Resources for the Intentional Parent

New Year, New Purposefulness

Every January I get super jazzed about the New Year. Every January since becoming a responsible adult, I have made new years resolutions that included: eat better, exercise more, save a little money, and generally be more awesome than the previous year. Sadly, I am a quitter. I always have been. Three weeks in and I am face down in a pack of double stuffed Oreo’s balancing the checkbook and realizing I am not living up to my full potential.

So, this year, instead of resolving to be more awesome, I thought maybe I could just decide to live more intentionally. Instead of resolutions that come and go, instead of 3 goals to focus all my energy on, can I filter my actual life through a grid of values that are important to me? Perhaps then I can stop feeling defeated and instead feel satisfied.

It is well known that most successful businesses and people have one overarching mission they are pursuing. This purpose statement is the filter that every decision is sifted through. So, after 35 years, perhaps it was time that instead of resolving to do all those things I hope for myself, that I start to actually live with a mission. It was time to set out with a vision, a purpose in mind, that would help me navigate all aspects of my life - from marriage to money, technology to travel.

If you want an in depth plan, The Art of Simple has one of the most easily accessible and comprehensive posts I’ve ever tried to accomplish, detailing how to write a family purpose statement. For those of you that have about 20 minutes to spare, try my minimalist method:

  1. Compile your favorite quotes. These quotes can be from your favorite book, song, or motivational speaker. I love words, so I have them all over our house. There are quotes scrawled on chalkboards, or written on scraps of paper in books, handfuls strewn on my desk or tucked in the corner of my full-length mirror. Here are some of our family favorites:

    • “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” – Ms. Frizzle
    • “We can do hard things.” – Momastery
    • “Present over perfect” – Shauna Neiquist
    • “Live pure, speak true, follow the King” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
  2. Think about what makes your heart break and what makes your heart come alive? For me these two questions answer so much of finding a sense of fulfilling calling in our lives. I am guessing that scrolling through FB does not make your heart come alive, but maybe hiking with your family in the crisp mountain air fills your cup. Likewise, what breaks your heart? Usually, when you feel your soul stirring, that is the place where you can be a real catalyst for good in the world. Go there – write it down, even if you are not sure how it all fits together yet.

  3. List your goals. Okay, you caught me. I don’t totally dislike resolutions, but can we just call them what they are? Goals. What goals do you have for yourself and your family in the next year, five years, or even ten years? What are the things that you need to put into motion to make those goals happen?

  4. Write your purpose statement. It can be one sentence or a paragraph, just try not to make it too complicated.

Here is mine: Love God and love others by being authentic, present, and generous with what God has given me. Put people before tasks and kindness before being right. Do the hard things, get into nature, get creative, and care for yourself so you can care for others.

When I filter things through this grid, it is easy to choose my kids and play-doh over one more episode of “Friends” on Netflix. It helps me not feel guilty for taking time to exercise my body or my brain.

It helps me battle through homework lessons, instead of caving in and letting my son play one more game on the computer before rocket-math. It reminds me to value my husband instead of critique. It reminds me to deal with the conflict instead of letting it fester into bitterness. It reminds me to take a walk and stare at the stars instead of staring at my phone.

When we set ourselves up to live lives of purpose, it is easier to see the ways we are allowing other things to steal that purpose from us. We begin to see where we have replaced the best things with whatever might be easiest or more urgent.

As you begin a new year, take time to take inventory and set yourself up for a year of intentional living, instead of just broken resolutions. Put your mission statement where you will see it and let your life reflect this sense of purpose. This year just might be our best one yet.

By Jesica Swanson, Kudoso Kontributor