Ditch the resolutions, embrace themes

It’s Palmer here. 🎉

Happy New Year to you from the bottom of my heart! I am so excited that you are here for another trip around the sun. 🥰

New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite days of the year because it’s a day when people get intentional about their goals and the things they want to bring life to in the new year. That may be a different approach to parenting, more exercise, more kale 🤮, more spiritual practice, etc. It can even be something as simple as wanting to smile more (which might be one of the most underrated in my opinion).

With my youth coaching clients, I often share this visual that is loosely inspired by Bob Goff and the Stoics. Let me paint a picture: you go out to sea on a sailboat without any directions or instruments to help guide your journey. That means that once the shore is out of sight, you will have no idea where you are going and could end up stranded (and we have all seen how being lost at sea went for Tom Hanks in “Castaway”…not good). How will we be able to get where we want to be if we have no idea where we are trying to go? The best version of us, grounded and filled with purpose, doesn’t come from playing it safe and hugging the coast.

We all know people who roll their eyes at New Year’s and the idea of resolutions, and you might be one of them… but I encourage you to hear me out. 😄

We have days each year to commemorate different parts of our lives. Valentine’s Day celebrates the love and relationships we have created. Thanksgiving reminds us to pause and be thankful. Birthdays honor the day we entered into this world. So why not let ourselves have a day each year centered around celebrating the year behind us and setting intentions for the year to come? What do we want to bring to life in ourselves? What do we want to learn about, do more of, do less of, or focus on?

I’ll be honest: I’m 0 and 25 for doing all my resolutions throughout any given year. 😅Anyone else? This year, I am going about resolutions in a different way. My new approach is to pick 3-5 themes that I want to bring to life this coming year. A few of mine are nutrition, sleep health, knowledge, mindfulness, and spirituality. I’m writing out 3-10 “action items” that go with each theme. For example, for mindfulness I might list:

  1. Meditating for 5 minutes a day
  2. Going for morning walks
  3. Taking 2 minutes to listen to a song before I go into work
  4. Practicing breathing exercises before bed

Some weeks I might do all of these things. Other weeks I might only have the time or energy to go for a short walk to the mailbox to re-center. Maybe I start with one and if I get burnt out, I’ll pick a different “action item” to focus on. This approach allows space for me to adjust my intentions throughout the year. There is grace and balance and no feelings of failure in this model.

I invite you to practice this “theme” approach with your family. I’ve been surprised by how receptive my students are to this theme-based approach. I encourage you to lovingly invite your tweens and teens to sit down with the family or on their own and think about what themes they want to focus on in the new year and do some planning. The best thing you can do is lead by example and share what themes you are focusing on and why they are important to you. Even if they’re not into it, you will help to create neural pathways in their brain that it is valuable to be intentional.

Here are a few quick tips for engaging your kids in this practice:

1. Make it a conversation, not a mandate. Discuss, don’t lecture. Ask them what they find fulfilling about their lives, what they’d like to improve, and what values are important to them. This sets the stage for intentions that resonate with them, not you.

2. Swap strict goals for growth-oriented intentions. Instead of “Get an A in Algebra,” they could choose “Be more present in class and ask for help when needed.” This fosters a learning mindset and celebrates progress over perfection.

3. Keep it positive. Instead of, “Stop procrastinating,” they could choose “Make time for activities I enjoy.” 

4. Get specific, but stay realistic. Instead of “Be healthier,” they could choose “Go for a walk with a friend twice a week.”

5. Lead by example. Show your kids what living with intention looks like in your own life. This normalizes the process and makes it relatable for them.

6. Make it Fun! Turn theme-setting into a bonding experience. Create a vision board together or write letters to your future selves. Playful exploration makes the process more engaging and memorable.

My mom and I would love to hear what your themes are for 2024! If you do, we can check in throughout the year to remind you of what you want to bring to life within yourself in 2024. You are amazing as you are, but I would be sad to see anyone settle for anything but the best life they can live. We are in this together. 😊

Wishing you a very happy New Year!

Celebrating the journey of being, not just the pressure to become.

Kerry and Palmer

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Palmer Skudneski
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