New Year… New You! Function as a Family

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

While I am not a fan of all the hype and stress of the holiday season, I do enjoy ringing in a New Year.  There is something about putting a year behind you – warts and all, and focusing your attention forward.  It has been said that only 3% of people write down their goals, but of those that do, 97% of them are achieved.  Those are pretty good odds.  Could success be that simple?  Perhaps, provided of course the goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive) in the first place.

I have always been a writer, more so as I have gotten older.  I started writing very clear and measurable goals in my twenties and balance these between what I call my “pillars of priority” being my family, career, health, personal growth, and finances.  Being a competitive person (mainly with myself) I have always set what I feel are lofty goals, then work to achieve them sooner than expected.  At 30 I decided that I wanted a Black Belt in Karate by 35.  I passed my Black Belt exam at 34.  At 35 I decided that I wanted to obtain a MBA from Wilfrid Laurier by 40.  I graduated at 38.  Last year my goals centered around “simplifying” the chaos that my life seemed to be evolving into, and this year they are going to be about “boundaries” and setting better limits on how I spend my time.

But in my biggest life role as “mom” I decided this year to try a family goal setting exercise.  We had a blast doing this and I am excited to see how this will play out in 2015.  Here is my recipe:

1.       Purchase some colored paper – a different color for every member of the family.

2.       Cut the colored paper into strips that are a few inches wide.  Cut around 7-10 of them.  Give one set of colored and cut strips to each person.

3.       On each strip, the person writes one goal.  Encourage different goal categories.  My girls chose “school, home, pets, health / sports, attitude, and family”.

4.       After they are done writing 5-10 of their own goals, give them one sheet of cut paper for each person in the family (in the color of that family member).  On this they are to write a goal they would like to see the other person achieve this year.  They have to sign it “love” and their name.

5.       When all the goals are written, each person takes turns reading the goals they set for themselves, and then the others read the goal they wrote for them.

6.       Have a conversation about the goals and display these in a common area to serve as daily reminders of the commitments you made to yourself and each other.

7.       Review these monthly and find a way to celebrate the goals that are achieved, adding to the list throughout the year.

The amazing thing about an exercise like this is that it not only shows the level of insight your children have about their own self and behavior, but also gives you an indication of how they feel about each other and the family as a unit.  In fact, the goals my girls wrote for me were very similar to the goals I had for myself.  Further, some of the themes that emerged highlighted that we are all seeking the same things here at home – togetherness, cooperation, responsibility, and love.  How comforting to know we are all striving to achieve the same things – that will help us work together even better!

By committing to these as a unit, and having these on display, we can work together to achieve what we want, using our family unit for strength to get us there.  After all, family can be the best mentors as they have a very vested interest in your outcome.  And in the end, goals achieved this year or not, I believe it is important to show my girls how they can approach goal setting, and the New Year with strategies they can continue to implement as they grow and develop.

Try this, or something like it,  and see if it works for your family too!


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