For long as I can remember I've associated New Years with making resolutions. You know, all sorts of lofty ideas about things that would change dramatically on the first of the year and somehow last for 364 days thereafter. Honestly, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me because January first is really just another day, and January second is even more ordinary. Vowing to make dramatic changes or give things up isn't magically easier on New Years. Plus, you set yourself up for failure if your resolutions are broken early on. When this happens it can lead to self-judgement, which definitely does not help anyone achieve goals.
So, is there a better way to channel the spirit of new beginnings and get your family off to a great start in the New Year? Absolutely!
Ditch your resolutions and set intentions instead.
This may sound like a game of semantics, but when you and your family step away from rigid, all-or-nothing resolutions and focus on things you intend to do or work towards in 2017, the impact is powerful. Resolutions are absolute (think, I'm going to exercise five times a week or I'm giving up ice cream). Intentions are clear, but less rigid (think, I want to live a more active lifestyle or I'll try to make healthier food choices as often as possible).
Resolutions are about doing things, no matter what, and once you've done that specific thing you're successful. On the flip side, if you don't do that specific thing, you're not successful. The focus is on the outcome and that sounds harsh. Intentions, on the other hand, start from where you are right now without judgement. It's not that staying the same is failure or lack of success, but that moving toward something new is worth your effort and energy. When you set intentions the focus is on the process, on how you work toward what you desire (whether or not you officially get there!). This creates a sense of commitment and dedication to intentions that will help you and your kids persevere even when it's tough (because sometimes it will be).
How do you make this happen? Here's how we do it at my house. On New Year's Day (after everyone is somewhat rested and well fed), we sit down and everyone makes a list of five intentions for the new year. When my kids were younger they would draw or write what they could and we would fill in as needed. We don't tell each other what to write (no matter how temping it is to suggest that my kids intend to keep their rooms clean or actually get in the shower when they say they're getting in the shower). And when we're done, we share our intentions. They go in an envelope and we read them again periodically throughout the year (if we were super organized, they may even be posted somewhere visible in the house).
That's our system, and what I see happen is pretty fantastic. My kids set intentions and then work toward bringing them to life. They intend to do things, see things, and achieve things and because there's no pressure to do it exactly right or every single second, having intentions becomes fun and empowering.
As a parent, that's the best part. I want my kids to know that they can decide to works toward things at any time (not just at New Years), and I don't want them to approach a brand new January with dread and self-judgement having to resolve to be different in order to be successful or worthy. And, the entire process works much better for me too!
So, try this new way of ringing in the new year and see what your kids come up with. They may surprise you when they share their intentions and you may surprise yourself when you chart out those five things that truly deserve your time, effort, and energy in 2017.
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