So what’s your new year’s resolution? I'd love to hear! Are you planning to lose weight and get fit/healthy, lose bad habits, get your finances in order, learn something new, get organized, or my two favorites—enjoy life more and spend more time with family and friends? Better yet, what is your plan for keeping those resolutions? Resolutions are a favorite topic of January news and social media…as are the articles exclaiming that you are doomed to fail in your resolutions by February. Don’t you dare listen to those naysayers!
Creating goals--and revisiting them throughout the year--is healthy for you and for your family. Making resolutions (i.e. goals) helps us create direction in our lives, define what we want to accomplish, reflect upon our own purpose in life and create meaning for ourselves. Instead of being a bystander going through daily motions, when we create goals, we become active participants in our own lives. Says Sarah Ban Breathnach from her book, Simple Abundance, “The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” Going through the process of creating resolutions and action plans is a way to “do” your “dream”-- and it’s a valuable life skill to teach your family. To create goals that you and your family members can reach, try the following tips:
1) Creating a goal requires some reflection: What do I want to do? What do I want to be? What do I want my life to be like? Who do I want to become? For
younger kids, you may want to ask them questions such as: what do I want to learn more about, what do I want to try that I’ve never tried before, what do I
want to work on to be better at doing? Some people use the “Health Triangle” model to guide goal-creation. This model holds that there are three basic areas of human health—physical, mental, and social. Are there areas in your health triangle that you’d like to focus on to be a more healthy individual? One point that I first became confused on when creating goals was the idea of chores being a goal. Chores that help keep the family moving along, such as setting the table, etc. are not life-guiding goals; they’re chores.
2) Most experts advise focusing on only one or two main goals at a time. For your family, each member could choose an individual goal and then you could all decide on a family goal. Too many goals at one time can get confusing and stressful rather than helpful.
3) Make your goal flexible. This is the part of resolution-making that can find a person dropping a resolution faster than a hot potato. Make your goal flexible enough that you can definitely reach it and that you can change it as you go along in your journey towards it. A few years ago, a great friend and I decided that we would encourage one another to exercise an hour each morning, as many days as we could. For busy moms, whether at home or working, sticking to any one consistent, daily task can be daunting. I remember one particularly difficult time period when it seemed like everyone was catching the flu and it was difficult for the two of us to ever get together to exercise, but we kept contacting one another and waiting it out, sometimes doing some exercise on our own at odd times, knowing that eventually we’d be able to meet up again. When we did meet up again, I remember saying to my friend how frustrating it is to try to do anything consistently each day. She said to me, “Yes, but think of how we would be if we didn’t even try, if we didn’t keep our goal in sight, even when things happen.” She was absolutely right. If it weren’t for our acceptance of the unpredictability of life and the mentality that our goal is still there waiting for us each new day, despite life’s interruptions, we would never have run our first mile or completed our first 5K. I never would have then chosen to start eating healthier as part of my goal.
Perhaps (and you need to tailor this to your own needs and your own family’s needs) you might start by trying to do something towards your individual goal three times a week for 30 minutes at a time. Or if your goal is for your family to enjoy more activities together, you might want to start with one or two activities a month. Start with an amount that you feel you could definitely accomplish. From there, you may want to challenge yourself and add in another day or a little bit more time whenever you work on your goal. You may find that as you move along, you need to adjust the goal a bit. Maybe you decide that you’d like to change your goal from standing up and giving a speech to a group of people to trying out for drama club. Allow for flexibility in achieving your goals.
4) Create an action plan. Think of each tiny step to take along the way towards your goal or your family’s goal. Write them down. Think of these as “sub-goals”. Each of these “sub-goals” are your steps towards your overall-reaching main goal. In your action plan, you need to focus on reaching each “sub-goal” along the way. Again, these should be flexible and should be able to be changed if needed.
5) Assess your goal-achieving resolution at regular time periods. For example, you may want to create a weekly chart (see the Star Chart examples) or even add a box to your own “Chore Chart” for “Working on Sub-Goal” or if it’s more of a tough thing to even get through the day doing, i.e. “staying away from high sugar sweets” (or for a child—“trying to sit on the potty once a day”). Put a star in the box for each time you work towards your sub-goal. If you are doing a family goal, have a chart for when you all work towards that family goal. Again, to make this successful, remember to make the amount of time flexible for each week, i.e. not every day of the week or, on a daily chart, not every time each day. When you assess how you did, decide if this is working for you or if you need to change it to help you be more successful the next day/week.
6) Decide if you want to add a reward. Yes, I said it. I know it’s controversial and it’s certainly something that is very personal and individual to each family. It’s your decision. If you achieve a particular sub-goal, maybe you can have a tiny reward. Maybe if you do reach a set of sub-goals, you could give yourself a reward, then. It works for some people; some people feel reaching the goal IS the reward. Making a goal successful means tailoring it to your own beliefs and needs.
Yes, kiss those naysayers good-bye and make some New Year’s resolutions. It’s healthy and it’s a life skill that will teach your own family how to work towards, and reach, a goal. So come on….what do you want to do with your life? (Resist the urge to call out “I Wanna Rock” from Twisted Sister….okay, unless you really do wanna rock....maybe I’m aging myself here…). You really can do it!