10 Jan Whiteboard Wishes
As we continue the hustle into a new year, many of us are already fighting the strains of keeping new resolutions, staying on target for freshly set goals and new habits. Others have yet to establish a game plan for the upcoming year, and there are those who are already questioning the priorities they so recently set.
No matter what category you find yourself in, most of us at least take a brief inventory of the previous year. In truth, we can do this at any point in time, but there is something magical about this much celebrated beginning. Looking back on the highs and lows, it’s natural to think of what we want to see more of and what we never wish to experience again. This is often the starting point of setting new goals and deciding to establish new habits that will help us become our best selves. Clearly stated and measured, they speak of focus and purpose.
Just before Christmas, my youngest son, Gabriel, unintentionally helped me with my focus. I say unintentionally, because he didn’t communicate it to me directly, he simply wrote his Christmas Wish List on his whiteboard. (Yes, my 6-year-old has a whiteboard- the apple does not fall far from the tree.) This list caused me to step back and re-evaluate my perspective and goals for this new year.
I walked into Gabriel’s room one morning, and in his kindergarten writing, he listed the five things he wanted for Christmas. There were typical kid requests: BB gun, more MagnaTiles, and a remote-control snake. (I must admit, my wife and I are hoping the snake obsession ends soon, even more so now that we have become aware that there is such a thing as a remote-control snake!) Seeing that his number two wish was to help his big brother decide upon a gift brought a smile to my face, but that smile didn’t last long.
It was Gabriel’s number one request that immediately put my heart in my throat and made my eyes well up with tears. The thing my 6-year-old wanted more than anything for Christmas was that his heart condition would go away. Encapsulated in this one wish was the one thing I would do anything to make happen yet have absolutely no ability or capacity to make happen. (For those new to my blog, Gabriel and I have a condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy that I talk about here.) His desperate desire to be a physically ‘typical’ kid superseded any material desire he may have had.
This is not a completely foreign concept in our house. Our 10-year-old daughter Sophia, has a pretty significant case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and our 11-year-old son, David, has Autism. We are immersed in a household of special needs. Wishing one’s burdens would be taken away is a recurring desire that requires frequent empathy and coaching. It creates stressful moments for both our children and us as parents. However, it also creates blessings, if one is willing to look for them.
While his physical body may constrain him, Gabriel’s brilliant mind and tender heart are boundless. Though he never stops hoping for healing, he is beginning to understand that he has other extraordinary gifts that others do not. He is learning to magnify what he can do instead of focusing on what he cannot, moving from prognosis to possibility.
Sophia’s often frenetic behavior is, at times, difficult to be around. Judge me if you will, but if you have an ADHD child, you know what I am talking about. However, the other side of her ADHD is the ability to hyper-focus and achieve things that few others ever do. She has begun to own this gift and, rather than complain, focus on what it enables her to do. Further still, she is learning to hyper-focus on the things that are suited to who she is and not waste energy on the things that aren’t congruent with who she is. It is her ability to discern and achieve at such a young age that inspires me to stay clear and focused day after day. I must in order to keep up with her.
David unquestionably struggles more than any of our children and often expresses his displeasure with being Autistic. He is high functioning enough to be painfully aware that he is quite different from others. Even so, he has a heart of gratitude. This kid expresses more appreciation than anyone I’ve ever met. In fact, I recall one Christmas in particular. David was 3 at the time, and my parents gave him a gift that they had placed inside a big facial tissue shipping box. When he removed the wrapping paper, someone joked that he got a box full of tissues. Not understanding that they were joking, he immediately smiled and said how wonderful those would be the next time he got a cold. How pure must a 3-year-old’s heart be to immediately find gratitude in receiving a large box of tissues? Purer than mine, that’s for sure.
Having spent considerable time mapping out my targets for the upcoming year, I must admit, I was pretty invested in them. The thought of starting from scratch quickly found inner resistance. However, I reminded myself that one of my goals is to be willing to pivot and change course when new data comes. Nothing like putting a new goal to the test.
The critical element here is creating habits based upon positives. Our habits should be based upon what we want to become, not upon what we want to avoid. It is this positive mentality that gives us specific targets to fix our eyes upon, rather than an ambiguous negative that is hard to quantify and hardly inspiring.
So, with the mentality that it’s never too late to set new goals, re-prioritize existing goals, or begin forming new habits, I am committed to harnessing the power of a new year with the following framework:
- Start with gratitude for what there is to work with, not what isn’t
- Decide what to aim for, not what to avoid
- Make sure goals align with purpose and priorities
- Break goals into actionable steps that will ultimately lead to the desired outcome
- Be willing to adjust goals when they fall out of alignment with priorities
- Make adjustments when actions aren’t bringing goals closer to reality
In the end, though hopes and prayers for healing will never end, I will choose to be grateful. I will be more mindful of what makes it onto my lists of goals and wishes, as they are often a reflection of my priorities. May they reflect what really matters in this life and be the motivation to turn burdens into blessings.
What in your life have you often seen as a burden that you can use as your superpower this year? How can you use them to accomplish new things and bless others?