Actually, it was probably the 13th that was the spark and the 14th was the first flame.
I came to a crossroads moment. I was watching a movie that was a true story of a woman who was determined to make a change in her life. She started with a small, almost silly goal, but it grew into the motivating factor for everything in her life.
I knew I needed a motivating factor too. I felt paralyzed by the struggle of raising a toddler and a baby – everything in my life felt like work – hard work. I was desperate, and I didn’t have anything to show for it. (Important side note: I had so much to show for the work I was doing – two beautiful children who were loved and cared for! I hope the pictures in this post prove the point that the hard work of raising littles is worth it, and the hard work of setting small personal goals is worth it too.)
When I thought of the one thing I enjoyed doing most – reading – I felt like a failure because most of the books on my shelf were only half read.
I needed to change. I wanted to change.
The half read books symbolized the challenge I needed to overcome. If I truly wanted to become a finisher, then I would have to create a challenge for myself to fight my way through to the end.
It was easy at first to turn off the TV at night and curl up with a book instead. I believed what I was doing was worth my time and attention. What I didn’t realize was happening under the surface was – I was becoming a finisher. I had my goals and they were time sensitive. I had to prove it to myself that I could follow through.
After a few years of homeschooling now, this mindset has transferred over to how I set goals and follow through for my kids. I finish what I start because they are worth it.
We started a book* back in October 2014. Life interrupted and we had to set that book down for another one. We left the first book on the shelf until just this month because I can’t stand the idea of leaving a story unfinished. And more importantly, I told them I would finish it – I gave them my word. Following through has everything to do with trust.
Being able to follow through doesn’t mean that you have to do everything. There are books that we have started and not finished. Our science text for this year isn’t finished. I chose to put it down and save it for later. My kids are in 1st and 2nd grade material and this one was written for 5th and 6th graders.
Don’t over think things that aren’t worth it to you. Just like following through on the read aloud was an important choice for me to follow through on, it’s okay that I didn’t follow through on the science. It’s also okay to set challenges and goals for yourself that look differently from the families around you.
Comparison is not only the thief of joy, but also the jailer locking you in inactivity. Just because my friend is able to set what I think is “higher” goals for her family, doesn’t mean that my goals are “lower” and inferior. The more I set goals that are attainable, the more success will inspire me to set higher and higher goals. At the end of the day, it’s not about how impressed you are with me – it’s how satisfied I am with myself.
So set goals, make plans, chart the course for what you want to accomplish – personally or for others. Then memorize the plan. Make your personal challenge something easy to rehearse so that you don’t forget it and go a week without fighting to attack it.
Just like the book we put down, life gets bossy with all the activities and demands on our time. So use one calendar. My husband and I share our Google calendars with each other so that we can see potential conflicts, and we can plan accordingly for times when one of us has an engagement. (Don’t like digital only calendars? You can print your Google calendar and put it into a cool notebook like this.)
Synchronizing calendars feels like more work to do, but it aids in communication, follow through, and has a better impact on the lives of everyone in the family.
Character is at stake – theirs and mine. I don’t commit to plans quickly. My friends joke that I am over-protective of our schedule. It’s true. I am very committed to follow through, and I feel like it’s a mark of poor character to not finish well.
I also recognize that certain plans will enhance teaching good character to my children and other activities will test that character. It is important to have both. Struggle, hardship, busyness – these can teach perseverance and good work ethic. So my key isn’t to avoid all difficult plans in order to ensure a 100% success rate of follow through, but rather the key is balance. It’s letting my yes be yes, and my no be no.
With my young children, I have come to recognize that they need me to answer their questions about our schedule and plans. It’s good to hold their hand and walk them through carefully. They are little for such a short time.
In order to have balance and peace of mind – knowing I’ve taken the time to tend to their heart and prepare to arrive on time for our plans – I use timers, simple instructions, and I mean what I say. My kids can feel time. They know what “5 more minutes” really is. Because I’ve committed to follow through they can’t be tricked by loose standards.
Follow through is a work in progress for me. When I started my personal challenge back in 2010, I was an entirely different person that who I am now. The seemingly insignificant challenge I set for myself was just the sort of distraction I needed to keep my focus in my mothering positive and separate from my self worth. I’m living proof that little choices in the right direction make great change over time.
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