Q: New year, new beginnings ... yada-yada-yada. It seems like every year I set goals for new things I want to accomplish, but even when I've managed to follow through and achieve them, I still feel unfulfilled. Isn't life all about seeking and finding new experiences? What am I missing?
Jim: At New Year's parties all over the world, many people celebrate midnight by breaking into a rendition of the classic song "Auld Lang Syne." It's a perfect tune to ring in the new year ... if you know what the words mean and take them to heart.
"Auld Lang Syne" is usually sung out of tradition, much like the "Happy Birthday" jingle at a party, but few understand its meaning. After all, what is meant by: "Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?" Those words actually call us to meaningful relationships in the new year.
The Scottish words "auld lang syne" literally mean "days of old." So, translated, the song is asking: "Should old acquaintances be forgotten from days of long ago?" In other words, the song calls us not to forget the important relationships that define our lives as we move into the new year.
That's a wonderful reminder. New Year's resolutions usually involve diet plans or professional goals. But do we ever consider how we can deepen our current relationships or reconnect where there's been strain in the past? That's the kind of resolution that could make this coming year the best one yet.
There's nothing wrong with setting goals for learning new skills or improving ourselves. But true connection and fulfillment come from having relationships with deep roots. Whatever we do and wherever we go, we're more apt to succeed when we have strong bonds with people we know well and love.
So when the clock strikes midnight on January 1, sing those words from your heart -- and let them move you closer toward the important people who are already in your life.
Q: Do you have any creative ideas to help me stay connected with my kids? We're all so involved that it feels like we never have a moment to share.
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: You're not alone -- in a Pew Research survey, 56 percent of working parents reported difficulty in balancing work and quality family time.
The secret is addition by subtraction. In other words, choosing to say "no" to some things for each member of the family will serve to free up everybody's time for saying "yes" to each other.
In my house, we have a family night each week and make sure to pray and laugh together. Another simple yet powerful tool that works for us (and many families I've counseled professionally) is keeping "connection journals." These are journals we each have at our place on the kitchen table. They allow us all to write short messages to one another -- notes of encouragement, inspiring quotes, Bible verses, riddles and jokes and words of gratitude for what that person means to us.
Reading (and rereading) what's been written in these journals is like opening a gift. My son reads his before leaving for school; my daughter sometimes takes hers to read later in the day. My wife looks at her journal throughout the day while the rest of us are away from home. I enjoy taking mine to work and on business trips.
Connection journals can provide a quick mental "reset." We can all get off track when negative thinking crowds out perspective. Uplifting words get our thoughts turned around and reconnected with truth and what matters most.
So, give connection journals a try and see what a difference they can make in your family relationships.
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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