And my 2012 theme is…

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I am a natural resolution-maker. My inclination is to make not only resolutions, but also quarterly targets and monthly progress checks and SMART goals (see picture).

The problem is that the Brazilian part of me doesn’t operate this way. This past week was a classic example; I had a whole bunch of ambitious tasks planned, and then we went on a spontaneous 3-day trip… so my SMART goals went out the window.

The options then became:

  1. Not go on the trip;
  2. Go, but stress the entire time about the goals that were not getting accomplished;
  3. Reschedule the goals for a future date;
  4. Stop making SMART goals.

Options 1 and 2 obviously stink. I’ve tried option 3 for a long time, but what ends up happening is that the goals get pushed back and back and start to build up. I then accomplish much less than I’d planned to, and can’t enjoy my 30% success because of the 70% I haven’t gotten to yet.

So I’m going with option 4.

No SMART goals.

No New Year’s resolutions.

I do, however, like the idea of a theme for the year. Themes aren’t specific or measurable, but they’re what your year is “about” in an overarching sense. There are no action steps or to-do lists… you just generally try to do things that are in line with your theme.

2011 Theme: Wedding/Work

These two elements essentially dominated our year. It took a solid 4 months to get all the documents together for the civil wedding, and another 4 months to plan and organize the religious wedding/reception. Despite the wonderful and much-appreciated generosity of my family, it also took us working like maniacs throughout the year in order to pay for everything.

The good side is that we accomplished everything! We got married – twice – and my family’s week in Brazil (which was their first time meeting Christian!) couldn’t have possibly been sweeter. We also had an excellent series of pre-marital counseling session with our congregation’s leader. On the work side, I pushed my limits with the number of class hours I took on as well as some big translation projects; Christian worked full-time while being in school full-time.

The downside is that with all the wedding stuff on top of our grueling schedules, we were in “survival mode” for pretty much the whole year. We had no time for service, social life, or really investing in relationships with others.

2012 Theme: Growth

Now that we’ve established our family and have reasonably stable jobs, we want to move forward.

Neither of our current jobs have any possibilities for advancement, so we’ll have to create our own. That means entrepreneurship, which has been a dream of both of ours for a while. As a first step, I’ve created an online English pronunciation course that launches tomorrow – pray for at least 5 sign-ups so that I can break even on the advertising! If it’s successful, I’ll create more online English “modules” on specific topics, so students can study and practice English with topics they’re interested in.

We also want to grow in our relationships with friends and family. In Brazil, there is no such thing as just “quickly stopping by” someone’s house. When we stop off at Christian’s parents’, even if it’s for a very specific purpose such as to pick up a shirt of his, I know to plan on staying for at least 40 minutes of chit-chat. If you’re having lunch at someone’s house, you can plan on it taking up your entire afternoon. So in order to develop relationships, you really do need a substantial amount of free time. We’d like to start by inviting his parents over for a Sunday lunch, and take it from there.

Finally, we want to grow spiritually. The only way I know how to explain this is by drawing a comparison with capoeira, so bear with me for a moment!

Recently, I was teaching a complete beginner a movement called rabo de arraia, which is a very basic kick in capoeira angola. This kick is so easy for me I can do it with my eyes closed. I can do it without thinking. I can do it with several dozen different variations. I can do it at any speed or height I want to. I can hit a target accurately, or have the control to stop the blow in the middle.

But I have ten years’ experience. For the beginner student, it was not easy. She bent her kicking leg. She kicked with the wrong leg. She turned in the wrong direction. The position of her head and hands were all wrong. She wobbled and nearly fell over every time.

The rabo de arraia movement is “ingrained” into my muscles. It is literally part of me.

In the same way, Christian and I want love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to be so ingrained into us that we can do them effortlessly. I know that for me some of these things come slightly easier than others, but for the most part I feel like a beginner, with my attempts to exercise these virtues turning out just as awkward and difficult and wrong as the new student doing a rabo-de-arraia.

But with practice – and divine help – these things too can become part of us, flowing out naturally in our words and actions like the rabo-de-arraia. This is a theme well worth working towards… though I wouldn’t dare attempt to apply the SMART system to it!

What’s your “theme” for 2012?