In the Whirled: Being kinder, gentler may be the best goals

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2 2013 5:35 a.m. MST

I would love to come out on the other end of 2013 saying that yes, even through the stress and the cynicism of the world, I was a kinder, gentler person who took quiet moments to bond with my family without feeling the need to tweet or text about it.

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In preparation for the new year, I’ve been reviewing 2012 goals. There are few things that bring as much pleasure as New Year's goals. Each year we’re given the chance to start over, polish up our crooked edges and try once again to be better than before.

This isn’t easy. In fact, researchers will tell you that it’s impossible. New Year’s goals don’t change us and we don’t keep them. This doesn’t deter my local gym from filling to capacity on Jan. 1, and it doesn’t deter me from pulling out my steno pad to think up wild, ambitious plans for the coming year.

The funny thing is, my wild ambitious plans are the same every year. I could literally cut and paste 2010 to 2011 to 2012. If I look to the year ahead, my urge is to yet again make the same goals: more prayer and study of the scriptures, more quality time with my husband, more time dedicated to the craft of writing.

But is my desire enough to create real action over the long term? Past history would argue no, but I am an optimist. In fact, I live in a household overrun with optimism. My husband’s greatest hope is that he will be able to keep a journal. He starts every year on Jan. 1 with a goal to write every day. The result is that when he dies he will have one impeccably written journal entry for every year of his adult life, because he never makes it past Jan. 1. Yet I like to think that it’s better to have one impeccably written journal entry than none at all.

My kids have inherited our ambition for sky-high goals. My 10-year-old son was unsuccessful in his goal to “have big muscles by doing 20 pushups per day,” as was his goal to convince his parents to buy him an iPhone. Our 9-year-old had the most far-reaching goals of all, including throwing a football 22 yards and learning to yodel while gargling mouthwash.

In fact, the only success in our family came from the youngest children, whose goals were mostly developmental: potty train, learn to get dressed and add some new words to the vocabulary.

Maybe there’s something to be said for keeping things at a developmental level instead of reaching beyond my own bad habits and limitations, which it appears I will carry to my grave. Thoroughly entrenched in my 30s, I’m finding there are only three things I need to strive for: to be kind, to do less and to stop comparing myself to others. Perhaps honing in on those for the new year will bring all the divine and lofty details into something I can achieve.

I would love to come out on the other end of 2013 saying that yes, even through the stress and the cynicism of the world, I was a kinder, gentler person who took quiet moments to bond with my family without feeling the need to tweet or text about it.

If I can do that, I will have achieved near-perfection in the coming year. And I can move on to loftier goal of mouthwash yodeling.

Tiffany Gee Lewis lives in St. Paul, Minn., and is the mother of four boys. She blogs at thetiffanywindow.wordpress.com. Her email is tiffanyelewis@gmail.com

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