What started as a "We'll give it a try" a few years ago, has now become a must-do each year for my wife and me. It helps us keep on track toward our goals, opens up communication, and is one of the main reasons we were able to reach Financial Independence. This key to success is our Annual Couple's Goal Setting Retreat.
I first heard about the idea on a podcast episode with the co-founder of Keller Williams Realty and best selling author, Gary Keller. Gary hosts couples goal-setting retreats, or you can do what we did and download his free guide on his website to use as a template to do your own retreat.
Over the years we have modified, removed, and added to the guide Gary provides to make it more applicable to us and our situation. However, the general guidelines are still there. Here is how it works.
Step 1: Schedule the Retreat
Our retreat is typically 2-3 days long and away from our home. So plan a long weekend with your spouse, get it on your calendars, and book travel if needed. You can make the retreat as expensive or inexpensive as you want depending on your financial circumstances. It can be as simple as sending the kids to visit family while you two spend time at your home to do the retreat or booking a long weekend trip for just the two of you.
Step 2: Set Your Goals and Rules for the Retreat
Prior to the retreat, you need to meet with your spouse and set the goals/objectives of the retreat and the rules. Here is an example of the objective and rules we have used in our retreats:
Relaxing weekend without interruptions from work or family somewhere away from home where we can be 100% focused on each other and the life we want to create together
Set our annual, 5 Year and Someday Goals
Schedule all vacations and trips for the upcoming year
Create any follow-up action items
Enjoy each other's company at dinner (RELAX AND HAVE FUN EACH NIGHT!)
When going over the questionnaire: Pay attention! Are there questions or issues that especially matter to both of us? Are there obvious differences in the things that each of us sees as important? Talk through our answers.
This is a dreaming and brainstorming retreat. There is no such thing as a wrong answer.
Listen to each other. Don't make assumptions.
Must go on a hike every day!
Step 3: Fill Out the Paperwork Prior to the Retreat
Take the time to fill out all the paperwork before you go on the retreat. There are three things we complete prior to each retreat; (1) Net Worth Statement, (2) Monthly Budgets for the upcoming Year, and (3) Goal Setting Retreat Questionnaire.
The net worth statement lists all your assets and liabilities (what you own and what you owe) to calculate your net worth. The monthly budgets list all your cash inflow and outflows (every dollar coming in and every dollar going out). Our goal-setting questionnaire has changed over the years but still follows the guideline Keller sets out in his free pdf with covering "Thought-Provoking Questions" that cover the key areas of your life (spiritual, physical, personal, key relationships, financial, and job/business).
One thing that we have added over the years is to rate each question from 1 to 10 on how important it is to us with 1 being not important and 10 being extremely important. This has helped us understand what is important to each other and divide up different household tasks effectively.
Step 4: Go on the Retreat
Now that you have done all the necessary work prior to your retreat, it is time to do the retreat. Have fun, stick to your objectives and rules you set out for the retreat, and enjoy your time with your spouse. Keller outlines an example itinerary in his free pdf that you can use as a good starting point.
Step 5: Follow-Up Action Items and Do the Work
Once you return from your couple's goal-setting retreat the work begins. Take the time to follow up on any action items that you may have from your retreat. Then get started on working toward accomplishing your goals.
One last tip that has really helped us over the years...put a weekly spouse meeting on your calendar! For us to stay on track throughout the year, we schedule a weekly meeting every Sunday afternoon to go over the upcoming week's schedule, how we are progressing toward our goals, and to make adjustments for what is working and what isn't working.