I recently encountered an article that speaks to strategic planning for your life, sharing concepts with the business world around purpose and vision. The idea of a strategic life plan captures my imagination… perhaps because it is the season of celebrations, the longest night of the year, the end of 2023.
Our routines are flavoured with “extras” – dinners, kids concerts, work parties. I wonder where I will be this time next year. What path should I deliberately choose to explore in 2024?, and perhaps most importantly – where am I going?
For some of us this might be a season of firsts – maybe baby’s first Christmas, or the first Christmas without a parent or a grandparent. Grief and joy are so often present, and yet we don’t always acknowledge the darkness with the light. Barbara Brown Taylor writes:
“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”
It is one of the quotes I circle back to, especially at this time of the year. What lessons are here in this tough space? What do I need to learn? What can I hold onto? What can I set down?
December 21st marks the winter solstice, the longest (not always darkest) night of the year. When my kids were wee, our family started an annual celebration of the Winter solstice. As the sun goes down on the 21st, we refrain from turning on the lights in our home, choosing instead to live by the light of the Christmas tree and candles alone. In the background holiday solitudes music and nature sounds play. We eat something that is prepped ahead of time (often store-bought when the kids were younger). It could be chili, or lasagna. Something that requires minimal prep in the moment. Our family has only one focus for the solstice – simply “BE”.
Some years being meant napping on the couch by candlelight, or quiet reading of books. On one particular solstice, we were making a rag quilt, and, as is often our style as a family, we were running out of time to complete it. So, with scissors in hand, we worked on the fringe of the quilt…. Let’s just say – that was not a candlelight project and repairs were needed by daylight. We still laugh about that every year. Other years we’ve played games or music together. Our intention to “BE” for the solstice helped our family to establish a meaningful tradition that centered on togetherness, in a way that was calm, gentle and supportive. A time of sitting in the dark and the light.
Setting an intention to BE together, to BE peaceful, to BE connected orients us to the kinds of activities that will support our celebration-time. It helps us to decide what is OK, and what is not OK for that time. An X-box Just Dance party? – not on the solstice. An invitation to play a new board game together – yes! Some years that sense of peace leads to a realization of how very tired we were… and so bedtime is embraced early, for everyone.
Thinking of the days ahead, however you celebrate, or perhaps even avoid celebrations… how might setting intentions help to steer and shape your experience? It could be a week-long goal – how many delightful things can I find and name while working through my to-do list? It might be for a single event – I will remember to take three deep breaths before engaging, or I am going to find the humour and connection with my family across difference… or it could be to slow down and savour these moments, knowing that a year can bring such change.
I set my own intentions to help me show up as my better self. Intentions are wee steps oriented towards growth and living into my values, my purpose, my vision.
How would you describe the vision you have for your family? Have you considered what is your purpose – as a parent, as a family, or even as a member of the community. A life vision is future oriented, often looking ahead 5-10 years. Consider asking yourself or discussing with your parenting partner.
- What story would I like people to tell about our family in 10 years?
- If money or time was not an issue – what would we do?
- What will we celebrate in the future?
- What do I not want to miss as a parent?
Answering these questions through journalling, collecting photos, finding quotes, etc. may help you describe the place your family wants to head towards, and can even help you craft a vision statement for your family. If you do – kindly share. It would be great to learn from each other.
My family is in a season of change and not-knowing. My intention this holiday season is to choose connection and curiosity as we gather.
In January, you will find me working on my strategic life plan. Who else is in?
Inspired by – Harvard Business Review – Use Strategic Thinking to Create the Life you Want. R. Strack, S. Dyrchs, & A. Bailey. December 5, 2023