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Tips To Set Family Goals

Guest Post by Lisa Betts-LaCroix

I’ve had a love affair with goal setting all my life and planning the future has always given me a sense of possibility and hope.  Now that I’m a parent and a consultant supporting others to mentor life-long, self-directed learners (with or without school), I’ve come to realize that we just don’t build goal-setting skills early enough in our kids.  Perhaps, we think, kids don’t need goal-setting abilities since school will march them through necessary skills and content.  But if we want to empower our kids and encouraged them to take control of their learning (and later, their lives) it’s never too early to nurture self-trust and the skills needed to plan and execute on what THEY want.  And while you’re at it, maybe you have some of your own goals.  So why not work on this together?


Lots of families do sports together, travel together and share family meal times.  Here’s a chance to envision the future together.  To help each other design and create your lives–because it’s never too late to start.  Model the process, support each other and learn together as a family.  By doing so, you’ll find that deeper connections are forged and self-directed learners are made.


Family Meeting


In our family, we share a daily ritual simply called “Family Meeting”.  The focus of the meeting is to identify ONE goal per person for that day and to report back on the previous day’s task.  Family goals in our house must meet specific criteria. Our ideal goals:


  • Take more than 15 minutes but less than one hour.  If it’s a particularly busy day for someone in the family this may be adapted slightly to suit the situation.
  • Are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound)
  • Qualify as “Relevant” if they contribute to the goal-setter’s development or the well-being of someone else or are accomplishments that would give the achiever a great feeling of pride
  • Would not have been done anyway (ie. I’m going to get myself to work today)


We also use Family Meeting time to encourage a growth mindset, modeling learning from our “misses” in a positive and celebratory way.  I find this often works best by modeling instead of trying to get kids to explore their own failure modes.  It’s effective for me to wonder aloud why I’ve failed three days in a row and then to notice that I have a habit of underestimating how long a task will take.  By then resolving to be more self-aware or change my goal-setting approach or implementation, I’ve learned and modeled at the same time.


Finally, we track every family members goal in a simple spreadsheet and mark successes with green and missed accomplishments with red so we have an ongoing record and at-a-glance feedback loop.


The Goal List


Where do the goals come from?  An ongoing list is a great treasure and is useful for quickly identifying goals more quickly.  If you don’t have a goal list, consider starting one.  It can be a complex database or just a list on paper.  But have a list!


There may still be times when someone can’t think of a goal.  Here are some Goal Setting ideas and strategies for getting over the hump.  Help each other:


  • Brainstorm –How many possible goals can you list without censorship? Go for quantity not quality.
  • Turn complaints into goals – Notice complaints and wonder if the dissatisfaction could be reworked into a goal.
  • Turn self-reproach into goals – If you notice pain, guilt or self-reproach see if there’s a goal to be uncovered.
  • Mine the past – Recall old stories, wishes, fears and memories as ripe fodder for future goals.
  • Maintain what you love about your life – Goals don’t have to come from lack, limitation or need.  If you identify and share what you’re grateful for you might find a goal nearby related to celebrating, maintaining or deepening it.
  • Piggyback on someone else’s goal – Be inspired by each other and people outside of the family.   Doing this as a family allows everyone to be the catalyst and creates an environment for others to express, support and be inspired by each other.
  • Invite Guests – We also invite guests and anyone who is at our house during family meeting to join us in the process.


 The Mindset and Foundation


  • Keep it light: Make time and space for good laughs and jokes
  • Share
  • Be Curious and ask questions
  • Listen (don’t interrupt)
  • Acknowledge and Thank.


What kind of strategies does your family use to learn practice the Meta-Learning skill of Goal Work?  And what ideas have you discovered best support your family’s Goal follow-through?



Lisa Betts-LaCroix is a speaker, writer and outspoken advocate for radical alternatives to learning.  She’s been featured in 100+ television, radio and news pieces including CBS News, the Financial Times, MGM, Universal and 20th Century Fox.  She’s worked with household names like Norman Jewison, Angela Lansbury, Adam Beach, Kathy Bates and David Carradine, yet Lisa’s deepest passion is in supporting families and self-directed learners reclaim the vision, design and control of their education.




Guest Post: The Importance of Fostering Curiosity at Home – Founder of SupriseRide

So much of our identity comes from the work we do. If you tally the hours, it adds up to some staggering figures so it’s no surprise that we seek meaning through our jobs. When I meet someone for the first time, I’m often asked the classic question “What do you do?”


Years ago, the answer was straightforward: “I work on Wall Street”. I rarely wanted to comment further. But more recently, since I started my company SurpriseRide, people are often curious to hear more. And since I’m all for fostering curiosity, I’m happy to entertain their questions!


So, you might be wondering what is it that we do? SurpriseRide is a service that sparks curiosity in kids, ages 6-11, through theme-based activity boxes. Every month, kids receive a surprise box with hands-on activities and all the supplies needed to explore something new about the world! Our past activities include painting in the style of Vincent van Gogh and making organic chocolate from scratch!




I’m lucky in that most people get excited about the concept and start telling me stories of projects they enjoyed most as kids. I’ve heard everything from building a robot with dad to making fruit jam with grandma. The recounting of nostalgic memories and times spent tinkering with friends and family never gets old.


My sister and I took the plunge and co-founded SurpriseRide for that very reason. We grew up in a family that scraped by month-to-month to make ends meet. We realized with time that the one thing that helped us overcome our limitations was our insatiable curiosity about the world. This isn’t something they teach in schools. This is a natural quality in kids that gets fostered at home. Sir Robinson perhaps summarized it best in his TED talk, “Curiosity is the engine of achievement.”


Our father, a full-time artist, made it easy for us to get absorbed in projects as tweens. His constant experimentation encouraged us to ask questions and think outside the box (pun intended…). A believer that beauty is all around us, he would constantly challenge himself. He made his own paint, built frames out of anything he could find, inserted electricity into his art for colorful lighting, mixed medias (from glass and plastic to metal and clay), and collected things like coins and stamps to add history to his art. Little did we know that not every kid gets the benefit of an art store, a wood shop, and a chemistry lab in their basement.


Overtime, we asked a lot of questions, had a lot of failed experiments, and created some beautiful things out of seemingly simple materials. Years later, during my MBA at Harvard, I fell in love with social entrepreneurship and did a lot of soul-searching about what I wanted to do with my life. As a former Wall Street banker who was tired of living and breathing a world of finance, I wanted to start a company that would add value in the world. Specifically, I wanted to inspire and impact the youth. The building blocks for SurpriseRide were born!


When my sister and I started to design the product, we interviewed hundreds of parents, aunts/uncles, grandparents, and other guardians. The feedback was crucial in helping us create a unique offering. We heard from moms who wanted their sons to get more exposure to subjects like art and music. We heard from dads who wanted their daughters to explore science and technology. We heard from aunts who struggle to find fun and enriching gifts for their nieces and nephews. And we heard from everyone that the element of surprise and spontaneity in today’s busy world had been missed. Oh, and we confirmed that kids love to get mail!


SurpriseRide became about more than hands-on activities in a box. With the help of experts, we design activities that spark an awareness of the world. For instance, our riders made friendship bracelets last month using color-changing ultraviolet beads and got to see first-hand the power of the sun. Our chocolate theme not only had kids make their own homemade treats but also taught them what makes a food organic. With SurpriseRide, families get to create lasting memories, parents give their kids a reason to put down the electronics, and kids get to explore something new about this fascinating world.


My sister and I spend a lot of time dreaming about where we’d like to take the SurpriseRide experience in the future. For now, we’re focused on delivering a memorable experience that our subscribers will think back to fondly for years to come. While we don’t know how our riders might someday answer the common “What do you do?” question, we hope that we will have perhaps played a small role in how the answer came to be.




Discount: Use code TechMamas10 to enjoy $10 off a SurpriseRide order.


Donna Khalife is founder of SurpriseRide (, a subscription service that fosters curiosity in kids through theme-based activity boxes. Donna deeply enjoys mentoring young people on achieving their dreams. As author of “The Best Book on Investment Banking Careers“, she is frequently invited to speak at top universities about choosing the right career path. Donna holds an MBA from Harvard, where she published a case study currently taught in classes on Social Entrepreneurship. Other passions include the performing arts, traveling, and cheese (yum!). Connect with Donna @surpriseride and @donnakhalife and


Guest Post: Tech For Modern Parenting By Donna Novitsky, CEO

Guest Post

 How did our parents raise their families without the luxuries of modern technology? From “old” technology like cell phones to booming new tech industries like eGifting, the experience of being a parent today is so much more convenient than the days of our childhood. It may have been a simpler time back then, but it sure is easier now thanks to the multiple tech options available for families. Here are my modern must-haves:


Digital Cameras
Long gone are the days of the stressful family photo session when the number of chances for a decent shot were limited. More often than not, the same image is now photographed dozens of times and weeded out later for the perfect shot. What’s more, most of us don’t even carry an actual camera around. More photos are taken every day with a smart phone than with an actual camera. No more expensive film development, the elimination of an actual camera (who needs more stuff to carry around?), and heaven forbid—no more waiting 60 seconds for the Polaroid to develop. While smart phone cameras are improving rapidly, I still like to use my digital camera for special events to ensure action shots or long video footage is taken at its very best.


Video Chat
Whether it’s a school performance or a lost tooth, relatives who live across the country can now be a part of our kids’ daily lives thanks to video chat options like Facetime or Skype. Your child calling grandma to tell her some big news is nothing compared to seeing her face- and letting her see her grandkids! Just a few seconds to connect, and grandma can see the missing tooth or watch a school performance from the audience.


Smart Phones
I was watching the film Kramer vs. Kramer recently and noticed the many commonalities that parents in 1979 and parents in 2013 experience alike- themes of heartbreak, joy, guilt, compassion, and utter parental confusion. One scene stuck with me in terms of how life is vastly different for us… Dustin Hoffman’s character was at the park with his young son when the boy fell and hurt his head. The dad immediately picked him up and started running down the street, panicked for his boy’s life, emotional music building throughout the long scene until they finally reached the hospital. For a quick second, I found myself silently asking this fictitious father why he wasn’t calling 911 on his cell phone. Our cell phones are taken for granted on a daily basis- especially if you’re fortunate to own a smart phone. More than a tool for emergencies like calling 911 from a park, it’s is a fast form of communication via text, games and apps for entertainment and information, a camera so you don’t miss a moment, a map so you don’t get lost, and so much more.


Digital Video Recorders (DVR)
In the attempt to limit our kids’ screen time, we realize the minutes they spend watching television are valuable. But who’s to say if they’re favorite show will be on at the moment you need it to be? DVR has allowed parents to not only monitor what our kids are watching, but when they are watching it and the best part of all… fast forward the commercials (because, seriously, how many times can a kid say, “I want that!” within a 30 minute cartoon?). Not to mention its benefits for us! Very few of us would be able to watch our favorite shows if we didn’t have them waiting for us to press play at our convenience.


Sometimes referred to as social gifting, it’s the new way to acknowledge life’s special moments- in two minutes or less! Moms are a thoughtful bunch, but we’re busy! We want to let our friends and family know we’re thinking of them, but too often the thought just passes due to lack of time.


The go-to solution for moms in the know is Yiftee. A Yiftee ( is a real gift, often $20 or less, sent by smart phone or the web to say Thank You, Happy Birthday, or Just Because. This gifting service is particularly unique in this industry since it’s not only convenient for busy moms, it also helps support local businesses. We created Yiftee because we love our local merchants and appreciate the key role they play in our community, so we wanted to bring profitable business to to help them thrive in an increasingly mobile and online shopping world. And we wanted to offer consumers, our friends and others like us, a way to “buy local” quickly and simply from their mobile phones. Frequently you want to do something a little nicer than a Facebook wall post or an email, and Yiftee is perfect for that! It’s the perfect way to celebrate a new mom, a sister’s promotion, a friend hitting her fitness goal—you name it!


Regardless of what inventions help your days run smoother, we can all agree that life as a mom is good. Modern technology just makes it a whole lot better.


Donna Novitsky is the CEO of Yiftee, the exciting new mobile app and Internet service that lets consumers send thoughtful, unexpected gifts (most under $20) among friends, family and colleagues quickly and easily via email, mobile and social media.











Guest Post: Life Hacks From Startup Co-Founder Vlada

Guest Post: If you are a parent and are thinking of starting a company, I have good news – you already have the world’s best entrepreneurial experience: you are running a family without any previous experience or a manual! Do you remember the endless questions you had when you (or your partner) were pregnant? Do you remember the anxiety you felt at your baby’s first doctor visit? Do you remember the pride you felt when your baby walked for the first time? Running a start up, in many ways, is very similar to running a family.  The hardest part is to figure out how to make time for both. The answer (unlike execution) is surprisingly simple, prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize.



Your first step was deciding to start a company, hopefully something that makes you leap out of bed every morning.  Your next step is to figure out your top few priorities, and deprioritize and potentially cut out almost everything else.



For example, one of my top priorities is to create a meaningful relationship between my kids and their family. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or the budget to plan many vacations.  My tricks for staying close to the family is to leverage technology.

  • I’m lucky that my car has Bluetooth so I make most of the calls on my way to dropping kids off at school. My daughters love being part of the conversation and my family adores hearing from them. I love that I get to feel close without it taking up additional time in the day. If your car doesn’t have Bluetooth, try putting your phone on speaker, it works surprisingly well.
  • In addition to regular calls, we use Joya ( to easily send videos of our kids to our closest family and friends.  Thanks to the power of video, our family can feel like they are there when my daughter is learning to ride a bike. Or when my little one is eagerly “eating” yogurt by spreading it all over her face J. My kids also LOVE getting videos from their cousins and friends.
  • I use kids’ art projects for packages to send to family. I typically have 1-2 hours every morning with my girls. During that time we will usually do some sort of creative project. I love for really simple art ideas.  On project days I ask the kids who they are creating it for. Then, when they are done, I put it in an envelope and send it off. My kids love thinking of various family members, putting the stamp on the envelope, and “writing” a special note (i.e. combination of letters and scribbles J). The best part is then getting a video back of the family opening up their special letter.



In my experience, running a company and a family require a deep commitment and attention to how I’m living my life, almost on a moment-by-moment basis.  To be clear, I don’t believe that living a balanced life is a goal. To me it’s about living a consciously unbalanced life, being careful that nothing gets dropped for too long. Much like when a baby is first born, when you first start a company, it needs extra care.  So, that means you have to find ways to simplify, cut or get help for other parts of your life, and then over time everything gets adjusted.



When I think back to when I was pregnant and talking to my Mommy friends, I felt so scared, so unsure of how I’ll manage being a working Mom. I was truly in awe of my friends who were doing it. And then I became a Mom and then I had my second kid. It was hard but life adjusted and now I can’t imagine it any other way. I think it’s same when making a decision to start a company. Yes, it is scary, and yes, it’s hard. And it’s also worth every precious minute.


Guest post by @vladab :


Vlada co-founded Joya (, a mobile app that makes it delightful and easy to share mobile videos. Previously, she co-founded and sold AdNectar, a VC-backed ad tech company.

Vlada majored in computer engineering and art at Northwestern University. She has 10+ years of professional experience as product manager, designer and entrepreneur, building mass-impact products including MSN Messenger and Hotmail.

Vlada is also a proud Mom of two little girls who are the inspiration behind Joya. They pushed Vlada to dream about making staying in touch with family feel magically effortless, and so Joya was born.

Connect with Vlada: @GetJoya and @vladab and Photo Credit: DharmaComics .




Guest Post: Emotional Intelligence – The Difference That Makes the Difference

**I have doing research on educational environments for my own kids and found out about Six Their about page explained “Through 15 years of global experience and extensive research, we’ve found that the scientifically-based skills of emotional intelligence (EQ) are essential for change.  These skills are learnable, and predict stronger effectiveness, influence, decision making, health, relationships, and quality of life.” Especially in the age of technology as a key form of communication, I believe that emotional intelligence is an important skill. Better yet, I would like to see that incorporated into more classroom environments. is  working for the “development of emotional intelligence, a powerful toolset to support people to create positive change — everywhere, all the time.” Joshua Freedman is part of their Global Office Team. I asked him to write a guest post about an exciting upcoming event this June: NexusEQ Conference.



Guest blog by Joshua Freedman



In June, change makers from 12 countries will meet on the campus of Harvard University for a remarkable conference about using emotional intelligence to spark positive change.  It’s the 7th NexusEQ Conference; “nexus” means intersection, and the program is about the intersection of science and practice – head, heart, and hands.



Conference participants are leaders, educators, consultants, coaches, and individuals who see that emotional intelligence is the “difference that makes the difference.” The program features 80 experts including top neuroscientists and emotions researchers, business leaders, education advocates, and authors all sharing success stories of emotional intelligence creating positive change.



 Why it Matters



Emotions are part of all our human interactions – think of the last team meeting that went awry… or a great plussing session where ideas were flying?  How about a recent “discussion” about you kid finishing homework before Minecraft?



Neuroscience now shows that emotions are embedded in ALL our thinking – even something as “pure geek” as debugging code will be influenced by emotion:  “Are you in the mood?”



Research on emotional intelligence (see below for the “101” definition) shows that feeling smarts create a host of benefits, such as:



  • Greater profitability.  For example, an emotional intelligence project at a Sheraton increased market share by 24%.
  • Better people leaders.  In a recent study, 78% of the variation in employee engagement was predicted by the level of the manager’s EQ (a score of emotional intelligence).
  • More collaboration.  Numerous studies have shown that the leaders mood affects how team members work together.
  • Increased sales.  In one study, EQ-trained salespeople earned
  • Career success.  Several studies have shown that people with higher emotional intelligence are more promotable and reach higher positions.
  • Better grades, less drugs.  And for those of us with kids, dozens of studies show that these skills increase achievement AND wellbeing.



Emotional Intelligence 101


The first scientific definition of “emotional intelligence” was published by Peter Salovey and Jack Mayer in 1990, where they proposed a simple, surprising idea:  Instead of considering emotion as blocking clear thinking, is it possible that, when properly developed, emotions can actually assist thinking?


We’ve all experienced how emotion gets in the way, but what if that’s simply a lack of skill?  It turns out that emotions are data, and we can develop the intelligence to use that data effectively – or not.  Emotions are present in ALL of us, and they affect us even when we pretend otherwise.  So as leaders, teachers, parents, and people, rather than letting emotions “just happen,” it’s in our best interest to learn to use them in a way that’s smart.



Salovey, who is now the incoming President of Yale University, will provide the opening to the NexusEQ Conference where he’ll share the evolution of this science over the last two decades.


Time for Change



The theme of the conference, “Spark Positive Change,” refers to growing urgency to create change in many sectors of society.  It’s a sad paradox that the conference is in Boston after recent events there.  Around the world, we’re facing intractable challenges in society, between peoples – not to mention economic meltdowns and environmental disasters.  We must, absolutely must, get better at creating change.



The conference is organized by a not-for-profit called Six Seconds – which is a world-wide organization researching, advocating for, and teaching emotional intelligence.  The network is led by offices in 10 countries, and last year we supported 60,000 people to practice the skills of emotional intelligence.



Our experience and research with emotional intelligence over the last 15 years is that it’s the missing link.  We have tons of smart, skilled people in the world.  Change isn’t derailed due to a lack of technical knowledge.  The challenge is people.  Connecting.  Collaborating.  Getting on the same page.  And that’s all about emotion.



Conference Delegations are forming in 12 countries so far.  Following the conference, the delegations are charged with a small task:  Teach 10,000 people the key skills and concepts from this conference.  Put it into action.



Next year, in March 2014, we’ll hold our third virtual emotional intelligence conference, and we’ll get to see the successes from delegations around the world.  Then in June 2014, we’ll go to the next step with 1000 meetings around the globe to fuel this movement for emotional intelligence.



Our vision is that 1 billion people PRACTICE the skills of emotional intelligence.  Whether you join us at the Harvard Medical School Conference Center or in one of the virtual programs, we hope you’ll be part of it.



DISCOUNT:  Early registration is available through May 11.  Here is a link to the registration page:   Above the big green “Order Now” button, click “Enter Promotional Code” and type in: EQNEWS



About the Author

Joshua Freedman is a change leader teaching the skills of emotional intelligence around the globe.  He is the Chief Operating Officer of Six Seconds, The Emotional Intelligence Network, and the Chair of the NexusEQ Conference.  His books include INSIDE CHANGE and At the Heart of Leadership, and he is coauthor of seven validated psychometric assessments measuring team and organizational climate, leadership, and emotional intelligence.