Today the Governor of Minnesota closed all public K-12 schools due to “extreme cold weather”. Looks like our winter break just got a little longer and some more cabin fever to go along with it!

Wake Up and Be Amazing |

I still vividly remember the cold and blowing snow drifting across my friends driveway as we picked her up for school. We were in high school and were both in a zero hour (before school) math class taught by our Cross Country coach…total nerds, I know.

We made it to school despite the negative 70 degree windchill.

At the moment class started, the principle walked in to let us know school was canceled due to “extreme cold weather”.

What do you do then when you are already at school? We ended up waiting an hour or two for one of our parents to pick us up and probably went home to nap (getting up for a zero hour is brutal to a high schoolers sleep schedule).

Contrary to popular belief by people in the rest of the country, “extreme cold weather” is really rare here!

I only recall the one day growing up. My kids are experiencing their first and hopefully last such day. Our temps are due to start rising again on Tuesday to what most of you might still consider extreme cold, but as long as we get above zero it is safe for the kids to go outside (properly clothed, of course).

Needless to say, we are having an extra long winter break. I don’t mind though, as it has give me some precious time with the boys, and an opportunity work on a couple of my New Year’s focus areas related to family.

Why I Think Focus Areas are Better Than Resolutions

I call them focus areas instead of resolutions, because I don’t like the dead-end nature of resolutions.

If you meet your resolution, then what…wait until next year to start again? What if you don’t meet your resolution? The gyms are all full now, but come February everyone starts to miss a day here or there and then they give up.  They failed to keep their resolution, an absolute, and most never try to start over…until next January.

This year, I am going to skip the resolutions. Instead, I am going to make a concerted effort to better myself in several focus areas. Many of these are areas I am already focusing on, but I want to try something new for the new year.

I love to research. When I get an idea in my head, I can get lost for hours researching and reading about it. I want to apply that inquisitive thinking to focus areas that are important to me.

Instead of resolutions, I am going to research, learn, and improve these focus areas:

5 Areas I am Focusing on for 2014 |

My focus areas are areas of my life I want to put more emphasis on and nurture in the new year. I plan to actively research these areas and try out new ideas I find. I plan to discuss these areas regularly with my husband and friends to share what I have learned and what I want to try.

What I love about this, is it is open-ended. Instead of a discrete resolution or goal, these focus areas are ongoing. I won’t ever reach the goal, I will continually improve. On the other hand, I won’t miss the goal either and automatically fail. I will continually focus on improving these areas of my life.

Why I Chose These 5 Focus Areas

Strengthen Family

I believe a strong marriage and family takes commitment and work. I want to learn about ways to make our family bond even stronger. It blows my mind that we are already a third of the way through my oldest’s childhood, and I still feel like we are stumbling and feeling our way in the dark. I want to try to shed some light on what makes a strong and healthy family.

Be a Role Model for My Kids

I could have coupled this with strengthening family, but I really wanted to give this separate attention. I am not always proud of the way I act. I struggle with being patient. I want to do better for my kids. It breaks my heart to see some of the same weaknesses in them that I see in myself. They learned from me. I want to show them they don’t have to accept those weaknesses, they can learn to be better. I will show them.

Make Healthy Choices

Health and fitness have always been important to us. It used to be something we were measured by in the military. Then we stumbled for a few years. Now, we have found our way back with lifestyle changes that contributed to my husband losing over 40 lbs in the last two years and me losing 20 lbs. But being healthy is a lifestyle. It demands focus. If we stop working out or reading about healthy eating, we slip back into bad habits.

Improve Our Home Keeping

I think I have home decorating down, but my home keeping is horrible. Maybe you have read about how I feel when company is coming over.  I want to actively research and try new methods for keeping our home clean, running a household, and maintaining our home on a regular basis.  No more letting things go undone or letting things pile up.  And, I specifically put “our” in the title of this one.  I have always felt the home is my burden, but I recognize I am not the only one that lives here.  My hubby does a lot, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t involve the kids enough and we don’t coordinate well to maximize our efforts.  We all need to work together as a team.

Grow My Business

I am proud of my young business, but until recently I think I was taking a backseat in the success car. I used to say things like, “it isn’t growing”. In 2014, I will be saying things like “I am going to grow this!”  Such a simple change in words is empowering.  There are many things in my business I cannot control or influence, and instead of dwelling on them I am going to turn my focus to doing the best I can on the things I can control.

Getting Started with These Great Reads

Are you interested in some of the same focus areas?  If so, I want to share some great articles and sites I have come across recently in each of these areas.  These are articles that not only have great ideas, but have inspired me to action in my life…inspired me to start making small incremental improvements with huge benefits.

Strengthen Family

Family Inc. – I love this take on running a family and household.  I want to get started by hosting a weekly family meeting.  I really think it will help us all get on the same page and celebrate successes regularly.

The Wrong Reason to Try For a Fourth Baby – Love this brave mother’s story  and opinion on having a house full of boys.

Frommer’s 100 Places to Take Your Kids – One important aspect of strengthening our family is travel and adventure.  We have not been doing nearly enough of either.  This list seems like a helpful place to start as we plan our adventures.  First up, we need to go somewhere warm!

Be a Role Model for My Kids

The Important Thing About Yelling – I first read this article months ago, but a recent feature on Huffington Post brought it back to my attention.  When my patience runs out, I am quick to yell.

Establish a Chatting Spot – I adore this idea.  I want to start this with each of my boys ASAP.  It will be so important to have this habit in place when they are older.

Make Healthy Choices

Bender Fitness – I have to change up my workouts often.  For the last month I have followed Melissa Bender’s workouts, and I love them.  They are perfect for our home gym.

Make Ahead Smoothie Packets – I am so not a morning person.  I need as many things as possible to run on auto pilot.  I love this method for making pre-packaged frozen fruit for my morning shake.  We have frozen fruit to add to our daily green shakes, but I never thought to combine it into quick to grab packets.

Improve Our Home Keeping

Household Binder – I recently ordered this amazing household binder from my friend Jen.  It lives in our mini command center.  Just having it makes me feel more organized already.

How I Keep My House Clean Enough – Love all of Melissa’s tips here, but the one that sticks with me the most is “cleaning frenzies”.  We have not done them regularly in the past, but doing them daily would be so helpful!

Growing My Business

Art of a Being Goal-Getter – I attended the Alt Summit Online Conference where Joy first delivered this talk.  It was great, but I got even more out of it by being able to reread it on Joy’s blog.

 4 Secrets to Making Goals and Resolutions You’ll Really Keep – I may not believe in resolutions, but goal-setting for my business is a must.  Do you know how to write S.M.A.R.T. goals?  It is a method I picked up in the corporate world, but I am really happy to have this thorough refresher on how to write goals right.

Whether we make resolutions, set goals, or choose focus areas, there always has to be a system of accountability.  Something to keep us moving forward in the right direction.  One of my favorite systems of accountability, is also the easiest.  Periodically, tell someone else what you are doing (and crave telling them)!!  For example, I am not accountable to telling my hubby when I workout, but I want to tell him…I want to tell him a success, like I ran 3 miles today!  Simply wanting to share that with him, makes me want to run those 3 miles…so I can tell him I did.

To keep myself accountable to these focus areas, I am going to start posting about them here periodically. Because I love to research, I often find great articles and I want to share them with you! Once I have a good roundup to share, I will post a brief update on my personal focus areas and share the articles or videos that resonated with me for each focus area.

Tell me, which of these focus areas interest you the most?

P.S. Don’t worry…while I focus on these areas decorating won’t go to the wayside.  In fact, I will be trying some new things around the house to help with these focus areas, including some updates in my studio (my business home), our home gym, and our kid spaces to get started.



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10 Responses to 5 Focus Areas for Self-Improvement

  1. MB says:

    This is great! You have the right mindset to focus on these areas in your life. They will all bring you deep love and satisfaction. I am looking forward to your updates in all these areas. I am not a business owner but my husband is, so I can pass on any words of wisdom to him. Good luck!

  2. nikita says:

    Loved the post! Thanks for sharing the links to these great articles. To answer your question, the first two focus areas interest me the most but all of them are very important.

  3. Lisa says:

    I’ve never liked New Year’s Resolutions either, but I did write a list of goals for the year using the SMART method. I’ve already started on one big goal which is to finally finish my certificate program in interior design after almost three years. Whew! That will be a load off my plate for sure. And I’ve started the Paleoish diet with my husband. Thanks for the resources.
    I’m up for hearing any topic that you’ve researched and find helpful as you work on your focus areas. Good luck and stay warm!!!

  4. Melissa says:

    Hi from Brussels! My current goal is just to get over jetlag. Haha. This involves staying awake during the day, which is. so. hard. Anyway, your post reminded me the The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (also see I loved the way she set focus areas and researched them to establish realistic goals and expectations. I wonder if you’ve read her book? It is fantastic! I also have a huge weakness when it comes to housekeeping, so I’m definitely going to be following your links on that. Beware–it is much more satisfying in the short run to read about organizing and housekeeping than to actually do it. If only my pinterest boards were a reflection of what I’m good at rather than what I’m bad at…Haha. I appreciate your down-to-earth’ness in this post and encourage you to remember your strengths as you work to improve these areas too! Have a great day and stay warm!

    • Jackie says:

      Thanks for checking in! I hope the transition overseas is going smoothly! I have not read The Happiness Project but have it on my list. Thank you for your support and encouragement!

  5. Nancy says:

    For strengthening family I also recommend reading ‘The Secrets to a Happy Family’ by Bruce Feiler. My family has had great success applying some of the lessons he highlights in this book. He also recommends a family meeting and has great starter questions.

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