Q: I'm sitting down to write out my New Year's resolutions. Every year I struggle to keep up with my goals -- and usually give up within a few weeks. Honestly, I feel completely saturated already; is it even worth trying to add something else to the list?
Jim: I think there's a lot to be said for setting a few reasonable goals and making the effort to attain them. It's helpful if they're measurable (like "exercise for 30 minutes three times a week"), and you can enlist someone to encourage you and help you keep on track.
But I might also suggest making some "non-resolutions" for the year. Non-resolutions aren't about what we decide to add to our lives. They're about all the things we decide to leave behind.
A non-resolution could be something like resolving not to look back too much on the negative events of the past year. Instead, forgive the people who have hurt you and choose to have a better outlook for what this year can hold for you.
Or, how about resolving not to get more engrossed in technology than you already are? Decide that this year you're going to exchange your smartphone and text messages for more face-to-face communication and one-on-one time with your family.
Here's another one: Don't let mistakes you've made over the past 12 months determine how the next 12 months will go. Don't live in regret. Handle whatever consequences you may be facing, but shake off your poor choices and get on with your life. Learn from your mistakes and move forward.
Living well is just as much about what you choose to leave behind as it is what you choose to add. It reminds me of the quote that says, "Our strength doesn't come from desperately hanging on, but from gracefully letting go." So as you think about your resolutions for this year, give some thought to a few non-resolutions as well. I wish you the best.
Q: Looking ahead to a new year, my wife and I want to prioritize ways to strengthen our family. We're trying to think of things that will help each of our four children feel more connected and secure. Where can we start?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: You've heard the old schoolyard rhyme: "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage." If you stop to think about it, this simple bit of poetry actually contains a blueprint for happy, successful family living.
Marriage is the foundation of the family. That's why a husband and wife's first priority should be the health of their relationship. As a matter of fact, family psychologist John Rosemond says that couples should spend 80 percent of their time strengthening their marriage, over and above the demands of their schedules or the needs of their children. If 80 percent sounds extreme to you, remember this: Your kids are only as safe and nurtured as your marriage. They'll be most content when their parents' relationship is solid.
Beyond that, both Mom and Dad should make the effort to regularly "date" each child, one-on-one. It doesn't have to be much -- even just an ice cream cone and engaged dialogue. But make sure to listen to them. When your kids know that you value them as unique individuals, they'll feel more secure in their place in the household.
So it's marriage first, then kids -- in that order. That's the way it all begins, and that's the way it works best. For more tips and resources to build a thriving family, go to FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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