With nearly 50% of marriages ending in divorce, couples are constantly looking for the secret recipe to having a happy, successful partnership. Not surprisingly, there isn’t a secret formula that guarantees a lifetime of bliss, but lasting marriages seem to have several common characteristics. One of the best ways to build a healthy marriage? Set goals together.
Goal setting as an individual is easier. You develop your own list of accomplishments you want to attain, set benchmarks and then strategize a plan. Reaching your goals depends solely on your strengths, effort and abilities. Goal setting as a couple, however, requires a different approach.
COUPLE vs. INDIVIDUAL GOALS
To effectively use goal setting, couples must determine which goals are a priority for their relationship. As a couple is made up of two individuals, it is important to know that each individual needs to have their own goals clear before coming together to form goals as a couple.
Goals set as a couple can be achieved in individual ways. For example, as a couple, they may desire to get healthier. Separately, this could mean that one person needs to lose 15 pounds, while the other doesn’t need to lose weight, but needs to lower their stress level. Their common goal is to be healthier, but it will be met by working on their individual goals. The steps they take to achieve their goals may overlap, and will support each other’s goal, but ultimately the individual is responsible for keeping up their side of the goal.
Another form of goal setting for couples is to create a set of unified goals that affect both individuals equally. A united goal may be lofty (i.e., saving enough to vacation for the entire summer in an exotic location) or simple (cooking dinner together once a week). Either way, achieving the goal is a victory for both individuals. Each participant may have different strategies for their contribution towards the goal, but the end result is a win for both people.
EFFECTIVE GOAL PLANNING
Ready to start setting goals as a couple? Here’s a quick-start guide.
Individually come up with a list of 3-6 items that you’d like to work towards. Share your list with your partner and narrow down the list until you have 1 or 2 goals in common to start with. Find ways to compromise. Do you both have “travel more” on your list, but don’t agree on the location? Look for a solution that you can both approve of, or take turns selecting the next vacation spot.
Develop a plan. How will each of you work towards the goal? What steps will each of you take to help support the goal? Discuss this together. You may have an excellent brain storming partner brimming with ideas you haven’t thought of yourself.
Put your goals in writing. The goal, and the steps required, should be written down and posted in a prominent place. Not only will it keep the goal in the forefront of your mind, it will help build excitement as you see the progress you are making.
Meet regularly. Set aside time as a couple to touch base about your progress towards the goal. Are you on track? Do you need to adjust the timeline? A regular update will help motivate both individuals to keep pushing towards the goal and allow for changes as needed.
Be flexible. Sometimes, it becomes clear that a goal is no longer realistic or that you achieve it faster than you thought possible. Don’t be afraid to adjust or revise the goal if needed.
Celebrate your accomplishments. Each step towards your goal is a victory. Celebrate the milestones on your way to the goal, and then revel in the wonderful sense of accomplishment when you reach the target. Together!
GOAL PLANNING BENEFITS
Not only will planning goals as a couple help you to live your dreams, it will have surprising relationship benefits. Couples that regularly discuss their goals and their progress towards achieving them, generally report that they are happier and more fulfilled in their partnership. In addition, they find that they are more energized and have a stronger bond as a result of sharing a common goal.
Couples that set goals for their health together are more likely to achieve their goals, according to one study. If you are trying to quit smoking, exercise more, eat healthier or make other positive lifestyle changes, ‘changing together’ is the most effective means of doing so. You will find greater, longer lasting success when you reinforce the new lifestyle choice by working towards the goal together.
Worried that one of you may be more goal-orientated than the other? That’s OK. Building a set of goals and developing a plan to reach them together can be an important tool in forging a better relationship. Even if one individual is less goal-driven, working together towards a common goal will bring a sense of unity and connectedness.
Want to accomplish more as a couple? Feel like your relationship could be better? Set aside some time to develop some goals for you and your partner. You’ll be surprised at the positive difference it can make.
The My Big Idea professional workshops tackle your personal life as part of goal setting. This area is vital, yet can often get ignored on our drive to the top in our professional life.