As I start 2017 – a fresh new year before me – I am making my goals backwards, with the “end” in mind. I want to live strategically, instead of accidentally — to live my marriage intentionally, to parent intentionally, to invest in relationship intentionally, and finally, I want to teach and mentor intentionally with the finish line in view. I want to live “full.” How about you?

Check out this short video clip from my good friends, Matt and Chantal McGee, on the topic of living a full life.  Are you Full?  You may find it to be a thought provoking, life-giving five minutes that impact your 2017 for the better!

Master teachers craft their goals for the learning journey based on the end in mind. Those who visit my blog for teaching inspiration may wonder why I digress to issues of life; it is because I believe that the art of teaching is totally intertwined with life and living. The authenticity and richness of my own life (or lack of) affects my teaching and my music making. We want to teach our students and our children how to live well and to equip them with the skills to do that, whether it is through the development of their talents or the nurturing of their hearts. So much of what I give my children and students is an overflow from what I do to get “filled up” myself. When I am drained, I lack joy.  The “little rocks” have edged out the “non-negotiables” required for me to fully thrive.

So, what does living with the end in mind look like?

In my home, this means that my husband and I persevere through carving out 15-20 minutes of daily “reconnect” time on the couch after the long day. Hey, this is a lot harder to achieve than you think! My nemesis?  The call of the after dinner cleanup, the list of “yet-to-do’s”, the “urgent” interruptions of the children’s needs, computer deadlines… But what am I saying when I succeed? Perhaps I am saying that our relationship is a priority and that it is the foundation for my children’s emotional security, rather than the many activities they desire to do.  Or, perhaps I am modeling for them skills for their future marriage relationships, and the truth that you cannot ignore your spouse and expect your relationship to thrive.

With my children, this may mean that I will try to avoid multi-tasking but instead give them my undivided focus for just a few moments. Perhaps I will close my laptop, skip cooking dinner (ha!), put my cell phone in another room, or avoid saying “just a minute” for once. I will ignore the messes (ouch!) and the smells in their rooms. I will take time to laugh with them and cry with them. I will notice their little “gains,” sit, listen and just “be” with them. I will not sweat the small stuff.

In my friendships, I want to invest in authentic, life-giving interactions and shy away from the superficial. Life is too short; if I were to be fortunate enough to live to be seventy-five, I have already spent over two-thirds of it. Time is too precious for facades.  I want to be intentional with whom I spend my time and how I spend it. I want to be comfortable with the fact that I cannot please everyone and that it is OK.  I want to see others as infinitely precious and unique, made in the image of an amazing Creator.

Finally, in my teaching, I will keep in mind what I once heard Marilyn Neeley, former Dean of the Catholic University of America, say: “Teach your students with the knowledge that they will eventually quit.” This means that I choose repertoire and activities that are meaningful to the student. This may entail adjusting my pace and plan to a teenage student’s life and needs. I will still challenge them to reach for the heights, but I will not sacrifice functional skills in the process. Above all, it means that I continually ask myself: “What can I give them now that they will still use twenty years from today?”

So, these are my “big rocks”(those that don’t know what I mean, click on the video link above)… What are yours?