We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

-Aristotle

New Year, New Habits

In our continual quest to become better, happier, healthier families, the new year is often an exciting time. We may have spent much of the previous month in reflection on the past year and re-assessed where we want to go and what we want to do in the new year.

As parents of relatively young kids, my husband and I spent a good few weeks discussing areas we wanted to improve for ourselves as well as for our kids.

In years past, we’ve made a lot of mistakes with this including:

  • Too many unrealistic goals: This often resulted in hiding away those resolutions pretty much after we wrote them. We would then find ourselves in November or December, flushing pink with embarrassment at our naïve promises to ourselves early in the year.
  • Looking at the wrong thing: By focusing too narrowly on specific external goals (weight loss, a better job, etc.) we missed a lot of underlying factors that contributed to becoming a better person all-around. Many of us mistake external changes with improvement but if circumstances change without the requisite growth, the changes don’t stick or offer the satisfaction that comes with personal growth.
  • Wishful thinking: Again, we often had a laundry list of things that we wanted to change without the understanding that the problems we wished to change need to have with it a commitment to address the underlying causes of those problems. Oftentimes, the thing we want to change starts first with our mentality—the hardest and yet most critical step to self-mastery.
  • Not having a plan: This was something we especially wanted to work on this year. We wanted to connect our overall goals with a simple and straightforward way to keep us accountable and on track with our goals every single day.

While we might still miss the mark, the effort to work towards our goals every day is critical. So, this year, we discussed two or three goals for the year and mapped out a simple way to track our efforts with a weekly family checklist. No more wishful thinking!

This chart includes:

  • A customizable task list with checkboxes for every day of the week
  • A check system at the end of the week as a way to keep each other accountable
  • A built-in a point system with healthy incentives to reward ourselves for our efforts (in our case – a Read Aloud book purchase when our family is able to achieve a set number of points). I liked that while we all pursue our own individual goals during the week, we were also working towards a family goal.

My husband made up this simple chart that you can also use with your own family – or, make your own! You can download it here.