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With 2013 well on its way, many of us have already resolved to make this year the best one yet.  While I don’t think we necessarily need a new calendar to commit to making changes or improvements, the ritual of throwing out the old (planners, coupons, expired food, and anything else dated 2012) and bringing in the new offers an inspiring platform for a fresh start for you, your relationship, or your family.

Maybe you’ve decided to get fit, or save money, or spend more time with family and friends.  Many of us do; these are among the most popular New Year’s resolutions people make.  But as I (and maybe you) have come to realize in years past, they are also among the most commonly broken and forgotten.  As the weeks and months fly by, and the bright and shiny newness fades, it’s easy for our motivation to weaken with it.

So what’s the point?  How do we safeguard against losing interest or needing to start all over again in 2014?

I say, let’s resolve to maintain our resolve.

Here are a few ways to keep resolutions fresh all year through so that your goals are met.  These tools also help make maintaining your goals easier and well worth a celebratory toast come next NYE (Cheers to you!).

(Note: All of these suggestions are also great for couples; whether it’s just the two of you or you have children. Checking in with each other about what you want and need in your relationship is important for keeping that connection alive.  Resolve to have one date night a month, or have two “staycations” this year while your kids stay with Grandma.)

Make it a Family Affair

Extended family

One challenge to our success is lack of accountability.  Resolutions tend to be very personal, intended for individual growth and improvement.  I’m all for that, but within this private self-reflection, we tend to do just that: keep them private.  Without the responsibility and accountability that comes with sharing our goals, it’s easier to push them aside.

This year, instead of tucking your goals away on a little post-it in the back of your planner (guilty as charged!), tell the world!  Ok, maybe not the world, but definitely tell your family.

Family Meeting :  Start 2013 with a family meeting to get everyone involved.  If your family doesn’t regularly hold family meetings, use this as a great way to start.  Family meetings offer a reliable and consistent outlet for family members to check in each week, problem solve, and plan for the fun things ahead.  Along with family dinners, family meetings have been shown to be a protective factor; children who experience a sense of belonging, connectedness, and that their opinions and feelings matter exhibit less problematic or risk-taking behaviors as teens and young adults.  Family meetings should generally occur at the same day and time every week.

Review the ground rules for the family meeting: be respectful; listen to others; one persona speaks at a time; use kind words; no criticism; and no fighting.

Resolutions  Discuss why making resolutions and setting goals are important in your family.  For example: The New Year is a great time to think about what we like and what works well for our family and make any changes to things that don’t work as well.

Encourage family members to identify at least one personal resolution and one family resolution for 2013; their most and least favorite moments from 2012; and something they are looking forward to in 2013.  This offers a great opportunity to introduce self-reflection and goal setting to children, and it offers a safe space for kids to voice any changes they’d like to make.  If your children are too young to write, encourage them to draw their resolutions, or write it down for them as they tell you.

To help elicit resolutions with your child, ask her what she would like to do differently this year.  For example: Is there something we do that you don’t really like or enjoy?  Is there something you wish we did more often?  As the parent, you can also offer suggestions.  Help your child identify something he could use extra practice for in school (like times tables or reading), or something he tends to get in trouble for at home (like fighting with a sibling or not cleaning his room).

Share   Share your resolutions, best/worst moments, and what you are looking forward to.  Starting with an adult can help set the precedent for the meeting.  As the parent, you’re able to model for your children that this is a safe enough place to offer constructive criticism or suggestions without getting in trouble.  For example, Dad could suggest a family goal of having something different for dinner on Tuesday nights, because he really doesn’t like that meatloaf thing that Mom makes.

Once all family members have shared, it’s time to break it up

Break It Up

The other main obstacle to success with the resolutions we typically make is in their generality.  Get fit.  OK, but how?  Fit according to whom?  Save more money.  How much is “more”?  By when?  Without direction and specificity, these well-intentioned goals are too ambiguous to achieve.

Be Positive :  Use positive language to frame and define your goals.  Positive language removes judgment, identifies a replacement behavior, helps clarify what the goal actually looks like.  For example, if Dad’s resolution is to work out more, what does “more” look like?  Three times a week?  Five times a week?  At the gym or with a DVD at home?  The end goal should be specific.

If your daughter’s goal is to keep her room clean, set her up to succeed by making the behavior easily observable and measurable.  So “Keep my room clean” becomes “No toys or clothes on the floor when it’s time to brush my teeth every night.”  This keeps everyone on the same page about what “clean” means.

More quality time with the family could be: No TV/cell phones/etc. at dinner; one day of one-on-one time with each child each month; or family game night every Sunday.  Give back or volunteer more could be: Serve at the soup kitchen the third Saturday of each month, or assemble and send a care package to active duty service members overseas once a month.

Mini Goals  Now family members can work together to identify mini goals that will help them ultimately reach their end goal.  By breaking up a resolution into smaller, more attainable mini resolutions, we are less likely to get discouraged and give up.  For example, if one of your family goals is defined as “Put $300 more each month into savings,” starting right away will likely lead to a very tight and discouraging March.  Mini goals allow you to reach your goal gradually so you don’t feel such a squeeze when you finally hit $300.  Opt for 6 mini goals in $50 increments, pulling aside an extra $50 in January and February, $100 in March and April, etc., eventually hitting your goal of $300 in November, but it’ll only feel like an extra $50.

These mini resolutions are also great for keeping your kids on track and interested.  By incorporating a reward system, family members are better able to remain focused on what they’re gaining.  If your daughter’s personal goal is defined as “Keep room clean with no toys or clothes on the floor at the end of each day,” and it’s usually a disaster area, going from 0 to 7 clean days all at once will be like pulling teeth.  Instead, incorporate a rewards-based system that allows her to earn points each day her room is clean.  The points can then be exchanged for rewards of different point values at the end of each week, like toys, outings, or picking the movie on movie night.  More clean room days means more points, and once 7 days is realistic, you can switch to weekly points.

This system can just as easily be adapted for Dad’s workouts, earning points towards rewards of his choosing, like a foot massage after a run or an iTunes gift card for new workout music.

Keep Up the Good Work

Place mini goal sheets and reward systems in an area where family members will be reminded and able to keep track of their progress.  Celebrate your successes and problem solve your setbacks.  The other great thing about mini resolutions is that they allow you to make adjustments along the way.  If your daughter is prone to crankiness before bed but is beaming for breakfast, shift the goal to allow her some tidying up time in the morning.

I can’t wait to hear about all of the positive resolutions you and your family RESOLVE to achieve in this year!  One of my resolutions is to make couples and family support more easily accessible, so please download the FREE 2013 Resolutions for Families Workbook by clicking here!  If you have any questions, or difficulties with the attachment, please feel free to contact me.

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