As a family unit, some days may have you feeling more divided than united. Under all the arguments, hair-pulling and slamming of doors, your family has more in common than meets the eye. For one, you share a sense of loyalty to one other, in addition to the similar values and hopes for what your family can accomplish.

Although most families don’t have explicit goals outlined and hung on the fridge, you surely have dreams and plans for your loved ones, in that you want for the best for them that life offers. Clarifying and setting SMART goals may be the most important step you take to help your loved ones become successful – and become successful together.

What are SMART goals?

Simply put, “SMART” is an acronym and a tool commonly used by mental health practitioners and other professionals to establish goals for clients. SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.” Use these aspects of goal setting to create goals for your family today.

Specific: Make your goals narrow in scope so they best address the problem you are hoping to solve. “We want to grow closer as a family” is more practical of a goal when you specify your desired end state, to say “We want to spend at least one night a week doing a family activity.”

Measurable: Write something into your goal that ensures you’ll know when you’ve achieved it. A measurable goal usually involves quantifying something. In keeping with our SMART goal example, notice the emphasis on “one night a week.”

Achievable: Set a goal you know you can achieve, to avoid fatigue or a sense of defeat when the goal is unrealistic. Set small goals at first to build momentum toward larger goals later on. Hint: don’t start off with a goal to “spend 7 nights a week doing family activities together.”

Relevant: Make sure your goals directly address the problem you are working to fix. You can always come up with an overarching goal, outlined by subgoals (called objectives) to break down aspirations into manageable parts. 

Timely: Put a time frame on your goals using words like daily, weekly and monthly. This helps you to make achieving the goal part of your family’s routine. It’ll be easier to stay accountable and motivated if everyone knows – and respects – the schedule. 

Why should families set goals together?

Setting SMART goals as a family has an irreplaceable impact on individuals. Although mental health professionals are expertly equipped to support goal work, families can offer something that practitioners can’t. By the nature of the therapeutic relationship, there is no lifelong connection between client and counselor, and professional boundaries require a certain level of detachment. An individual’s family offers a shared, long-lasting connection that offers support through shared experiences, biological ties and ever-present availability. 

Setting goals together can also allow your family a chance for openness. Oftentimes, families find that important conversations and collaboration feel uncomfortable and don’t lead to results. Setting concrete goals using the SMART acronym gives your family the platform to discuss struggles and express a willingness to help. Use these conversations as an excuse to be open with family and to decide on some shared priorities.

What are the benefits of SMART goals?

Setting goals as a family will equip each of you with a tremendous amount of support, as well as an accountability that’s difficult to find anywhere else. 

Families can create a vital sense of solidarity. Working toward achieving goals alone can be difficult, isolating and frustrating. Having family goals doesn’t mean that they won’t be challenging, but you’ll never feel that you’re traveling the road alone. Whether the goal is one that several family members are working toward, or the goal is focused on one person’s struggles, maintaining encouragement and involvement from many people is the best type of support.

It’s no secret that your family will tell you the cold, hard truth faster than any outsider would dare. Involving family in setting SMART goals has the potential to offer the tough love that we all need every once in a while. If your family tends to be excessively blunt and could use an extra dose of compassion, be sure to have that discussion as well, and learn how to give genuine, empathetic support.

Setting SMART goals as a family has enormous benefits. Aside from the support and accountability that come with embracing goals as a united tribe, you will also create lasting bonds. The memories and relationships that come out of your goal setting (and achieving) experience will strengthen your ties to each other. Once you set and accomplish your first round of goals, your family is also more likely to keep up with the habit. They will feel comfortable and confident in making more goals as a group.

Setting SMART goals as a family will help each of you individually, and your whole family collectively. The closeness that comes with overcoming adversity will be what you look back on with warmth in your heart. And if you find that substance use or mental health goals become a prevalent part of your family’s SMART goal trends, Pyramid Walden is ready to help. Call (301) 997-1300 today or reach out online, for personalized help managing substance or or mental health concerns as they arise.