It’s that time of year!
At the end of the year, once the Christmas presents have been unwrapped, visitors are saying their goodbyes, and we all are beginning to breathe a sigh of relief after all the baking, cooking, and cleaning has been accomplished, we start thinking of the new year. While we certainly don’t have to wait until the new year to make positive changes, the arrival of a new year does tend to encourage reflection.What do we want to accomplish? How has this year been great or bad, and how do we want our next year to be different?
For our family, and many others, this manifests as a list of resolutions. But the myriad of things to want to improve can be, at times, dizzying. After all, aren’t we all a major work in progress? So here, I’ve provided some useful tips and resolution suggestions to peruse while thinking about what you
might like to work on the most this coming year.
Ten Tips for Good New Year Resolutions:
- Keep goals specific. Goals like “lose weight,” or “pray more” are good ideas, but they give far too much room to either expect far too much of ourselves, or too little. Choosing a specific number of pounds you want to lose, or how often you would like to pray will help you to stick to a goal and measure your success. So, if you want to lose 20 pounds, commit to a 0.5-1lb target weight loss per week, with a goal of maintaining that within a 5 lb margin for the remainder of the year after you hit your goal. If you desire to pray more often, add 1 prayer per day to say extra, and determine whether that will be a spontaneous and meditative prayer, or a formed prayer such as a Hail Mary, the rosary, or a saint’s intercessory prayer on the back of a holy card.
- Keep it reasonable. Goals are meant to improve yourself, not radically change who you are. Praying more is a great goal, but not if your idea of that is becoming a cloistered lay nun while having to also go through the carpool lane, soccer games, and have 6 kids under 7. Digesting changes in small bites makes it easier for them to stick around as permanent life choices.
- Push yourself. The flip side of keeping it reasonable is to still make sure that your goals actually push you. Don’t commit to eliminating your indulgence in gossip if that isn’t really a problem for you. If you have kept the same weight for 5 years, then maintaining your weight is not a good goal. Goals are meant to push you to essentially purify you over time. We all have areas where we falter and could do better (either for care of ourselves, our world, our spouse, or our kids). Make sure your goals will actually get you moving in a good direction and not remain stagnant.
- Remember the categories of wellness. A great set of goals incorporates not just one area of your life, but multiple. Wellness is defined not simply by physical health, but by mental, spiritual, emotional and social health. To be a healthy person, we must take care of our bodies, take care of our hearts and minds, and nurture our relationships with God, our families, our friends, and our communities. Having a set of goals that touches on each of these areas will help you to address your personal development in every aspect.
- Have some that don’t take the whole year to accomplish. Many of us like to check boxes on a task list. Work with this. It can be wearisome to have many goals that can’t have success measured at the end of the year. Finishing a craft project you started last year, creating a budget, or other similar one-time or short-term tasks can help you feel like you accomplished something significant while also making progress on your other goals. Another idea would be to have rotating goals on a monthly basis to encourage successes while working on problem areas. For instance, you could say that you might plan to not eat out at all in January, purchase nothing that isn’t on your list in February, and plan your groceries around your stockpile of canned or frozen foods to reduce your grocery budget in March.
- Create a plan for completing bigger goals. If you want to lose weight, how will you do it? You know the saying: Failing to plan is planning to fail. A plan usually involves breaking these bigger tasks down. Thus, if you want to create a budget and stick to it, it is helpful to create your budget one month, implement it the next, and reevaluate and tweak it the following.
- Consider sharing your resolutions for accountability. Harder goals sometimes require more help. Joining a budgeting group on Facebook, gathering a group of friends to commit to saying novenas at the same time, or joining a weight loss/fitness website with community forums can be very helpful in pushing you to complete your goals. Let your spouse know of your goals, too!
- Pick 1 or more goals to work on as a family and as a couple. Not all goals need to be personal development. Couples could choose to read a book together or pray more together. Families could commit to more family nights or to having dinner together nightly. Goals can bring couples and families together as everyone works towards the same goal.
- Include something that will grow your relationships. By the same token, you can work to improve your relationships without the other folks committing to the same goal. Some spouses choose to do the Love Dare, pray extra for their spouse, offer up sufferings for their children, or take their kids out individually for extra special one-on-one time.
- Be okay with life changes making some goals difficult or impossible. Life is fluid and changing. You may want to lose 50 pounds, but find out in March that you are pregnant, and therefore that goal is out the window. Or a family member may become gravely ill and require continuous care that means you can’t get to the daily Mass you had set as a goal of attending. Things happen. Remember what is important: family and faith. If a personal goal needs to take a backseat to more important things in life, then trust that God is simply providing a different tool for personal growth than what you had previously planned for yourself.
20 Suggestions for New Year Resolutions:
- Switch late night carb snacks to carrot sticks or other snack vegetables (this change can be huge for your waistline!)
- Pray 1 extra prayer per day.
- Get to confession once per month.
- Read 5 extra books (or chapters with larger books) per month to each child.
- Hug your spouse every day they are home at least once.
- Commit to 1 date night per month with no “shop talk,” but rather simply enjoy each other’s company
- Reduce eating out to 1 time per month.
- Pray a family rosary once per day/week.
- Take one child per month out on a “mom and me” lunch date for great quality one-on-one kid time.
- Read 1 novel you haven’t read before.
- Read an encyclical by a Pope with your spouse.
- Take a Coursera course (free courses online) to learn about something new.
- Finish all those incomplete craft projects, and don’t buy supplies for a new craft project until the old ones are complete.
- Put $10 extra in your 401(k) every month.
- Cut grocery spending by $20 every trip.
- Create a detailed budget. (Mint.com has some great free online tools for this)
- Take your kids to a soup kitchen once per month to serve the poor (or an alternate service activity).
- Exercise 3 times per week for 30-60 minutes.
- Play a game as a family once per week.
- Focus on elimination of one particular recurrent sin. (Pick an easier one to eliminate that is a problem for you, and put a checkmark on the calendar each day you avoid that sin. Don’t expect perfection, but enjoy your progress.)
I hope these tips and suggestions help to inspire you to tailor a list that will lead you to a successful and wonderful 2016, full of God’s grace and blessings. We can all strive to improve ourselves to glorify God and uplift ourselves, our families, and our communities. May God bless you this coming new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!