A new year brings new opportunities, new goals and a fresh start. As we begin 2021, many are making resolutions with a desire to improve something. According to a survey by Finder, 45% of Americans will make a health-related New Year's resolution for 2021.
So, as I sat down to write my first column for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, I thought about some things: what was most pressing for me during 2020, becoming a runner and what I'm looking forward to in 2021. The pandemic showed me that I need to focus on the health of my marriage as much as I do on my physical health. As I reflected on my journey, I found that the road to success in one area also applies to the other.
As you set your goals, do you have one to help you make sure your relationship is fit?
Every achievable goal needs a plan. Here are five ways to keep your relationship fit:
1. Practice self-awareness on a regular basis.
You don't know where you need to go if you don't know where you are. As you embark on a journey of relationship fitness, start by evaluating your current relationships. Take an inventory of how healthy you are in this area of your life. How do you communicate with each other? How do you handle conflict? How do you express needs and desires? These are just a few areas to evaluate. Be objective and honest. A realistic starting point helps you reach the finish line.
2. Set realistic expectations and goals.
Once you're aware of your relationship's current state, it's time to set some realistic goals and expectations. We often drop New Year's resolutions because the goal is too broad and the expectations are unrealistic. If you want to run but have never run before, it's not the best idea to set a goal to run a marathon in your first year. The same goes for your relationship goals. Set achievable, measurable and realistic goals. Maybe you want to spend more quality time with your spouse. A goal of two date nights per month is a lot more doable than a couple's seven-day, all-inclusive getaway.
3. Make a plan to increase your opportunity for success.
You may have heard it said, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." That statement rings true in every aspect of your life because you can't haphazardly achieve your goals. You must plan. Let's talk about the goal of two date nights per month. Put it on the calendar. If you have kids, book a babysitter. If you have a babysitter you love, book them for the next 12 months so you aren't scrambling month to month. Taking time to plan helps you reach your goal.
4. Find an accountability partner.
It's tough to achieve goals on your own without accountability. You and your partner should hold each other accountable for shared goals, but it's not a bad idea to enlist another couple to help in this area. Share with someone who will push you to achieve success.
5. Access tools to assist in your fitness.
Just as a runner invests in shoes and a cyclist invests in bikes, you have to invest in your relationship to ensure proper fitness. Look for tools to help you on your journey. This could be a mentor couple, books, classes, blogs and social-media accounts. It may take some time to ensure you're getting useful information, but a healthier relationship is worth the investment.
As you embark on your 2021 goals, I wish you the best. I challenge you to focus on your relationship. Investing in your relationship benefits the two of you and generations to come. Plus, taking time to make your relationship healthier will increase your happiness and strengthen your community. Imagine the good that will come to us all in 2021 if we take a little time to focus on not just "me" but "we."
Mitchell Qualls is the operations director at family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.