The holidays have come and gone. Most if not all of the decorations have been stored and life is returning to normal. We’re back at work, routine is returning and we’re falling back into a state of normalcy.
I’ve heard it said that by mid-late January, most New Years resolutions have already been broken by a high percentage of people. Diets have gone aside, gym visits have been delayed and smart phone time has not really decreased. It seems that for many, drawing a line in the sand (in this case the start of a new year) and vowing changes in behavior is unrealistic. The momentum of our old habits and lifestyle is very hard to break. This can result in disappointment and depression.
In my opinion, the reason for falling short on resolutions is that many seek immediate transformation in their lives. Examples could include things like, “I will quit smoking”, or “I will begin exercising 5 days a week” or “I will read the Bible every day”. None of these goals are bad, but if you’ve been smoking for years, and have never really exercised or spent time reading the Bible, such big goals may not be realistic.
While it was written nearly 30 years ago, Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is still relevant today. One of his key habits was “Work with the end in mind”. Basically, it’s about visualizing a desired end state where you would like to be, then putting the pieces in place in order to get there. The difference may seem subtle, but in reality, it is quite different. When you are headed toward a distinctive, long-term goal you focus on completing a little bit at a time. You target your efforts in a given direction. Setbacks aren’t disastrous, they merely cause you to adjust your focus moving forward.
The new year is a great time to think about your marriage and consider areas of improvement (resolutions). But to improve your odds of success, take a longer-term view working with the end in mind. In other words, don’t think about what you’re going to change right now, but think about where you would like to be in your relationship one year from now.
If you can create a vision for where you want to be in a year, it is much easier to put efforts in place where you can be successful. If you want to improve communication in your marriage, figure out ways in which you can focus on this. What’s inhibiting communication now? Is it the kids? Commit to having some date nights. Is work getting in the way? Commit to making your spouse a higher priority in your life. Do you want to reduce conflict? Learn how to argue without doing damage to one another.
Taking this approach will encourage you to modify your attitudes and behaviors over time. Date nights are no longer a commitment to a resolution, but rather a means to an end. Texting your wife from work is not obligatory, but you come to realize that it increases intimacy.
None of us should be complacent with where we are in our marriages. No matter where you are in your relationship, there is always room for improvement. Don’t stress about transformation that needs to take place overnight, take the long view. Create a vision of where you’d like to be and work toward it over time. That’s a new year’s resolution that will set you up for success.