By Michelle Ramsey
Each year, we set forth in the holidays with a mindset that by the end we are determined to change. We’re going to eat anything we want during the holidays because…it’s the holidays! We’re going to change our diets and eat healthy afterwards. We’re going to be more committed to worship service and giving our time, talent, and treasures at church. We’re going to save money and do good deeds for those in need. We’re going to spend more time with our family and loved ones. We’re even going to stop complaining and be more grateful.
Have you ever declared any of those? The New Year’s Resolutions. We are always determined to commit to something going into the New Year, and most of us are doing well if by the end of January we have kept our resolve. More often than not, that mindset does not remain by the end of the first week; perhaps some of us can make it to the second week.
There’s an old saying that if you can commit to doing something for thirty days then it becomes a habit. As you approach the New Year, I caution you to consider strongly the commitments and resolutions you declare.
First, opt to create goals for your family and not just yourself. Thinking about goals that you all can attain together as a family will cause multiple people to have to have buy-in on those goals. It also allows you to be held accountable to keeping those goals by more persons than just yourself.
Sitting down as a family, think over the things that you all need to improve upon. Consider the things you do well, and the things that you desire to do better. Discuss those flat spots in the family that need to be rounded out, and think about how, as a team, you all can accomplish a particular goal.
Perhaps, as a family you want to do a better job at maintaining your yard this year. Or maybe you want to eat healthier, and lose weight together as a family. It may be that you want to spend more time together as a family, appreciating one another. Whatever that one goal is that you have as a family, discuss your feelings about it.
Next, you will want to weigh the pros and cons of your goal and how everyone feels about reaching that particular goal. Are there any hindrances that will prevent you from attaining it? Do you foresee challenges arising that you need to prepare for now? How do you plan to tackle those challenges, and which family member will be best suited for tackling a particular challenge?
Think of your resolutions in business terms using the S.M.A.R.T. approach. Just as in a business setting when we select goals or work on a project, we are encouraged to use the S.M.A.R.T. process to create those goals and use them in our personal life. Set aside a family meeting time to discuss the process and work through any kinks in your plan. Make sure that you have more than enough time to discuss, debate, and firm out your plan.
Ensure that your goals are specific. That’s the S acronym in the approach. You want to ensure clarity when designing your plan, and make sure no one is confused about what you are attempting to accomplish. If that occurs, it is easy for the plan to get derailed and members of your family to become discouraged. For instance, don’t just set a goal of losing weight together as a family. Maybe, each family member has a set goal of losing ten pounds each, or maybe there are varying degrees of weight each member needs to lose. Set those amounts in the plan. Also, make sure that your plan is written down for everyone to refer back to when needed. (“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2)
You need to be able to measure the goals that you are setting. You want to ensure that these goals are meaningful to your family and motivating enough to keep them involved in the plan. How long will the plan be in place for your family to accomplish the goal? Will the program take place over a six-month period of time, one year, five years? These decisions need to be set in place at the onset so that everyone knows what is expected of them and they can participate willingly.
You do not want to create a goal that is not within reach of some of the family members. Achievable – the A acronym – is what your goals need to be. The program should be able to stretch each member in terms of growth, and pushing everyone to a certain limit; however, it should not be so large that reaching it is unrealistic. For instance, taking the weight loss resolution into consideration, you don’t want to expect your teenager to lose thirty pounds in one month. Not only is that unrealistic, it is not healthy.
Keep the goals set within a limit that everyone can reach them, but they must exert effort and discipline to attain it. After all, that is the point of the resolution to grow you as a family. Alternatively, do not set goals that are so easy to attain there is no point in setting them. You don’t want goals that fail to grow you as a family and as individuals.
Consider your goals and make sure they make sense to the entire family and not just you. Relevant – the R acronym – enables you to ponder the question: “Is this the right time for this family to pursue this goal? Is it applicable to our beliefs as a family and is it worthwhile for us to pursue?” You may want to learn to ski, but is it the right time to take lessons as a family when your spouse has just taken on a new position, which will require lots of travel and time away from the family, and your children are enrolled in several extracurricular activities that take up all of their time?
The final acronym of T- is time-bound. You want to have a target date of completion for the goals. Do not allow them to continue on with no end in sight, or recognition of accomplishing tasks along the way. Everyone will lose focus and motivation if they feel as if there are no accomplishments or rewards. Consider the dieting scenario. If one member of the family needs to lose twenty pounds, at what point will they check their weight along the way to determine if they are on the proper path? Set deadlines for accomplishing certain tasks. Perhaps they want to lose five pounds within the next three weeks. Implement check points along the way to hold them accountable.
Setting resolutions as a family will keep you committed to the plan, connected to one another, and accountable to accomplishing the results you want. When there are multiple members involved, each person can take turns motivating someone else. Maybe the head of the family is feeling a bit down and not seeing the progress of the plan. When your child comes to you and specifies the changes he sees in the family because of the plan, it inspires you deep within. Even if you cannot see the change right away, just knowing your child or someone else in the family sees the potential, and the growth is a motivating factor.
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