The beginning of a new year is a time when many people set resolutions and intentions to make the year better or different. Lofty goals are set and seldom achieved, because of a lack of understanding of HOW to set the intention.
When setting an intention to do something differently, you must be specific and set goals that are measurable and attainable in order to be successful. The more specific you are, the better! Resolving to do something differently is basically saying that you will no longer resort to a habitual way of approaching life and will use a whole new set of behaviors instead. This is much like starting a new exercise routine – you’ll be excited at first, and then the resistance will start, especially as your muscles ache and you experience pain as you develop your strength in a new area. And you are likely to return to old habits if you don’t have a personal trainer to report to, or if you do not have clear, measurable, and defined goals to achieve – so that you see ongoing results!
Here’s how to set goals that will be successfully achieved – be clear, be specific, and have a way to assess on a daily or weekly basis your progress. And for those who need extra support, having an “intentions buddy” or a life coach can make a world of difference!
Many families I work with express a desire for better communication. This is a general goal. Together we explore ways for them to get very specific. I ask them questions to help them define what they really want — questions like: What would better communication look like? How would you know that your family is communicating at the level you want? What would be different? How would life in your family change?
Once these questions are answered, then the family comes up with specific, measurable ways to determine their “communication progress” on a regular basis. One family determined that they needed a daily ritual to encourage communication. They started playing a game after dinner where they spend time sharing their wins and challenges for the day. Another family came up with a weekly family event where they passed an ice-cream maker around a circle and whoever was cranking was the one who shared about their week and about how they were doing in general.
In both of these families, they set up a routine, a structure, and a way to determine if the goal was being achieved. If a family member wasn’t showing up for the designated family times, then the other family members knew that they needed to check in with that person and find out what was going on for them – communicating more individually.
Another common complaint I hear from couples in blended families is that they get little to no time to themselves. These couples might set a general goal of “We’re going to spend more time together alone this year”. As their coach, I explore with them how to make their goal clear and specific so that they will actually follow through. Some couples decide to arrange for a weekend away once a month. Others have a date night every Friday night with a regular sitter scheduled months in advance – so it is a given.
And, again, if the date night doesn’t happen, the couple gets to immediately check in and look at their level of commitment to the intention that they set. They explore what’s not working about their original plan and how to adapt it to new circumstances so that their intention of regular, private time together is achieved.
Action Step: Explore with your partner, or even your whole family if the kids are old enough, what you’d like to be different this year as a family. Ask each other curious questions to get a clear picture of what those changes would look like and how your life would be different as a result. Once you are on the same page about what you want for your family, take some time to write down clear, specific goals that are measurable and achievable, and that can be scheduled into your daily or weekly routine. Speak and write your goals in the present tense, as if they are already happening. I recommend posting your goals for the new year in a visible place in the home, for everyone to see and remember.