This year, I will finally change everything! Ever thought this sentence? Maybe after New Year’s Eve celebrations? The melancholy for the end of another year takes us.. But we have good resolutions this time! And this raises our morale, we can regain our strength and look up to the future with renewed optimism. A new white sheet.. What makes us perceive, in the space of a single night, this need to give new impetus to our lives? And above all .. Why planning your year, and how make you actually achieve those goals, when you’re already all so busy with your kids, your everyday life?
Why planning your year… Are you Ben?
December 31st, 11 p.m. Ben looks at the light’s reflection on his already half empty glass. His friends and wife are laughing at a joke he didn’t listen to.
Why are we celebrating again anyways? Why waiting until midnight? It’s a night like any other.
Ben is very tired, he worked until late in the afternoon at his desk, and now he would finally want to indulge in sleep. Without thinking, without wasting time to renew a meaningless tradition.
In a few days, they’ll go skiing for the weekend, so as to emptying their minds. His wife loves traveling.
And so he has to work hard, to pay for the trips, the few outings, his son’s school.
Maybe I’ll ask for an increase in my next annual interview. They didn’t give it to me last year, maybe I’ll ask them this time. I’m always there when they need it.
Anyway, it’s always like that. People are always there to take, but when it comes to giving.. I don’t know when I have the appointment with my boss, but when that happens, I’ll improvise something for sure.
Come on, we have to go back to the conversation, one more hour, and then maybe we can go home..
… Or rather Julie?
December 31st, 11 p.m. Julie looks at the light’s reflection on her still half full glass. She smiles while listening to her buddies telling her about their family Christmas, her husband holds her hand between hers.
His son plays alongside their friends’ children, they’d organized a treasure hunt. Julie is pleased to have taken half an hour every morning for a month to rethink her year. She made the point of everything that went more or less well.
For some time, she’d remained silent to identify any small discrete concerns, and finally recognized them.
She also prepared the games for the evening so that she could discuss with her friends and her husband while the children took care of themselves. After the holidays, Julie will ask to work on a new project.
She has the resources, and identified her skills. With the goals she has reached during the year, she is sure to get her raise. She will then be able to pay for a baby-sitter and go out with her husband a little more, maybe finally enroll in a Salsa class together. It’ll do them so good!
With the planning she did, Julie is confident she can finally gain efficiency and get out of work early at least once a week, so she can pick up her son and play with him. It’s time to settle his tantrums, and she realized that a dedicated time alone with him could really improve their relationship.
Love your Goals
There are two moments in the year that are conducive to analyzing and planning your year : September and January. After vacations and holidays.
As if we were pulling our cart without looking right nor left, to arrive as fast as possible to the sole destination: holidays.
There only, taking our time to look back at our lives, and noting everything we’d wanted to do differently..
The new year seems like a white sheet, perfect to rewrite everything. This sometimes leads us to set too ambitious goals, and with an extrinsic motivation that does not hold on to duration.
Do we really get to change, or do we just make promises, to keep our conscience quiet, but without ever putting ourselves at work to achieve our goals? How can we use New Year’s energy in a way that really helps us?
Why planning your year now?
You know, I didn’t really ask myself the question before; I’ve let myself go through the years.
Of course, there were some telling moments, I wrote goals lists, especially at work. But never in a complete way.
I have fallen on several occasions on articles and resources proclaiming new exceptional strategies, new principles, to live the best year of our lives through a guided process of creating goals.
What is it about? Can it help us in our daily lives with our children, families, jobs, friends?
A new vision of planning in depth, with the idea of living more intentionally our daily life.
So first of all: why planning your year? If all goes well, if our life satisfies us, why taking the trouble to spend a few hours every month,every week, to “work our goals”?
Our brain works much more efficiently when it has a direction. If you know where you want to go, and why.. Then nobody can stop you!
Whereas if you let yourself drift away with the events, you’re not sure you’ll like your destination.
So, unless you already feel in Heaven, there’s probably one or more parts of your life that you could improve, or new adventures you’d like to live. No better way to live them than to actually plan them!
The HOW: Planning your year in 5 steps
Step 1: Look at Your current life
You may already know Michael Hyatt, an American who created a company, wrote books and online courses around the principle of “planning and goal-setting”.
The first thing he explains is that before you even start, you have to analyze your satisfaction about your current life.
He suggests looking at different domains of your life:
- Couple’s life;
- Extra-work activities
For each domain, he proposes to look at what we would like to improve. You can actually take his free life assessment here, it’s really helpful.
Come on, let’s go! You can simply take a pen and piece of paper, and write.
Step 2: Visualize your (BIG) dream
Have you ever allowed yourself to actually imagine to achieve all your dreams? I know, it sounds a little crazy, even a bit childish.
And maybe you’re so new to exercise, that you can’t even name those big dreams and desires.
For me, that has been the case for a very long time. I can’t change the world! And so why getting lost in foolishly visualizing the impossible?
There are endless layers of limiting thoughts that make us say that we are not capable, it’s silly, that it is a waste of time, we’re not worth it etc.; And these phrases hide our fear of making the first move.
Because imagine, for one moment only, to be able to achieve something big and really ambitious. It’s terrifying, isn’t it?
But you see, achieving big things doesn’t happen overnight, but in small gradual steps.
On the other hand, in order to take those little steps, you need a direction! What if you fail and achieve less than expected? Then you better aim higher! That way you’ll always realize more than if you were aiming at a low target from the start.
Take the freedom of dreaming. And then write down your dreams somewhere you can often see them. I promise, it feels good!
Step 3: From dream to goal
You can now transform your dreams into goals, the SMART way (specific, measurable, ambitious & achievable, relevant and time-based)!
What do you want to accomplish in a year? That is ambitious enough to challenge you, but also realistic as to not discourage you?
I want to lose X pounds in Y months; I want to be able to go out with my friends one evening a month; organize a weekend alone with my partner twice a year; I want to teach my children to get dressed by themselves in the morning without my help; reduce the number of fights around food at the dinner table; And so on.
Step 4: Find your deepest motivation
That’s not all! Now comes the most important part:
Find your deepest motivation for each of these goals.
Because there will be times when you will not want to continue. Or everything will seem too difficult. You’ll have to face unexpected obstacles. Your why will help you go on, without letting go.
I must admit that this has been a decisive factor for me. At the beginning I thought it was silly and pointless. But then, periodically, I go through a down mood phase when I want to drop everything. And rethinking about my why gives me my energy back.
Step 5 : Block your days
Finally: Cut each goal into all the small actions you need to take in order to achieve it. Note how much time each action will approximately take, and distribute those actions temporally according to the timing you have set.
That’s how I did it: I started from my big goal, and then listed all the necessary actions to get there, calculating how much time I would need.
From the year span I moved to a monthly planning; then weekly; And finally, daily.
Every week, then month, and quarter, you need to set aside some time to see where you are and refine your trajectory!
I also followed the advice blogger and author, Ruth Soukup, on how to plan your days: at the beginning of the day do what’s more important to reach your goal.
Only then, take care of the most urgent, and at the end of what you would like to do(for example, checking how many “likes” you got on your Facebook post can be done at the end of your day, if not done at all 😉 !)
Why planning your year even for raising your children?
Why am I talking about all this in a parenting blog?
I’ve discovered, day after day, that improving the relationship with your children also requires a strategic planning. Not only to learn how important it is to take care of yourselves and your needs.
But also, to reframe certain rules in order to be able to correct behavior.
Let me explain. Let’s say you’re organizing a dinner out with friends, but you can’t take a babysitter and so you’re bringing your kids with you.
For the evening not turning into a disaster, you need some organizing : pick a restaurant where children’s noises will not be a problem; where the menu is adapted; where they may be offered simple activities (like coloring or playing). You’ll also book in advance so as to choose the time that’s right for you.
It is the same for any other activity or learning. If you want your children to get used to going with you at the local library without shouting or running, you’ll have to explain the rules in advance, make the visit a pleasure, but also get ready to leave and/or give a consequence for unwanted behavior.
I have learned, over time, that planning for everything you want to do when parenting your child is as essential as when you do it at work.
How to plan for your child’s good behavior?
Hear yourself complaining about something relating to your child.
Pick one behavior you want to work on, and then plan strategies and applications.
For example, following the case of the library above. Choose a moment to explain your child when and why you’ve decided to take her, and the (positive) rules that must be kept: We talk slowly, we walk when we’re inside, we take one book at a time, etc.
You’ll also choose and explain the consequences you’ll apply in case your child breaks those rules: if you scream while we’re in the library, I won’t be able to read you a story or borrow the book you pick.
On the days prior to the trip, you’ll also be particularly careful not only to announce it with joy and impatience, with a reminder of the rules, but also to state any positive behavior of your child, in all areas, to highlight your attention and reinforce her good choices.
You can also do some role-playing to show the expected behaviors.
And then, repeat! Does that sound weird to you?
It’s just that we’re not used to thinking “planning” when it comes to raising our children. Until a behavior becomes problematic, and then we improvise on the solutions to solve it. Which rarely work on the long term though…
Planning your year will work if you find your drive!
The night filtering through the curtains gave me all the quiet cold from the outside. I bang on my keyboard with hesitation, without really knowing what would have followed.. My whole body was telling me to dive under the duvets. But my mind was guiding my hands in search of new words..
Just a year ago, I would have slept. I would have let myself be transported by the current of my dreams, without knowing how to relate them to my desires, my needs; Or to think about the way forward.
What motivates me? Since I have given myself goals, I have become a different person. I’ve been walking, trying to reach them.
And in the end, it’s not so much the result that counts, but what you become alongside your steps..
Plan your bike trip!
See, it’s like going for a bike ride. You can improvise it, because you wake up with the sun and everyone wants fresh air.
And you ride quietly, savoring the scenery, letting yourself be guided by your intuition, randomly guessing your paths. And it can turn out great! Or not.
You can arrive in a place where there’s no food, and the children cry with fatigue and hunger. The road may prove more difficult than expected, too harsh or among the cars, not suited to your family.
At the same time, it feels good to leave the margins of freedom and improvisation in life, with the risks that ensue..
Or, you can ask yourself in advance about your need to get some air and get out of your usual Sunday.
You can ask other friends if they know any nice roads to do on a bike with the family. Watch the weather until you fall on a sunny weekend.. And go ahead and buy everything you need for a picnic.
Once in the saddle, you will ride confident and even faster, because you will already savor the attractions of the chosen destination. Will it take away the taste of discovery?
Finally, why good resolutions? Because you can choose
I like this image of the bike. Before I became a mom, I tended to organize even too much.
And then, with the kids, I no longer had the time and the urge to schedule our outings as before. It seems illogical, I should have done the opposite shouldn’t I?
So I can tell you that both systems can work. We can even alternate them.
The concern when you improvise is that if you don’t have a defined destination to guide you, you’ll do much less. You’ll go less far.
And then, you’ll be more inclined to worry about the unexpected, or regretting not having done as you’d hoped.
Sometimes you won’t even leave the house.
And in some periods of life, that’s fine too. Our need to recharge, to enjoy the present, is then stronger than our need to move forward.
You just need to make it a choice. First of all, you have to recognize your need and choose.
And this process, of internal listening, of reflection around your chosen destination, of developing strategies and steps to advance where you chose to go.. This is the whole course that will transform you.
And that will make you a more satisfied person, and therefore a more present parent.
So on December 31st, before you begin with the celebrations, take ten minutes to review your needs, your priorities, and above all, your motivations. The change will come.
Here´s the authors and books I referred to within this article (some are affiliate links)
- Mickael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever
- Ruth Soukup’s publications