Our family uses New Year as a time to look back at the year that was and look ahead to the year yet to be. A family is a collective of people who although they’re a unit, are doing their own individual life journey. For the family to operate at its maximum potential, each individual must strive to be the best version of themselves.
This year we went through a New Year, New You/Us Growth exercise to get them more comfortable with change. We reframed the dreaded change to a more accepted growth. We also helped them see change as inevitable, scary, vital, multi-faceted and constant.
Each of our three kids was paired with one of three adults for support and guidance: Dad & M2; Mom & M4; M1 & M3. The exercise follows a 5-step process aimed at aligning beliefs to actions in support of the goal/intention.
- Identity – Where are you currently?
- Intentions – Where do you want to go and why?
- Goals – How will you know you’ve arrived?
- Milestones – How will know you’re on the right track?
- Practices – What do you have to do consistently to get there?
Let’s use Navigation as a metaphor…
Building the framework
Facilitate the exercise by using the following framework:
- Fold an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in half landscape-wise
- On the left half, draw two intersecting lines to form quadrants
- At the top of each quadrant write START, STOP, INCREASE, DECREASE
- Fold the right edge of the sheet over into the middle (forms 2 quarters)
- At the top of the middle quarter, write INTENTIONS
- In the middle of the middle quarter, write GOALS
- At the top of the outer quarter, write MILESTONES
- In the middle of the outer quarter, write PRACTICES
New Year New You/Us
Your identity is your current location. These are your habits and their underlying beliefs. These are also your strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, mistakes. Feedback from teachers, bosses, colleagues, and loved ones.
Change is multi-faceted. In that change can be accomplished by Starting, Stopping, Increasing, Decreasing a behavior. It’s important to realize and emphasize that change can also come from starting something new that’s good for you or by increasing something that’s already serving you well.
Each person writes a few items on separate mini post-it notes for each quadrant. (e.g. stop biting fingernails; increase daily water intake; decrease the amount of screen time) In groups, review the content of your Change Quadrants.
Your intention is your destination city. Based on what you identified above, look for at least 3 things that you can either start/stop/increase/decrease. I recommend having at least 1 increase.
For some intentions are enough. But the power only comes when you align your identity, environment, and systems with your new intentions. If your intention is to lose weight – IDENTITY: start thinking like a thinner person. Would they eat this? Would they sit for this long? ENVIRONMENT: swap out the sweets in the pantry for fresh fruit on the counter. Place your running shoes and outfit on the foot of the bed so it reminds your first thing in the morning. SYSTEMS: Block out time in your calendar for meal prep and exercise.
Each person selects 3-4 of the most important mini post-it notes and moves them to the INTENTIONS column.
Your goal is the specific address you’re trying to reach. This is why goals must be specific and measurable and time-bound (not a huge fan of the “a” and “r” of SMART Goals) Losing weight, huh? How many lbs or what size and by when? Want to run a marathon, huh? What do you want your finish time to be and by when?
Goals are often confused with tasks. The purpose of a goal is to stretch you, hence the resulting growth. Goals should capture completion and quality. How well do you want to do the thing? It isn’t enough to lose weight. If it were 2 lbs would suffice.
If something merely needs to be completely, like apply to college, then it isn’t really a goal. It’s a task. However, gain acceptance into college for the Fall is a goal. An even stronger goal is to gain acceptance to one of my top 5 schools for the Fall. The stronger the metric the more quality work will be required.
Each person puts a dot or a “G” on at least two intentions. Then using the above model, writes goals for each of the highlighted intentions.
Your milestones are the key landmarks that you expect to see along your journey. These are also known as sub-goals. Sub-goals are an important way to maintain momentum and motivation. Once milestones are identified, the larger goal can take a back seat in place of constant focus on the short term goal. These sub-goals can be attacked in 90-day sprints. After which your course is assessed to ensure you’re still on track, then it’s back to the next sub-goal 90-day sprint.
Milestones are like the ladder rungs where the top is the goal. As in navigation, the size of the journey impacts the number of milestones you’ll see along the way. If you have trouble breaking your goal into 1-2 sub-goals, consider that your goal is likely a sub-goal. In that case, think bigger by stacking goals.
For each goal, write the milestones on a regular size post-it note.
Finally, your practices are the things you’re going to do in order to get to your destination. Not tasks per se. Practices never end. Rather practices should eventually become habits. If your intention is to get your anger under control, then a practice could be meditation to develop mindfulness.
Perform practices as part of a regular routine. Daily, 3-4x week or weekly depending on the goal. For instance, weight loss might require gym visits 3x a week, but it may also require drinking 32 oz of water first thing in the morning to get the system going.
Yes, practices bear a close resemblance to what’s commonly referred to as resolutions. However, practices imply a subtle shift in mindset away from the seemingly inherent perfectionism implied with resolutions. It’s okay if you miss a day at the gym. It’s a practice. After all, practice is not meant to be perfect. The cool part is that consistent achievement comes through consistent practice. This also removes the tendency to be perfect.
Each person identifies 1-2 thing(s) that if done consistently would get them to their goal. This is to be placed on 1 post-it note per goal.
Ok, ok, I know this wasn’t included above, but I think it’s too valuable to leave out.
Your strategies are what you plan to do to interrupt the trigger-routine-reward. For some, just saying that they will not drink sugary drinks is enough to change the way they believe, to change their identity such that the trigger is no longer a temptation. I call these folks Cold Turkeys. For the others, that change in belief comes through repeated action. I call these folks Jive Turkeys. (just playing). How about Room Temp Turkeys?
In this case, repeatedly standing up to that temptation. Eventually, if you stand up enough times, your subconscious gets the picture and that belief gets downloaded into your operating system. These strategies are your proactive defense strategy for dealing with the inevitable temptation. It’s your gameplan. Many resort to what amounts to playing a pickup game with their bad habits. Your habit is a seasoned pro and you can’t just roll the ball out there and hope to compete successfully.
Strategies are what you can do to make the bad habit harder to do or to make the alternative good habit easier to do. This might include placing your remote in a drawer so you have to actually get it to watch tv. This might mean leaving your guitar in the living room to remind you to practice. Or it could be going to bed in your running outfit with your sneakers at the foot of the bed.
Leaving a Legacy
Many say change is difficult. I disagree with that. Change is easy. It’s the process of deciding to and/or adapting to change that’s difficult. If more parents and schools equipped children with tools and techniques such as those described above it could change the world. People might not fear it or squirm at the mention of it. It’s my hope that my kids will realize that with these skills and faith in God there’s almost nothing they can’t do.