How I'm trying to be the change I want to see in the world... one coin at a time

Every year I write out my three big objectives to direct my energy for the months and growth ahead. My monthly, weekly, and daily tasks are then somehow directed towards these goals and modified as necessary to stay on track. Usually these goals are very SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely – you know the drill. But when I went to hone in on one of my most important values, I found that it didn’t really fit into this tidy little compartment of goal setting. Like most organizational tools I purchase, my junk overstuffed it.

One of my big pursuits this year was just to feel like I was raising a happy, functional, thriving family. We are in a place like many of you’ve been and many more of you will be, where our kids are gaining more independence, schedules are getting busier, and I was recognizing that the older my kids get, the more strategic we as parents have to be with our time and influence.

Ironically enough, this particular pursuit is probably the number one life objective for most all of you moms reading out there. However, because it’s kind of a monster with no clear end or measureable path, we often don’t set specific goals around it. However, the problem with not making it a specific goal is that I think we can lose focus of it. Instead we plug in its place goals surrounding our career objectives or fitness endeavors. Because of it, not only is it no longer the main focus, but our energy, time, and focus gets spread to those goals that do have more measurable paths.

I wanted to figure out some way to keep my eye on my biggest prize. And after a little trial and error, I think I’ve found a solution that gives me peace and progress. Here’s my practice…

On my kitchen counter I have a home-made pottery dish that I store loose change. Next to it I’ve placed a mason jar. By the end of every day my objective is to move at least three coins from the pottery dish to the jar by recognizing those small, but beautiful moments where my family is getting it right.

Sometimes it’s a “chink” when my son comes up to me unsolicited with a hug and an “I love you”. Sometimes, there’s a “chink” when my daughter offers a sincere compliment to her brother or makes a thoughtful gesture to help me with a household chore. Sometimes, a “chink” can be heard when I mindfully divert my knee-jerk response of impatience or sarcasm into a teaching moment that I actually hope my kids will remember versus one that I’ll regret later. The bottom line is that if the words or behavior expressed by any one of us matches how I want us to evolve, a coin and a “chink” drops into the jar.

I know this is a pretty simple gesture with superficially no specific benefit. But it’s changing my family. It’s changing my family because it’s changing me. It’s making me focus on all the positive moments of my kids. Quite frankly, they share many, but I was forever noticing when they couldn’t put their shoes away or left their book bags on the counter. Not only is my attention more focused on what they do right, I am much more frequently letting them know that I noticed their good deeds and kind words, which of course, is encouraging more and more positivity in our home.

And in those rare moments that I am struggling to find the good in them (and there are still some of those days too), then I still get to “chink” if I handle myself the way a mother of a happy, functional, thriving family would. You can sure bet there are cascading benefits to that as well. They say be the change you hope to see in the world.  I’m trying to do that at my house, one coin at a time.

Erin Henry