We have just entered 5780, the new Jewish year. This is a time for new decisions, new focus, new intentions, and new commitments. Recently, there has been a focus on research dedicated to new habit formation and the best way to make life altering changes. The big take away seems to be instituting change a little at a time. In fact, in his book Atomic Habits, James Clear says that we should try to just do one percent better each day. These habit changes often refer the institution of physical resolutions, but science has shown us that the same tools and techniques can be used to foster mental and spiritual growth.
The New Year represents the start of a new cycle, another beginning of traveling through holidays and seasons, celebrating birthdays and other life cycle events, and watching those around us get older and wiser by a year. The process of aging is accompanied by maturity, wisdom and experience and we have lots to learn from those who came before us and paved the paths we travel.
It is important to model continually striving to improve or do better for our children. The new year is a great time to discuss this with them, to show them that doing better doesn’t have to mean eating healthier or going to the gym an extra time each week. While those are lofty goals and are proven to increase your health, doing better could mean simply asking the kid who is sitting alone eating lunch to join you. It could mean forfeiting one night of Hanukkah presents and donating them to less fortunate children. This time of year is perfect for meaningful discussions and setting goals and intentions that foster mental and spiritual growth, embodying the principles of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.
If you ask a young child, do they feel better in their hearts when they give or receive a gift, the answer is almost always that they prefer to give a gift. Unpack that with your children, use it to foster a meaningful growth-oriented discussion, setting goals and intentions and planning a path forward to accomplish them. Once you have worked through the process with them a few times, step back and watch them institute and master it themselves – growing human beings who care about being better people and changing the world, one small step at a time.
SUE PENN IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO KIDDISH.