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New Year's Resolutions for Life

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Culture Challenge of the Week: Meandering into the New Year

In the grocery store near my home, customers typically don’t get into conversations with each other. Busy loading groceries on the belt, checking their lists, or keeping little ones from reaching for every candy bar in sight, there’s usually no time for casual conversation. But this week, it was different.

“So, are you making a New Year’s resolution?” The checker’s hands scanned the food swiftly as she opened the conversation with one of her regular customers.

“Oh, probably,” the thirty-something mom replied. “But I haven’t decided what yet.” She shrugged and shook her head. “I’ve got lots to work on though!”

The next customer in line, a short, friendly-looking woman in her forties, jumped into the conversation. “Me too. I don’t even know where to start.”

How about you? Do you know “where to start”? The older I get the more I realize that the most meaningful things I do each day are connected to building stronger relationships. So, I’ve decided to start off the new year with a commitment to improving the key relationships in my life. Why not join me?

How to Save Your Family: A Resolution with Purpose

Ask yourself, “Which relationship in my life needs the most improvement?” And then, ask the all-important follow-up question: “What can I do to make things better?”

Make a commitment to do one concrete thing, on a regular basis, that will improve the relationship.

For example, a friend of mine used to complain about her rocky relationship with her 15-year-old daughter. Their only real conversations were tense ones, usually centered around curfews, schoolwork, clothes, and cell phone use. What could my friend do to truly connect with her daughter? She invited her to start having weekly frappuccino dates to talk about non-confrontational topics. It was a concrete resolution powered by an incredibly strong motivation---love. Keeping the commitment allowed her to really listen to her daughter and to strengthen their bonds over time, laying a better foundation for tougher conversations. A year later, she looked back and saw the power of that New Year’s resolution: theirs was a relationship transformed.

Similarly, some parents find it very difficult to parent a child whose temperament or interests are very different from their own. A driven, fast-thinking dad might find himself routinely exasperated with---and critical of--an indecisive or timid child. What kind of a resolution might help that relationship? Offer a daily word of encouragement. Make an effort each day to notice—and verbally affirm--the child’s small steps to overcome his fears.

Even resolutions aimed at the most practical details of daily life---like getting organized or being on time—work better with a relationship-based motivation. For example, a wife whose chronic lateness irritates her husband to no end might commit to setting a reminder alarm (giving 30 minutes warning) every time she enters a new commitment on her smartphone’s calendar.

Resolutions are tested by time. What spells the difference between success and failure is the strength of our motivations. And there’s no greater motivation than to improve our relationships with those we love.

Psychologists say that the only way to change a relationship is to change ourselves. Love the person enough to take the first step, and in so doing, turn a generalized wish (“I wish my husband and I communicated better”) into concrete steps (“I will commit to asking him about his day first when we reconnect at the end of the day.”)

Life is about relationships. And building those relationships is one of the most important things we can do. So this year, why not make a resolution rooted in purpose? It’s a good place to start.

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