In addition to improving your family’s Return on Life, writing your family’s guiding principles can be a fun activity that aligns everyone to shared values and goals. To create guiding principles that inspire and endure, follow these four steps.

1. Gather the family for a meeting.

Getting your whole family’s input on the guiding principles is essential if you want it to be successful. You should schedule a time when you all can get together so no one gets left out. It’s important to make the process fun rather than a chore. You can discuss this at your favorite restaurant over a meal. Create a build-your-own sundae station on the kitchen counter. Or maybe enjoy an afternoon watching movies or organizing family photos. Setting the right tone will let everyone approach crafting guiding principles from a positive standpoint if you have an enjoyable, low-stress environment where everyone enjoys each other’s company.

2. Provide an explanation of the exercise and ask questions.

Once everyone is settled in, parents should explain what guiding principles are, why they want to create them, and what they hope to achieve with them. Asking these questions might get you started but feel free to add your own:

  • What values represent our family?
  • What are the causes we care about?
  • How do you think others see us?
  • What are we doing in our community to make a difference?
  • What are some of your favorite family traditions?
  • How would you describe your relationships with each family member?
  • How would you describe spending time in our home?
  • What are your family responsibilities?
  • How do we succeed at work, in our studies, in our hobbies, and in our relationships?
  • What can we all do to make our family happier and more productive?

It might be helpful to distribute a list of questions after recording some general answers and give your family members a day or two to think about them. It’s not necessary to put anyone on the spot or rush this process. With some reflection time, your family can develop guiding principles that are more personal and specific.

3. Put your statement together.

There is no right or wrong way to draft your family guiding principles. It could be written as a story, as an essay, or as a list of common answers that your family members submitted. It could be a video or audio recording that you all make together.

The guiding principles should also contain all the responses your family members provided, whether you put them in a folder or typed them up as addendums. By memorializing everyone’s contributions, every member of the family will feel like they played a significant role in the process. You’ll also enjoy revisiting these rough drafts over time to see how your children’s thinking and personalities have changed.

4. Plan a revisit and revision.

Creating guiding principles for your family should be an ongoing process that grows as your family does. It is important to invite new family members to participate when the time is right. Consider making revisiting your family’s guiding principles a tradition during holidays or parties when everyone will be together. This is a fun activity that everyone should take pride in.

Finally, we invite you to discuss your family’s guiding principles and values and how we can incorporate them into your financial plan.

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