Each year we get together as a family and, on January 1, have lunch and write down our goals. We’ve been doing this for over ten years. We help each other in coming up with challenging goals and, the older the child is, the more independence they have in determining their goals for the year. Nobody does it alone or gets away with sandbagging themselves, and honestly nobody tries.

We all do it in front of each other. We’ve spent the last week or so praying and contemplating what we want to accomplish in the coming year, and when we sit down to lunch everyone is a little excited but also somewhat apprehensive. Before we set new goals, we have to read our goals from the last year, give our honest assessment of how we think we did in accomplishing those goals, and then listen to what everyone else thinks or experienced relative to our accomplishing the goals and how we did.

Before all that, though…

We find a suitable sit-down restaurant. We really like to go to McAlister’s Deli, because they do not have any televisions that can be distracting. Unfortunately this year, we were out of town and the McAlister’s in town were closed for New Year’s Day. So we wound up at Willie’s Grill and Icehouse, which has a nice atmosphere and good food, but was a bit distracting with the televisions, turned to football. While Mama & I can keep our eyes averted, The Boyz all have trouble relative to their age. We made do, though, and everyone was pretty good at staying on task and involved all afternoon.

Yep – it takes an afternoon. We arrived at about 1:30 and left at 5:20. This is a serious deal!

Once we ordered our food, it was down to business. We pray before every meal, and this was no different except it included seeking God’s will in our goal setting, particularly that we do what He has blessed and not that He bless what we do.

That being said, we started.

I go first.

We used to go from youngest to oldest, making me last, but last year I changed it around. I realized that my family needs to see Dad open up and get down in the weeds and dirt, really examining my life in front of them so that they know I trust them with who I am and who I’m supposed to be and need their help in fulfilling God’s dream for me. By doing this, it helps them let their guards down and the goals become much more personal – not superfluous checkmarks on a to-do list but real, life changing and empowering steps by which we can, a year later, measure actual and significant growth as human beings, children of God, and family members. It helps me do the same.

I won’t rehash my goals from last year except to say that my major goal is still a work in progress, and we all agreed to that and that I should continue to work on it, making it the signature goal for 2016.

We set three types of goals, and then set some specific accomplishments we want to have made. Each has to be measurable and have a time set. The three types – and there must be at least one of each type – are The Three Bs:

  1. How can I Believe in God better?
  2. How can I Become a better person?
  3. How can I Behave better?
  4. What do I want to accomplish?

Belief, Better, Behave. The Three Bs.

My Three B Goals that I pray are in accordance with God’s Will are:

  1. To Believe in God better I will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation twice a month.
  2. To Become a better person I will not buy alcohol all year.
  3. To Behave better I will eliminate my negative, unrighteous responses to my anger by the start of Advent.
  4. My Accomplishments that I pray are in accordance with God’s will are:
    1. Read one book a week, with at least half being oriented toward improving my spiritual life.
    2. Bring my oldest boy through the final stages of Being a Man by June 26.
    3. Do my chores.
    4. Start a Radio show with Chris with the first broadcast on March 1.
    5. Pray with Mama every night.

Goal 1 is a factor in attaining Goal 3. I am an angry person, and while anger itself is not a sin, our response to it can be – and mine, the majority of the time, is. I have a self-righteous streak a mile wide, and changing how I handle my anger was the biggest goal of 2015. I think I have made great strides, and I plan to have gotten control of it by Advent of this year: November 27. This Goal is very important to me… When I asked The Boyz last year what the one thing they thought I needed to work on was (when I decided I would be the first to do the Goals, remember?), they all said my anger. While it was humbling and hard to hear, this was a great gift to me, and I want to reach this goal very badly – for all of us.

I probably sound like a child abuser! I’m not. I get very moody and specifically mean when I get angry, and while The Boyz said I improved drastically this year, I told them I was not done getting better. That is the signature Goal this year – to beat this self-righteous response to anger into submission – Goal 3.

We all know the source of my anger, and we all know that I wasn’t always like this. The source is undeserving of this much power. I have had the blessing of working with my Spiritual Director on this almost exclusively for the past year, and I am confident with his help and the help of my family that the new Me…who is the old Me from before all this crud, will emerge in time for a glorious Advent. I’m really excited about that. As I told my Spiritual Director, it’s like being in the Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and seeing the end of the tunnel before getting to it, knowing that the City will be opening up in all its glory after your long dark ride.

Goal 2 is an easy thing to do, and I replace it with Accomplishment 1 – the money has to go somewhere! Usually I would average two six packs of Miller Lite a week, and it was getting silly and habitual…not in an alcoholic way, just a regular thing. I like my beer, to be sure, and I’m sure I will have plenty of opportunity without me buying it. It’s a goal I thought about for a week before we sat down, and it seemed appropriate. It will give me some better mornings, too! I can’t throw ‘em back like I used to.

Accomplishment 1 will be a big boost to me, and keep me from the Netflix bingeing. It has the added bonus of making me better with every word I read. I’m already working on my list of books, and will share those with you here in the 2016 Books.

Accomplishment 2 is my favorite, and very important. My son is almost ready to be told he is a Man. We’re going to spend the next six months drilling down into what that means (Hint: It’s all about Perfection, Moral Clarity and the Four Natural Aptitudes of Man and the Twelve Righteous Virtues of Manh) so that he can put concrete words and characteristics to what he has (hopefully!) been learning since he was conceived. It all comes down to these few months ahead…! At the right time, I will declare him a Man, and tell him and the family that he is a Man.

Doing my chores (Accomplishment 3) should be a simple one. I should be doing them already. We even have a roster for everyone. But I’m afraid I have been the slacker, terribly so. That needs to change, and with God’s help it will. I have this idea I’m working on to help get me settled into the habit, but I can’t tell you until Ash Wednesday.

Accomplishment 4 is a fun one, and an attempt to have a little personal time and hobby. Chris and I had a Radio show in college and it was a lot of fun. With slight modifications (we were 20-something dorks back then so I am sure some of our material wasn’t appropriate…after all, it was “Alternative College Radio”) it should be great fun and, with the Internet, we don’t have to convince some station manager to run the show. We’ll just do it online. I’m looking forward to getting back into on-air work. I did it for several years and always enjoyed it.

Accomplishment 5 is very important to me. Mama and I used to pray together all the time before bed while in bed. Now, we pray together during the day at least once at dinner time, but it is not part of our makeup as a Married couple. We are both pretty tight with Jesus as individuals, but that’s not what Marriage is all about. We should be praying more as HusbandAndWife than Kristofer and Beth. This will get us back on track, and maybe even get us to stop bingeing on separate Netflix shows. Ugh – what a waste!

So these are my goals and I publish them so that I am more accountable. The Boyz will see if I succeeded or failed, and the only way to fail at any of these is to not do them, or not get up when I fall down.

After I was done, Mama set her goals and The Boyz followed. Each of us added to or amended our goals based on what others set, and then we set Family Goals – one in each category, at least. After they were all written down, I placed my hand on them, Mama placed hers on mine, and The Boyz followed suit. We then prayed over them, asking for The Lord to guide us and also let us know if these are not His will. We placed them in his care and under our commitment, and then did a little happy dance at the table – maybe just being glad that the long afternoon is over! So ended an important family tradition and ritual.

As a family, we meet at the beginning of each quarter to evaluate our progress toward our goals and to ask for help with anything we think we are faltering on. Incidentally, Beth and I have some goals together that are not the purview of The Boyz or the general public, at least at this time, that we need to keep each other accountable to on sometimes even a daily basis.

These are commitments, not wishes. Callings, not requests. Actions, not dreams.

Goals, not resolutions.

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