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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

There’s something about the calendar flipping over to a new year that motivates people to attempt personal overhauls. Some declare that they’ll stop smoking or that they’ll drop twenty pounds; others promise that they’ll cut back on time devoted to television or electronic gadgets.

Of course, come February 1st millions of Americans will commiserate together about all of their broken resolutions, comfortable in knowing that they weren’t alone in their failures. Changing behavior is a challenge, both physically and mentally.

Not all of life’s positive adjustments, however, come from eliminating negative habits. Sometimes addition is easier – and more rewarding – than subtraction.

Consider adopting a new tradition at the beginning of the year, one that you can encourage your kids to explore, too. I propose that each member of your family resolve to add something of value to their life, something tangible and measurable.

here are many possibilities, each with its own benefits.

What if you kept a white board that tracked every book read in the coming twelve months? With kids it’s fun to add page counts alongside each title; by the end of December they’re amazed to discover how many thousands of pages they’ve accomplished. (They do add up, believe me.)

Or maybe you each could begin a personal journal. Kids often can be intimidated by such a project before they realize that one or two paragraphs a day is not that much . . . until you get to December 31st and find a rich biographical record of one trip around the sun.

I recommend adding some form of creative stimulus, too. For all of the hand-wringing over portable electronic devices, they’ve turned numerous young people on to the joys of drawing, painting, or composing. What if the student in your house logged a new artistic creation each month, and then incorporated all of them into a fun calendar to give to grandparents for the next holiday season?

Thanks to the friends of mine who suggested adding meditation to my world. Can you imagine what a gift that could be to a pre-teen or teenager as they enter their turbulent years?

We’re often so gung-ho to remove harmful things or damaging behavior that we fail to consider the beauty that we potentially could add to our lives. And for kids that could mean opening their eyes to life-changing possibilities, while giving them an entirely new attitude toward self-improvement. At the same time it would teach them – in a fun, positive way – about their own personal evolution, and how often it’s all within their own control.

That might be one of the best gifts you could ever give to them.

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty two years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit foundation that helps young people recognize that Smart Is Cool. More info at www.DomTesta.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to add to their world in 2013.