New Year’s resolutions: The power of writing and planning

Now that the calendar has turned and you have a whole year before you, what will you do? Whether you favor New Year’s resolutions or not, there’s nothing like the positive image of possibility that lies in the fresh beginnings of Jan. 1. And tapping into that inspiration can take your family on adventures all year long, if you adopt the right mindset.

This year I will…

Try this exercise with your children: write (or print out) the phrase: “This year I will…”

Then, have your children list out as many things as they can think of. If you need to, prompt your child with a few expected events, but also encourage her to consider new ideas of hopes she wants to make happen. For example, a child may write: “This year I will turn 6, start first grade, learn how to ride a two-wheeler, and go to Grandma’s for my first long overnight without Mom and Dad.”

Ask younger children to draw pictures of what they hope will come in the next year. Then you can write underneath the pictures a description of what each one depicts.

While your children are working on their lists, write your own. Again, if it helps, start off with the occurrences you can be fairly certain will happen. Note any special events you are looking forward to. Then delve into your desires of what you would like to see take place during this calendar year.

Consider also creating a list that you can share together: “This year we will…” There may be overlap between your individual lists and the shared list. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you take the opportunity to look ahead at how you will spend time as a family.

Power in writing

Just having written those thoughts down will make a difference. As Henriette Anne Klauser says in her book, “Write It Down, Make It Happen,” “Writing down your dreams and aspirations is like hanging up a sign that says, ‘Open for Business.’ ”

She goes on to explain how the act of putting a goal in writing stimulates a part of your brain (the reticular activating system) that filters out the unnecessary and non-urgent and latches on to what is relevant to the stated goal.

“Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and alert you to the signs and signals that were there all along,” Klauser explains.

In practical terms, it means that you will pause and pay attention when information related to one of your “This year I will” desires comes up. If your intention is that this will be the year you take up watercolor painting, you will be more likely to notice the article in the local paper about a woman opening a studio to offer watercolor classes. Not only will you notice it, but you will be mentally prepared to take action — to check your calendar to see which class fits your schedule and then phone to register for the class. You will make it happen.

A call to celebrate

You and your children have listed what you look forward to this year. But consider this: those lists can also provide a reminder of what you want to celebrate — be it a milestone you anticipate or an accomplishment someone is aiming for. So while the year is young, think about how you would like to acknowledge special events. Will you have a party? Or will a certain reward correspond with crossing off a goal? Talk as a family about when and how this year you will all commemorate those occasions.

If you can, post your lists out in the open where you can see them and be reminded regularly of where your family wants this year to take you. Commit to reviewing your lists once a month or so — perhaps as a family night activity. As you review, cheer each other on for any progress made toward attaining your goals, or milestones you have passed.

Unlike New Year’s resolutions, where often we hope to break a bad habit or initiate a difficult one, “This year I will …” lets you look forward to all that the new year will bring with anticipation. And it keeps generating enthusiasm long after others’ resolutions have died.

So what will you do this year?

Lara Krupicka is the author of “Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure & Camaraderie Into Every Day” and mom to three girls who have plenty they plan to make happen in 2017.