A new approach to goal setting is a healthy way to ring in the New Year.
As the year comes to an end and we’ve all eaten too many holiday treats, it’s easy to give a big sigh and make some halfhearted proclamations. However, there is a deeper reason to set some intentions for the upcoming year, a pact we can agree to so that we make positive shifts.
This is actually an opportunity for all of us to put our best foot forward and to revamp some of our habits, setting a great example for our kids. Below are some of the benefits that New Year’s resolutions present to our children.
- Make it a family ritual. If every year, you sit down as a family and state your successes and how you would like to improve in the coming year, you allow everyone to set their effort along a continuum. In other words, we can help our children see beyond their daily experience and see their own big picture.
- Setting reasonable expectations. Often we set ourselves up for failure when it comes to our goals, in part, because those goals were not aligned closely enough with our present lives. Claiming that you are going to work out five days a week when you don’t have the time to work out once is a good way to disappoint yourself. Being realistic and implementing small, workable solutions is a kinder approach with a higher chance of success.
- Take stock in what you already do right. Before making some sweeping promises, take a good look at what you already have done that you can build on. We are so caught up in our culture with achieving, that we often miss the real gold right in our daily experience: our moments with our families, the joy of putting our skills to use, the essence of our daily experience. Taking a moment as a family to look at the good and how we can add in more is a positive step.
- Age-appropriate goals. Another consideration in putting our best foot forward is making goals doable for our children’s age groups. Pediatricians recommend that pre-school kids work on things like brushing teeth, working on the alphabet, or feeding family pets. The emphasis for ages 5-12 can be more personal like sharing, helping, or improving study habits.1
- Progess, not product. Psychologists have conducted studies on “mindset” that indicate both kids and adults actually perform better on any given task if they are encouraged to improve, rather than prove their inherent skills. To put it another way, the human mind is more elastic when it adapts a growth mentality, rather than a “win” mentality2. So one of the best things we can do is point out our children’s headway, rather than their accomplishments. Applying this to resolutions, fostering development at the things that they already love to do, is a really a practical and actionable way to self-discipline.
To sum up, we can use the New Year to flog ourselves for not delivering on our overblown promises, or we can use it as a genuine motivator to further our goals. The distinction is subtle, but important, and it makes huge difference for our kids in demonstrating genuine effort. Take these last days of 2015 to count your blessings, acknowledge your milestones, and move your personal projects ahead together as a family.