To get started, we review all of our notes from the previous State of Our Union and provide accolades for the attempts and successes we have made over the year. We show great excitement by standing and applauding (seriously). It is easy to lose perspective over the course of 365 days, but on this particular day we celebrate our accomplishments together. This year we celebrated Michael's race accomplishments: 1 Half Marathon, 1 Half IronMan, and 2 Marathons -- that's worth standing for five seconds of applause.
Our conversation is broken into categories. We each reflect on and respond to the categories individually before sitting down at the table. And then we work through our notes, category by category together.
Immediate Action Items
These are deliverables we want to move on right away -- things we didn't finish up before year-end. We add to this list as we move through our conversation, delegating tasks that should be addressed in the first few weeks of the year.
Health + Wellness
Fitness and diet goals for the year to come. It is important to talk through these with your partner to make sure they are reasonable, attainable, and fit within your mutual lifestyle.
Are there things you want to try this year, big or small? Last year, one of my New Frontier goals was to read 4 books -- small, right? I had not really been reading and wanted to get back on track. And I read more than 7 books in 2015 (stand and applaud).
We are only a few years out of school and want to maintain a culture of learning in our household, so we set some educational goals. This could be as specific as taking a course at the community college or as broad as planning to read more about a new career field of interest.
Finance, Home + Purchase
We are homeowners, but we are also paying student loans and enjoy going out on the weekend. So, we need to be on the same page about what home improvements we want and can afford to make in the coming year. We also need to agree on big purchases, like if one of us really wants to buy a new car in the coming year [cough]. We linger on this category to review our monthly budget and discuss if we want to make any changes to spending and saving plans.
In line with Home + Purchase, get on the same page about short term and long term travel goals. This will allow you to plan your savings of both money and vacation days to jet-set accordingly.
This is where we hit on how we want to be better members of our extended family. Shake off any arguments you may have endured at Christmas dinner and think about the importance of your loved ones and how you show them their value to you.
Personal + Professional
We talk about our days at work every night, but we don't talk big picture about the promotions we want to get or the transitions we are strategically trying to make in our organizations. At the State of Our Union, we make these ideas known and discuss how they may affect our day to day to day lives.
Community + Philanthropic
This was a big one for me this year -- while in school, I was extraordinarily engaged in community and volunteer activities. Michael has kept this up with international medicine endeavors, but I want to find ways that I can give back in 2016.
There are some things we want to do more routinely. Writing down ideas and talking about how we can build them into our weekly schedules helps us to start and stick to such activities.
Long-Term Family + Career
How many kids we want to have, when we want to have them, where we want to live, what kinds of organizations we want to work for etc. -- these are big things to think about and our thoughts on these matters changes each year. While we are open with one another about these life decisions, they can be a bit too heavy for any given weeknight dinner's conversation. The beginning of the year is a great time to address big, future plans head on and give them the time and attention they deserve.
Still enjoying the cheese? I recognize that this sounds out of control. But I can say, with some experience now (4 years into our union), that taking the 2 or 3 hours to really talk through these matters provides a great sync between Michael and me. We are supportive of each other and make reference to this discussion when making decisions throughout the year. Most significantly, we hold each other accountable to meet goals or make strides toward meeting the goals we set out in the State of Our Union.
2016 is young, prep some cheese and crackers, then hand off this post to your partner and tell them you want to build this practice into your relationship. You can blame it on me when they mock the idea and when they thank you for it later.
Finally, don't forget to pepper in the most important phrases of the event: The State of Our Union is Strong. AND God bless us and God bless the United States of America.
Happy New Year!