What do Living Your Values and New Year’s Resolutions have in common?

As the past month went by, I found myself considering the similarities between attempts to live values and attempts to meet New Year’s resolutions.  Both come from a good place, a place of desire for self growth and betterment, both the ideal version of ourselves that we would like to become or display to others.  And, both are so difficulty to live fully, despite our best intentions.  Why is it that we can so thoroughly want something, but we struggle to make it happen?

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“You will probably never meet your ideal self, even if you meet every goal”  

If you look at this from a more psychodynamic approach, one would see that our attempts to live values and meet resolutions are, in reality, overstretching our selves too much, too far, too often.  In these theories (think Freud, Jung, etc.) one has an ideal self that they are always striving towards, a persona they put out to the world.  This is our version of our best self.  it makes sense that we create our goals to help mold us into that self; our goals probably come from that self!We are not trying to set ourselves up fro failure.  We truly believe setting goals that live in the ideal self will help us become the ideal self.

But…that is not a reality.  Our real self, true self, can never fully become our ideal self.  We strive, we fail, we strive, we fail, and eventually we either stop striving or change our goal.

So, how do we moderate this?  How do we create goals that stretch ourselves just enough?  Challenging enough that we change, but not so ideal that we quit or regress?

What a fine line we each must walk to grow.  How fragile we really are.  We can want more than we can meet–setting ourselves up for failure time and again, then taking it personally when we can’t meet our own ideals.

Let me share a secret with you…you will probably never meet your ideal self, even if you meet every goal, every resolution, every hope.  As your self grows and changes, encompassing previous ideal selves, so too does your ideal self–always evolving as you do, always representing the next best version of you.

If you are on this journey of living values with us…please each time you stop to evaluate yourself, your family, and kick yourself for not meeting your goals, or not doing “good enough”, remember that your goals evolve, you evolve, and if you’re always striving to be an ideal you, you’ll never be good enough.  However, take a moment to look back a year, two, five, and see how yourself evolved!  How many ideal selves have you already absorbed into your current self?  How many additional conversations, interactions, and activities have you done with your family as a result of this journey that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

Hang in there…and ENJOY the JOURNEY and the (albeit relatively small) fruits of your labor!

Dec/Jan Check-In: Family A


This is hard.  Not in the “I knew it would be extra work and require some extra time to complete” kind of hard.  More of a “this is impossible” kind of hard.

Purposely living your values requires being purposefully mindful of your values at all times.  And, that kind of sucks!  Because you can never meet all of your values at all times.  It’s like trying to be the ideal version of yourself at all times.  Yes, that would be AWESOME…but, what are the chances of that happening?  In fact, in my experience, the closer I get to my ideal self, the more my definition or characteristics of ideal self changes.

That’s where the really hard part comes in.  It’s hard to keep going and keep trying.  It’s easier to chalk it up to failure, or excuses, or focusing on something completely different

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“It’s those small gains on the field…that begin to change a family’s culture.”   Photo by Fabricio Trujillo on Pexels.com

and avoiding it altogether (as all of us seemed to do the past couple of months.)  It’s hard to admit defeat, brush ourselves off, and run back into certain failure again.  Yet, it’s those small gains on the field, the extra hike, the reminder to treat our siblings with respect, the discussion with friends going through this experience as well, that begin to change a family’s culture.  The little steps, these little wins, will land us in a different spot than where we began in the beginning of this values living journey.  And who knows, our idea of what our family values may have grown exponentially by then…our goal post just changed–always slightly out of reach.

So…what is our plan for this month?  Try to truly live.  Be in the moment with our kids and encourage them to do the same.  Meals together (even if it is only one parent not working and able to dine), joyful activities, and new experiences as opposed to new stuff.

Will meet our goal?  Likely not.  We will; however, gain a few steps forward in stead of continuing to languish in mediocre interactions.

Dec/Jan Check In: Family B

I (mom) am sorry that we have not written a post since before the holidays… partly, this is because we were very busy and partly because we really have not lived our values intentionally. It seems as though we focus on what feeds our soul only when we have “extra” time and space in our everyday life.

The last two months have more so felt like pure survival and very little stopping to focus on what we are really doing. To be honest, I actually felt really annoyed by our value tree and avoided it – probably because I felt that we weren’t doing a good job focusing on our values and it represented just another shortcoming in our parenting.

This sounds much more gloomy than it is, we still had tons of fun and laughter with our kids every day. It is hard to be serious with these goofballs around. 

board game business challenge chess

“The last two months have more so felt like pure survival…”

I wish I had a plan for how to get back to focusing on our values. One thought is that our value tree is much too “big” and most of the values are aspirational vs ones that we are already good at and just need to highlight more. Another thought is to work a little less, but then my daughter’s fortune cookie tonight told us “a day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work” – so, maybe not 🙂

The Holidays:Blinded by Stress

So, for those of you who actively follow this blog, you will have noticed silence…for weeks…almost a month.  The holidays, a time that is focused on family and togetherness is also a time we seem to all go on autodrive.  How many family focused activities do you do during the holiday that you make the conscious decision to do because you want to focus on family and how many do you do because “that’s what we do” or “it’s tradition”?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is NOT a judgment to any of you (or us), just an observation of our experiences.  Traditions become tradition for a reason.  They arise out of cultural norms, beliefs, and needs.  Humans need relationships, families need time together, and holiday traditions have become a way of ensuring these needs are met without thought.  We spend time together during the holidays because we want to, we need to, and we’re supposed to.

The question is, what is the quality of those interactions?  As we went through some of the traditional interactions, I found myself enjoying some and so very stressed by others.  I enjoyed the quiet moments with my children drinking hot chocolate and watching old school Christmas movies; I enjoyed our new Christmas Eve tradition of gathering with friends and family to eat, drink, and decorate cookies.  I felt overwhelmed and taxed wrapping and organizing gifts; I felt guilty sitting for christmas eve mass while others stood and annoyed my children didn’t seem to be listening; I felt like a failure when we stopped reading the advent readings–though they were too adult for the kids to understand.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So…how do I trim the pieces that are unneeded.  What traditions are not only worth keeping but in line with our values?  And the one’s that are stressing, which pieces may not be in line with our values or what am I failing to see and build upon?  As with the rest of the year, holidays should be a purposeful manifestation of our values, not the blind walking through of traditions.  Challenge:  be purposeful in our adoption and living of holiday traditions in the upcoming year.

Side note:  As I write and read this…I am beginning to realize that some of what I may need is mindfulness–living and feeling in the moment.  (More to come on this in future posts)

November Check-In: Family B

It is amazing how fast time flies and one month passes. We finally completed our value tree!  The kids had a lot of fun creating it, and we think it turned out really pretty. I wrote in our values, and tried to keep the wording easy for little ones to understand. For example, I wrote “thankful” instead of “gratitude,” and “giving” in place of “generosity”.

At the core/base of our value tree you will find family, friends, faith, and nature. And then our first main branch shows how we value ourselves and others; these include our behaviors that show those values. In that branch you will find kindness and patience, for example.

The second main branch goes into more detail of what we value. For example financial security (we chose to write “money” so the kids can relate better) and health, which then further branches off into nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc.

The kids also wanted “the fruit of the spirit” added into our picture.

I hope you get the picture, but to help visualize what I am trying to explain we have posted our art project here 🙂

Family B value tree

We think that having our values displayed will help explain why we do certain things in our everyday life, such as speak kindly, brush our teeth, go to school/work, etc. We also hope that it will also remind us to focus on what we prioritize a little bit more–such as having fun and being generous.

It will be interesting to see if the upcoming holiday season will help us focus on our values a little more OR if we will be distracted from our priorities with all the to-do’s of this season.   (Feel free to let us know your experience as you navigate the holiday season while also trying to live your values everyday!)

More to come soon 🙂

November Check-In: Family A

This past month’s goals proved incredibly difficult to meet.

As with other families involved in this challenge, life seemed to get the best of of us this month.  While we did spend a good deal of time engaging in kith and kin related activities; unfortunately, these activities were not as purposeful as we had hoped.

We did engage in the hike the kids had requested, created a shelter in the living room, answered countless random questions, and built many a fire; we (dad especially) sought to engage in some level of structured learning experiences as well.  This is where we feel we have continued room for growth.

Because of this, we have decided to stick with this value family for another month.  The activities we are most interested in focusing on this next month include:

*Hiking (using jet boil, animal tracks, map reading, etc.)

*Educational activities (reading, puzzling, lego building, etc.)

*Engaging in supportive relationship building/growth as siblings/kind people

We will commit to planning at least one activity weekly, with the kids input, for at least one purposeful, meaningful growth activity per week.  (with the hopes of continuing to encourage kith and kin and growth throughout the week.)

We hope we can find a way to integrate the busy holiday season and our goals of living our values daily (so many ways to give during the season, but also so many ways to get lost in the materialism.)

October Check-In: Family D

The last month has been a whirl wind to say the least. When we finally had time with our two older children, who are 8 and 6 years old, every other weekend, it felt as if they were with us for a blink of an eye. How could we possibly take time to talk about values with them as a family, much less work on those values in 24 waking hours every two weeks? The lack of values within our children’s lives, due to them spending the majority of time with their mother, who hold different values, is extremely hard. We then tend to enforce our values and beliefs even stronger when we have them due to emotions and frustrations that lie beneath. When my husband and I spoke on this issue, we realized until we have the children more we can only do our best to instill our values as well as lead by example.  (Editor’s note:  this is the case for most families because of the hectic pace of life in general; it just is made so much clearer in this type of situation!)

“The arrival of stressful and chaotic times is when we need to unite as a family even more, as well as surrender control.”

Recently my husband and I spoke about our desire to love and respect each other more effectively in our day to day lives, in hopes to better our relationship as well as be an example to our children. With all sorts of stressors in our daily lives, we have found it difficult to love and respect each other as well as I would like.  I will speak for myself on this topic. On October 12, we had gone in for an ultrasound to check on our baby. I was 37 weeks pregnant at the time. Our OB came in and explained the baby needed to come out that day via C-section. Long story short, the baby was delivered hours later that day. We left the hospital 3 days later with our baby girl AND barely anything in our home prepared for this little one.

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“We left the hospital 3 days later with our baby girl…”       Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
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“barely anything in our home prepared”    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This was a massive, and unexpected, shock to me and my husband. The stress of not having the house ready, especially feeling as if I couldn’t nest well with my new baby was extremely hard for me. I like to be prepared. The lack of control I had over this new way of life (that I was not exactly ready for), left me feeling unstable, and I am sure the hormones contribute as well, of course. Dealing with a new infant and lack of sleep has left me feeling depleted at times.

Finding time to purposely love, and respect, and instill values during such a time has been very hard.  I feel I have failed miserably in this recent season of life.  The arrival of stressful and chaotic times is when we need to unite as a family even more, as well as surrender control. One thing my husband desires to do as a family is put a poster up in our home with values we all choose to work on daily as a family. This will hopefully be a positive visual reminder for us.

October Check-In: Family C

After discussing and laying out our values with our family, Mom and Dad checked in with our family’s progress. We’re embarrassed to say that we have not progressed as intended. We decided that our failure was primarily due to a lack of a control-document or process. Our plan is to devise a working system by end of month, in order to hold our family accountable to our values. This will help us into the future, as things are bound to get more hectic with a little one on the way!

Potential solutions included a picture (Easy to follow and use for the kids…and Dad), a simplified SOP (Editor’s note:  SOP=standard operating procedures or an agreed upon, easily understood set of expectations that all concerned individual share in order to meet a shared goal), a printed control document and more structured verbal check-ins during family dinner. Mom and Dad feel that we could employ a blended strategy of all solutions.

“It’s rudimentary, but fun and engaging.”

We will put up a picture, which shows our values, so that we can easily reference our values and remind us to live them.  Our picture will be placed under our family calendar in our kitchen and can also be seen from our primary eating space. The reason for that placement is that the proximity may assist us is because we play a game at dinner called, “Sweet and Sour”. The objective is to get someone to share the day’s Best and Worst as a spark of conversation. The fun is in being the first person to call out a fellow family member (or guest) and ask them for their input. We ask that the first topic be the Sour, so that we can end on a positive note, the Sweet. It’s rudimentary, but fun and engaging. Most importantly, it is a great tool with which we can learn about each other’s perspectives.

Sour before the Sweet in Sweet and Sour game during Family Dinner.

Additionally, going forward we are setting a goal to focus on one value per month. We will ensure we are living these values purposefully and proactively. At dinner, when our family is together, we will discuss how we exemplified that particular value. If we have not used that selected value that day, we can discuss where we could have used it or if it was appropriate for the situation or not.

On Cultural Change and Values

One of the main reasons we embarked on this purposeful living of our values was the feeling that life was flying by, and our kids were growing incrementally, without us meaningfully teaching a set of values.  This is a truth that each family shared in their own ways, and as you can read, each family went about discussing, identifying, and living their values differently.  The families shared in two key components:  a belief that living and teaching values to our children is important and a feeling that they could be doing more to engage their children, and themselves, in their identified values.

“Purposeful living of our values represents an intentional manipulation of the life space we choose to create, and engage in, with our children.”

The research supports the assertion that teaching children values is important; in fact, basic values of an individual are, for the most part, fixed by the time one is considered an adult (Baker, Dalton, & Hildebrand, 1981; Inglehart, 1977, 1997; Rokeach 1968, 1973).  Kurt Lewin (1939) discussed Life Spaces, or the psychological space or environment in which a person lives.  Everything that could possibly influence our behaviors is housed within our life space.  We organize, interpret, and enact our experiences both in, and as a reaction to, our life space.  Purposeful living of our values represents an intentional manipulation of the life space we choose to create, and engage in, with our children. As parents, we are responsible for both broadening and refining our children’s life spaces, ensuring values carry across borders, from the life space of home/family to those of school/friends and community/society.

While philosophers such as Marx and Nietzsche predicted a decline in traditional values with the growth of modernization, that hasn’t been the case; particularly as countries or societies move from industrial to post-industrial standing.  This has been found to be especially true of the United States (Inglehart & Baker, 2000).  Despite a convergence of values, to some extent, such as a move towards a higher value on self-expression; there is a persistence of traditional values as well.  This may be due in part to an increased sense of security, allowing for an emphasis on quality and meaning of life, or spiritual seeking (Inglehart & Baker, 2000; Wuthrow, 1998).

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Will you follow the convergence of values or find ways for values you identify as important to persist for yourself and your family?                 Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

This appears to be the case for the families in this study.  As society marches forward into whatever may come post-postindustrialism (values as antiquated, outdated, and unnecessary in the face of individualism)…we as individuals and families are left asking what do we really value, if anything?  That which generations before us valued–safety, security, materials, are not quite meeting the markers we as a generation reported as important in the World Value Surveys (per Inglehart & Baker, 2000), those of finding meaning and fulfillment; so, here we stand, attempting to create, and engage in, life spaces for ourselves and our children, that keep our values at the forefront despite a larger cultural impact that may not maintain the same values, or any values at all in the future.

–Ashley E. Poklar, M.Ed.

October Check-In: Family B

I feel embarrassed to report that we have not yet created our “value tree”. It has been over a month since we came up with the draft and even went to the craft store to buy a poster board. Our kids asked when we would finally work on painting the tree for a week or two, but then the intention was lost in our day to day busyness. My husband and I committed to drawing it out last night, but then ended up spending time with friends instead (one of our values – friendships!). And then we postponed it to today, which was spent helping my mother-in-law (another value – family!) and cleaning/cooking/haircuts/laundry (these fit into two other values we identified: health and security!). I am excited that as I am writing this, I realize that even though we did not get around to our art project – we still lived our values 🙂

I really appreciate how this project helps us live a little more mindfully.

I also noticed that even though we did not find time to sit down and talk specifically about our values since last month, we still were able to talk about them with our children. We often explained to the kids that the reason we do X, is because we value Y. For example, when we explored our local pumpkin farm to pick out our Halloween pumpkins last weekend, we explained that our outing helped us live several values: family, nature/outdoors, enjoyment, and inquisitiveness. And today when my daughter helped me with the laundry and then I helped her with cleaning her hamster cage, we talked about how our teamwork helped us live the values “family, kindness, and courtesy”.

photo of field full of pumpkins
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

I really appreciate how this project helps us live a little more mindfully. Hopefully, by recognizing when and how we live our values every day and pointing them out to our children, we can all incorporate our values and appreciation for them into our daily routine.

On a side note, our son created a “Fruit of the Spirit Handprint Tree” at preschool. His class is learning about Galatians 5:22-23 “but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” We all thought it was really neat that his preschool project was so very similar to our home project. This further facilitated many conversations about our values, and we are planning to somehow incorporate our son’s preschool project into our family’s value tree.   …Once we finally get it 🙂