want that. So I keep myself and my family in check against our Primary Goal of a strong home. I don’t do things that will decay these values.

At least, that’s how I try to live. Real life rarely goes as smoothly as a blog post can make it sound.

For example, the other day two of my boys decided to play ball tag, which is not generally a problem. However, this time they decided to play it in the living room. With a wet diaper.

Anyone who has ever thrown a urine-soaked diaper with ample force knows what that can produce. Poof! That sucker exploded all over the room, leaving urine soaked beads of goo everywhere.

When I came down the stairs and saw the mess, I had the perfect opportunity to live out all of our ideals in one shot. This was my chance to show those boys how we live a joyful, disciplined, wise, compassionate, gospel-centered life.

So, being the professional family expert guy that I am, I took this perfect opportunity and flushed it right down the toilet. I didn’t demonstrate a single attribute. Life had tossed me an easy underhand pitch, and instead of hitting a home run, I bludgeoned my teammates with the bat. Way to go, moron.

After the yelling and tears had all subsided, the full weight of the situation hit me, and I saw firsthand what life would be like in my home if I regularly did as I pleased instead of living according to my Primary Family Goal.

I took each kid aside and talked about how I blew it, and I apologized (which is about the most humbling experience on the planet). Because I was able to keep our values in mind and, even after completely blowing it, try to live them out as best I could in my current circumstance, a good thing happened.

The kids got a good demonstration of how valuable our values are through my failure. They saw how rotten life would be if we didn’t have goals we strive for as a family. Not only that, in my apologies I was able to demonstrate every one of our valued characteristics. Even though this episode turned out all right, I’d still suggest doing it right the first time.

Question 2

If those who know you best could summarize your family in one word or phrase , what would they say?

The second question tells you how well you’re accomplishing that Primary Family Goal. If I ask my friends to define my family and they choose the word, “Angry,” then I know I’ve got some course correction in my immediate future, since one of my Primary Family Goals is  to be joyful.

By asking people who can give me an outside perspective, I get a fresh look into my family, and how well we’re doing. I realize there will be seasons where one issue is more of a focal point than others, but getting this kind of feedback is important to clearly see what season you’re in, so we can take steps to get through it.

Plus, it’ll keep you honestly pursuing what you say is important to you, and quickly point out any inconsistencies, which creep up all the time.