About 10 years ago, my mom watched our child (we only had one then) and gave us a night off. It was New Year’s Eve and rather than hitting up a downtown celebration or a bar, we found ourselves in a quiet bed and breakfast up in the mountains. We had a few glasses of wine by candlelight with the owners and some other guests. Snow was covering the mountain landscape like a thick blanket. There was a fire roaring in the fireplace. It was an amazingly quiet night. And out of that quiet grew a new kind of New Year’s tradition that we have kept up most years since.
Every New Year’s, we come together as a family and reflect on the last year and more importantly, we look at where we want to go this next year. This isn’t a case of sitting about and making a few resolutions to forget once the year gets rolling. This is akin to looking at the path you traveled last year, and essentially creating a star chart for the upcoming year. We take it very seriously and due to circumstances outside of our control, we didn’t get to do it last year. And honestly, the whole year just felt off kilter without our yearly tradition.
So, we have quite a process that we follow for this and I am going to outline it below.
Step 1: Review your year
This step can be an easy one to skip, especially if you haven’t had the most stellar of years. But, it should be done. For one thing, even in those bad times, it is a way to recognize how you have changed. Humans are mutable, ever changing creatures. By closely looking at what you have survived this last year, you may surprise yourself. You may see new strengths and goals brewing that you otherwise may have missed. It is also a way to determine what you can focus on this next year. You can openly admit to mistakes and rather than using mistakes to beat yourself up, they get turned into learning opportunities and places to work on for the upcoming year.
Once you start doing this for a few years, you will actually have a written record of what your plan was last New Year’s Eve. Did you follow those plans? Sometimes, they are comical because something like a pregnancy can sidetrack those plans and set you on a course you didn’t imagine. Once we set a goal that sat and was ignored for seven years – we laughed when it finally happened by accident two years ago.
Step 2: Revisit the big questions
Don’t leave things to chance; don’t assume that because you clearly knew what you wanted to be “when you grow up” last year that the answer is the same. Don’t forget to ask “Who you want to be when you grow up?” either. This isn’t about losing weight, but it may be about losing baggage. This isn’t about being a better housekeeper, but it may be about clearing skeletons out of your closets. Think big, talk big, and don’t limit yourself. Answer big questions that have to do with your careers, your health, your spirituality, your time, and your service to community.
And remember, you are talking about these as a family! You are not just making these goals by yourself; the whole family is involved.
Step 3: Develop and Write out a plan
Now that you have those big picture questions answered, it is time to write out a plan that will provide some sort of roadmap to get there. Use what works for you. Maybe you are a smart goal person, maybe you like short bullet lists. I am visual and tend to develop mind maps for my plans that have a “star chart” appearance when complete. The important thing here is not that you have all the answers or all the steps you need, the important thing is that you have a start. You have a goal and some kind of way to start reaching for that goal, and it is in WRITING!
Oh, and again, this is a family plan – even the kids have parts to play too. Because, these goals aren’t just about you. They are not just for you. Many of these goals should be shared goals and dreams. Where are you headed as a family? How can you make your family stronger? How do you weather storms together? How do you create together as a family? How do you give back to your community as a family? Be sure everyone sees how he or she contribute to making this the best year possible no matter how young.
Even if you have plans for New Year’s Eve, consider doing this with your family this month. Our tradition has gone from a few hours on New Year’s Eve to one in which we use the first few days in January as a launching pad where we are totally devoted to our New Year’s Family plan. Get ready 2014 – here we come.