The Startup Family: Relationship Vision & Goal Planning Workshop

Coming from the startup world, making vision & goal planning, setting OKRs, balance-scorecards, etc. are regular tools that I have used throughout the various startups that I have been involved in. However, one thing that struck me when I entered into a relationship with my partner was how little I actually was prepared and knew anything about how to be able to develop a thriving and nurturing relationship.

Let’s be honest — who you decide to spend your life with will play an essential role in your well-being and growth as an individual. Our relationships either help us thrive and become greater humans — or they can weigh us down, unlocking some of our deepest fears and weaknesses.

Both my partner and I come from divorced and rather dysfunctional families, that have left both of us with scars and a lack of good role-modeling behaviors or relationship models that we could strive for. We both agreed that we did not want to pass the models we were brought up with to our children and to do our best in order to develop our own model that would allow us and our family to thrive. As both of us are experienced entrepreneurs, we decided to approach our relationship as if it was a new startup: in order to succeed we would have to give it a vision/purpose, goals & strategic direction, define values, invest capital & time, and build a solid foundation that would allow it to scale sustainably. Our relationship that is 💪😊!

So, one of the first steps towards building a successful Startup Family was to host a Vision and Goal Planning Workshop! Goals are our aspirations. When we set a goal, we create an aim for a set of behaviors. Whether that’s achieving a level of proficiency or skill in an athletic endeavor, a weight-loss goal, or paying off financial debt: Creating a goal helps us to know what we’re aiming for in life.

Below I’m sharing the exercises we did and how we structured our day. As we have been doing various workshops for a while now, we are considering facilitating this workshop for other couples virtually — please let us know in either the comments or mail (jurkovskaja@gmail.com) you’re interested in attending one 💪!

Finally, change rarely happens magically overnight though (sadly ️🙃). It happens because we make a daily commitment to adapt our behaviors, mindset, and habits in working towards creating the change we wish. Small, daily, consistent changes lead to grand results over time. This is why goal-setting exercises are so effective. So this workshop is the first step in hopefully something that will bring you positive changes in the long-term, and allow both you and your partner to get to know each other on a deeper level so you can build a strong foundation for your relationship! 🙌

Good luck with the exercises! 🚀

Preparations before the Workshop

This day is all about your partner and you. Therefore, if you have kids, please make arrangements so someone can help you with the kids! In order not to rush through the exercises and enjoy the process with your partner, we recommend setting aside around 5–6 hours for the entire workshop. We planned ours from the morning, having an hour for a relaxed and nurturing lunch, and finishing off with a few hours after. Obviously, you can stretch it out over several days, but it is important that you have enough time to discuss the various exercises and dive deeper into them — so none of you are left unheard or feel that something was not been talked through.

Besides having a babysitter for the kids, you need to prepare:

  • Post-its in different colors
  • Approx. 10–15 A3 papers
  • Markers
  • A notebook for each of you

And to make it a cozy day:

  • A nice playlist
  • Your favorite snacks
  • Tea/coffee
  • Wholesome lunch/dinner

The Actual Workshop

Exercise One: Visualizing your Future

Aim: To start off the workshop, the main purpose of this one exercise is to start the creative flow, and get your thoughts towards the future. Honestly, it can feel a bit scary to actually allow oneself to dream like this — but — if we are too scared to dream and speak our dreams out loud, then, how on earth can they ever become a reality?

When we visualize ourselves in the future actually living the life we want, we activate the same neural networks that would fire if our dreams were our reality. By visualizing, we prime our brains to act to make our dreams come true. Some say visualization activates our creative unconscious. Perhaps some of you have tried to notice babies everywhere around you when you had a baby, or, noticing other couples when you are thinking that you want to be in a relationship 😊. The same happens when we visualize and communicate our desired future together, as we will begin to see opportunities for realizing it. It’s also a great way to focus the mind on the day ahead and set you in the right mood.

Here are some questions that may help you start up your imagination about the future (a piece of good advice is to be as specific as possible):

  • Where are you when you are 60 years old?
  • Where do you live? What are you surrounded by? Do you have any pictures on the wall, if yes, what do they show? Any diplomas? Any books? What is the view outside your window?
  • What do you wear? How does your hair look like? Who are you surrounded by?
  • How is the flow of your day? What do you eat? Where do you go? Who do you spend your day with? How does the day end? Do you have any daily rituals or practices?
  • What gives you joy? What do you look forward to when waking up?
  • What do you have a lot of in your life? Love? Family? Happiness? Health? Adventure? Money? Are there some themes or big words that are sticking out?

When doing this exercise you can be as creative as you like, and go as far as you wish. You can either write it down as a story, in bullet point sentences, or whatever works for you. When you are done, allow each one of you to read your future reality out loud. Ensure that you do not interrupt one another — this is just the time to listen for the other person. When my partner and I did ours it really surprised us how many common dreams we shared — it was a nice realization to have. It also made us realize that in order to achieve this reality we need to start taking action today.

  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Tools: Notebook + Pen
  • Format: Individual writing exercise to be shared in the end

Exercise 2: Dreams we have for what we would like to do?

Aim: In this exercise, you need to divide your family into 4 spheres/ circles. There is you, you + your partner, you+ your children, and all of you together. Write in each circle on sticky notes what dreams you within each area for things that you would like to achieve. It can be very specific (example you want to go on a specific trip with your children, or, it can be to have more “me-time” or feeling valued within your relationship). Then read it out to each other.

If you’ve never distinguished these different areas before, it's a great way to see the needs and desires that emerges — you might realize that they are very different than your partner’s, or, on the contrary, that you are fully aligned. What is important to remember is, that when you hear the needs/ or things that bring your partner joy you should not feel obliged to meet them (joy can range from getting some alone me-time in the morning to being in a relationship where I feel heard and valued, etc.) — instead these should act as nudges and conversation points in the relationship.

  • Time: 30 min.
  • Tools: A3 paper, sticky notes, and pen
  • Format: Individual writing exercise to be shared in the end
“Dreams we have for things we would like to do” — Suggestion for how it could look like. Write it out on an A3 paper and fill it out with sticky notes.

Exercise 3: Value-mapping

Aim: This one is more of a summary seeing the pattern of the things that you have described in the previous two exercises — which common underlying values appear when looking at the results from the exercises? Map them out on sticky notes, share and elaborate on each of them, and see if you can make a small set of values that you agree on and commit to as a family. Rather than having many, try only to have a few, crystal clear values that you easily can remember — and hang them up somewhere where you the both of you are reminded of them daily 😉 We ended up having 6 core values.

  • Time: 25–30 min.
  • Tools: A3 paper, sticky notes, and pen
  • Format: Common exercise you do together where you try to identify and summarize your common values.

Exercise 4: Our Non-Negotiables

Aim: Saying all the things we want in life is an “easy” exercise. But what’s just as important is to be clear on what we don’t want or don’t accept. Which ground-rules do you stick to in your family where you can depend on each other on doing your best to meet them? Put them down on sticky notes, and try to be as specific as you can and not too easy on these ones! Then hang them up somewhere where you are daily reminded of them.

  • Time: 20–30 min.
  • Tools: A3 paper, sticky notes, and pen
  • Format: Common exercise you do together where you try to identify and summarize your non-negotiables.

Exercise 5: Horizon 2050 (action-plan)

Aim: This is when things start getting even more interesting and real! Now that you have the long-term goals in mind, the task (which is where the rubber hits the road) is to break them down into smaller targets and goals that you would like to achieve within 1–5–15–30 years. We divided ours into these time intervals but obviously, this should be amended according to your own realities. It can be a great help to think of these as themes rather than years-e.g. our first kid starts in school: 5 years, our last kid moves (hopefully 😅) out from home: 18 years, we retire: 30 years, etc. It is recommended to start writing the goals at the end (30 years from now), inspired by the results from the first exercise, and think through what needs to happen in the previous years to reach that goal. Another approach, which can be used afterward, is to write some specific goals you already know you have in the next coming years. As before, take the time to do this one individually, then share together afterward. What common goals do you have? Ask each other what needs to be true for each of you to reach your goals, and how you as a partner may assist in reaching that goal? This exercise was actually really difficult for us because this is where you have to be specific and at the same time have the courage to actually dream and set aspirational goals.

Finally, when you are done with this and all the other exercises — are you able to formulate a shared vision that summarizes the family that you are creating?

  • Time: 45–60 min.
  • Tools: A3 paper, sticky notes, and pen
  • Format: Individual writing exercise to be shared in the end and discussed so you are aligned. Add both milestones and what you need to focus on using sticky notes so the two of you share the same action plan — just ensure that you use different colored sticky notes so you easily can distinguish between each others’ goals.
Action Plan 2050 — Maybe you’ll need to stick two A3 papers together (or more) to be able to put everything on this one.

Exercise 6: Action!

Aim: Now that you have invested time and effort visualizing, aligning, and documenting your family’s visions and plans for the future, it is time to act on it and make it come true!

You can be smart about reaching those goals you pinpointed in the action plan, making it easier to overcome for you and your family. Think about what you can change in your everyday environment in order for you to reach your desired goals. Think about what specific actions you can take tomorrow (or even the rest of the day!) that will give you the best start possible towards your desired future. Take time to write these things down, share them with each other, and maybe even ask your partner for help to follow up on it.

As an example, one of our family goals was to have an active and happy body when we grow older. Therefore, my partner committed to always have his running clothes with him in the back of the car, so there is no excuse to take a quick run on the way home from work. Another example was that we wish to be present when we spend time together as a family — so we converted a wooden box into our family phone box, where the phones go when coming home from work.

You get the idea! This exercise is a great way to create positive habits and have your soul-friend help sticking to those habits and reaching those goals.

  • Time: 45–60 min.
  • Tools: Sticky notes and pen
  • Format: Individual writing exercise to be shared in the end and discussed together.

Passionate about how we can apply #tech to solve global challenges | Mama, Writer & Serial Tech Entrepreneur