Annual Restart: New Year’s Resolution 2016

Do you have a New Year’s resolution?

I don’t recall making a New Year’s resolution until I was probably a teenager. It seemed rather bogus to me at the time — I have to resolve to do something better? Sounds like I’m not trying hard enough in all aspects of my life, not a good feeling — and being forced to remember that at the beginning of each year, even worse. Instead of being excited for the New Year, I started to dread it. Great, it’s a new year, now I get to remind myself how much weight I should lose, how much more productive I should be, or how much I need to change about who I am. It’s already a blue time coming off the holidays, do we really need to add to it?

Thankfully, I came to my senses in my 30s and realized New Year’s doesn’t have to be about beating myself up in hopes of reaching perfection. Instead it’s an opportunity for me to figure out where I am in life, what I still want to get out of it (for me and my family), and what I think will be most helpful to make that happen.

I don’t think of them as resolutions, but as annual restarts. Just like I let my kids starting everyday anew (which is really helpful, particularly when one of them has a tough day), I look at the New Year as an opportunity to start with a clean slate. With that said, here are some of my restart challenges I give myself:

  • Try one (or more) of the following during the upcoming year: a new approach, conquer a fear, explore a new job field, try something new, make a new friend, see a new place.
  • Remind yourself periodically to be easy on yourself, you’re probably doing better than you think
  • Be more present, this life is short (even if you’re fortunate enough to live a long and healthy one). Always be asking yourself, what do you want to still do that you haven’t yet?

Lists like this make me excited and motivated. I’m not shamed, but inspired.

How do you want to restart the New Year?

New Day, New Year

I was recently catching up with a friend who was sharing some of the challenges her family faced  throughout 2013 including illness and death of several loved ones. She shared, “I can’t wait to have this year behind me,” and with the year she had, I can understand her sentiment.

Talking to my friend reminding me of conversations I have with my children, about starting anew each day and the possibilities that it brings. On days where my boys experience being upset about something and seem unable to control how their emotions manifest: crying, tantrum-ing, fist throwing, kicking, etc., I talk to my children about alternate ways they can express their feelings: ways that will allow them to feel the emotion and work through it, without having to deal with negative consequences (e.g. losing a privilege). It’s not easy–sometimes for them, sometimes for me, sometimes for us both. I continue that while they may lose a privilege that particular day (to help reinforce their need to embrace other ways of handling themselves) that get to start fresh the next day. I do this because it helps my kids understand their are immediate consequences for their actions, and that the punishment won’t drag on indefinitely. There are times when a behavior warrants a multiple day punishment, which we sometimes implement, but my husband and I most often offer ways for our children to earn their privilege back sooner, particularly if our child can demonstrate they are making progress towards mastering a desired behavior.

As we go into the 2014, there is an opportunity for each of us to start anew: in our relationships, in our interactions, and in our responses.

How do you help your children work through their emotions? How do you help them start anew?

How to Avoid the January Blues and the Resolution Cliff

Each New Year I start off in a blue kind-of-state.  The holidays are over, the decorations are down, and the magic of the season is quickly fading away. Top that off with the expectation that each of us are to come up with a resolution to keep during the New Year makes it all the more depressing.

The end of 2012 brought a lot of talk, stress and anxiety around the fiscal cliff and the importance of avoiding it. I offer up that we need to do the same with resolutions. Resolutions tend to involve a lot of talk, which can create stress and discomfort around changes desired in our own lives. Guilt is often the motivating factor. Add that to a difficult task (e.g. get a new job, lose 20 pounds in a month, give up sweets, etc.), and then beat yourself up, or throwing yourself over the “resolution cliff”, when you fail or are derailed early on, is something we should all be trying to avoid.

The New Year is a good time to reflect and think about what’s working in our lives and what isn’t, but I’d suggest we should be reflecting throughout the year, not just at the beginning. Resolutions that require change—job, weight, living situation, relationship, etc.—can be very stressful. Any change can be. Adding new stress to your life when you just got over all the stress that comes with the holidays doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Instead of resolutions, my husband and I decided to talk about our hopes for the New Year, hopes for our children, hopes for our family, hopes for us as a couple, and hopes for ourselves.  These hopes will require action on our part to make happen, but because we want them to happen, we’re motivated.  Not out of guilt, but desire.

And that’s a much better place to start any New Year.

What are your hopes for 2013?

Hallelujah!

Are you taking time off during the holidays this year?  If so, how are you planning to relax? Really relax where you aren’t on a schedule, aren’t in charge of something or someone and are able to not have a care in the world about what happened next or when? For me, it’s been seven years since I took a vacation like this, before I had my children.

Vacation is defined as:

  1. A respite or a time of respite from something: intermission
  2. A scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended <a period of exemption from work granted to an employee>
  3. A period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation <had a restful vacation at the beach>
  4. An act or an instance of vacating

I grew up in a family where vacation meant taking a road trip. Our vacations were educational with a lot of adventure and exploration. We would drive from point A to point B, sometimes going eight + hours at a time, sightseeing the next day or two, then get back in the car and drive to the next endpoint and repeat. I learned a lot of these vacations about our country gaining an appreciation for its history, the geography and false advertising. My sisters and I once convinced our parents that we had to stay at a themed hotel that was advertised for hundreds of miles away only to be disappointed when the hotel didn’t quite live up to what we thought it would be – darn billboards!

What I didn’t learn on these vacations was how to relax. I cannot recall a single vacation where we were just laid by the pool or the beach. I cannot recall a single vacation that wasn’t meticulously mapped out or timed. I cannot recall ever feeling bored on vacation.  Basically I don’t have a lot of practice relaxing.

My parents were teachers taking every opportunity to teach us at home and on the road. I really appreciate what they did for my sisters and I, and want to make sure I make the most of every opportunity I have to teach my children through experience too. I also realize that I want to teach my children how to relax and re-energize. I want my boys to know the difference between going to a new place and relaxing (e.g., just because you do one, doesn’t mean you are necessarily doing the other). But first, I have to learn to really relax when I take a vacation myself.

I blogged earlier this year about “Where Did My Vacation Go?” and committed to not repeat that again this year. I’m taking time away from all work, including blogging, through the end of the year. I currently don’t have any to-do list I need to complete while I’m on break. Hallelujah! I want to see what that looks and feels like, and see if I can really relax and re-charge.  I need the experience. I owe it to myself, and more importantly to my kids if I plan to teach them how to do it.

If you have vacation coming up, how do you plan to relax and recharge?

I wish each of you the happiest of holidays and look forward to picking up our conversation in the New Year.