Yearly review 2018 – practicing skills to increase family harmony

My personal goal for 2018 was “Detach from the old and embrace the new to nurture a family spirit of adventure.” In August of 2017 I undertook a Mindfulness short course with Al Jeffrey. It had a huge impact on me at the time but as I got deeper and deeper into the school volunteer projects that year, in particular in September and October, I stopped practicing much of what I learnt. So it was utterly wonderful to have the letter I wrote to myself during the mindfulness course arrive mid December 2017 to remind me of why I did the course and what I wanted to achieve. It was pivotal in the creation of my goal.

Through out the Mindfulness course I became aware my attachment to outcomes/behaviours/emotions of the kids was at times causing disharmony – even when it was well intentioned. I really wanted to work on this aspect of my personality during 2018 and while still far from perfect, I have made huge progress towards detaching.

Practice detachment

Through meditation and mindfulness I have become so much better at detachment. I struggled with detachment the first few months of the year. I let things get to me more than I should have, mainly because I kept holding on to them – I didn’t seem to want to let them go. I would re-run or pre-empt situations which is not at all conducive to letting go.

I decided to use meditation to help me with this habit. I chose guided meditations focusing on detachment and letting go and when I did self guided sessions, I made letting go the mantra of my meditation. It helped tremendously and I began to see practicing detachment as a very similar process as to practicing meditation. Just like in meditation, where my mind wanders, I note it is wandering and just bring my focus back to my breath/mantra etc. During my days if I caught myself becoming attached, I would note it, not place emotion on it, but practice letting go and repeat this process.

It is a habit that still requires focus and attention from me, but it is really worth the effort. When I detach, I am a better parent and I am a happier person to be around in general. This of course leads to greater family harmony which is incredibly important to me.

Practice mindful listening

While I knew mindful listening was important, it has only been since intentionally practicing mindful listening this year have I seen the true power it has. I have been far from perfect in terms of my listening, but I have improved significantly and that makes me happy.

Much like detachment I realised that mindful listening is also very much like meditation. This realisation was a game changer for me when listening to people. There are times when my mind still wanders, but I will recognise that I am not really listening and I will redirect myself back to intentional listening.

For times when I find myself starting to form in detail what I want to say in reply to the person who is talking, I use the short mantra “it’s their turn” to guide myself back to really listening to what they are saying, not just biding time until they finish talking so I can say what I want to say!

I am also making a conscious effort to go into challenging conversations with a willingness to be changed by what I hear. I can be quite head strong, so have a history of going into particular types of conversations with my mind firmly set and a determination not to change it! It is hard to really listen to what someone is saying if you are not opening your mind to their ideas.

Highlights of 2018

When I review my year, I look broader than just the habits I have set to support my goal and here are some of the highlights for me in 2018:

  • Age group winner in a number of Spartan Races
  • New half marathon PB (broke 90 minutes! – yay!)
  • Enjoyed my training program for the marathon and a pretty good run at Melbourne Marathon
  • Reading much more – fiction and non fiction
  • Two weekends away with two different sets of girlfriends
  • Regular running sessions then breakfast afterwards with the husband
  • Making food for others in need
  • We painted two rooms in the house
  • Spending more one on one time with the kids
  • Having adventures with the kids
  • Staying calmer in situations where I would usually get stressed about

Key learning from 2018

I love that I have learned the skills to detach and listen more mindfully. Both of these skills contribute positively to family harmony. I wish that I had perfected them this year, but I certainly haven’t! I can still become attached to certain outcomes or behaviours. Instead of listening to the kids with full focus, I can still just go through the motions while my mind is far away on other things. The difference from Dec 2018 to Jan 2018 however is that I actually realise I am doing these things and I can stop myself mid way and self correct.

Each year as I focus on new habits, some I establish completely and solidly into my life and I don’t have to think about them. Decluttering is a habit from this year which is like that. Others require further attention even after the year has passed. Practicing detachment and mindful listening are like that for me and they are so beneficial to my life I will keep working on them always.

I ended 2018 feeling I did achieve my goal, seeing growth in myself. Having a goal that focused on my behaviours reminded me once again just how important my actions, behaviours and demeanour are in terms of leading the family in the right direction. What I do can have much greater impact on the kids than what I say, especially when it comes to the teenagers.

What did you learn from 2018?

December Review

HabitConnection to goal - Detach from the old and embrace the new to nurture a family spirit of adventure.Poem quoteDecember Review
Practice detachment dailyMy attachment comes from the right place in terms of wanting the best for my family and myself, but it can be founded on beliefs that I hold that are not necessarily true or helpful. Letting go of this belief and creating a new one requires me to detach.

Detaching doesn't mean I stop caring or give up but it means I acknowledge it, explore it, process it, take action to move on and let it go.

Letting go of old or untrue beliefs will mean I can focus on being more supporting and encouraging to the kids.
"For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."
~ T.S. Eliot
Last month I noted how my attachment to the way I see myself and how others describe me was impacting decisions I was making. Catching this in action was an interesting experience and I did change my mind once I realised what I was doing. It can be easy to box yourself in based on your own perceptions or perceptions from others.
Develop the practice of mindful listeningSometimes listening can be hard. I think I know what the kids or others are going to say, I have things on my mind, I have something I want to say or I have things I would rather be doing than listening then and there.

Mindfully listening to others shows that you value them and it empowers them to share exactly how they are feeling. I want my kids to tell me about their dreams, their hopes, their fears and their crazy ideas. This won’t happen if I am not really listening.

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
~ E.E. Cummings
I was worried that I might regress a little in this habit as December is traditionally a full month and when things get busy, I notice my mindful listening drops off. This however didn't occur. While of course there were moments when I was distracted, on the whole I did really listen to the kids and adults around me.
Do something new each month with the familyI love routine and being organised and sometimes I will take the option to spend time on these activities and not leave enough time for exploring something new.

This year I want to try some big and little adventures with the family.
"Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead."
~Rose Milligan
Very simple things this month with bush walking and tree climbing.
Use deliberate daily practice to learn something new each monthK. Anders Ericsson, a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, is a pioneer in researching deliberate practice. One of his core findings is that becoming an expert at a skill has more to do with how you practice rather than with just performing the skill many times.

To really embrace a new skill I need to intentionally practice, not just do the skill to tick the box to say I have done it. This is a practice I really want to develop and role model for my kids.
"Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there."
December wasn't a great month for deliberate practice for me, with no daily activity focused on.
Develop a monthly decluttering habitOur house is relatively uncluttered but we really do have too much stuff.

All this extra stuff takes up space, time and energy - all of which I can reclaim and redirect when I declutter.
"The open space surrounding me
Clears my lungs
Makes me breath
I feel light
Vividly bright and empty
A room to dance in happily"
~Anna Elise
The kitchen cupboards were decluttered this month.