In 2015, we took a different approach to blogging on My Mother, My Daughter, My Friend – we focused on personal development to improve our relationship with each other and with others by making monthly commitments to work on a character trait, together.

After tackling generosity, optimism, creativity, health, mindfulness, listening, showing compassion, spirituality, patience, dealing with stress and humility, we reflect back on what we learned and how we want to bring those lessons into 2016.

Ellen…

What a great experience it was to take on this self-development challenge with Jenna! We share a passion for continually trying to be “kinder, gentler” people and after all, who better to practice on and encourage along the way than each other.

Taking on one trait each month was helpful: my awareness was heightened and my focused, bite-sized goals felt achievable. In making a concerted effort each month to demonstrate a positive trait, I discovered the joy of doing so –whether it was being more generous, listening more carefully, or showing more patience.  Making progress, no matter how slow or seemingly incidental, felt good; it made me feel better about myself and my ability to positively impact others.

There were some character traits that were more individualistic (e.g. creativity, mindfulness, health) and others that dealt more with how we interact with others (e.g. compassion, listening, patience).  It was easier to apply the latter to each other and therefore, I think we learned the most from them about how to improve our relationship.

Through this blogging exercise, I was able to think more deeply about how I respond to Jenna when she’s telling me about an issue she’s encountered or a decision she needs to make. I learned that listening carefully (and not interrupting) and showing compassion goes a long way to make her feel heard and understood. Likewise, I feel the most loved when Jenna listens and shows patience with me.

I want to focus on these same traits in 2016 and keep doing so until they become more and more a part of my being –of who I am.  While we won’t be continuing this self-development dialogue on our blog next year, I’m sure Jenna and I will have plenty of opportunities to “practice on” and learn from each other going forward. One of Jen’s Chanukah gifts to me this year is a yearly journal which describes 26 different inner traits with practice prompts and reflection pages – so I can practice each trait for one week, move on to another, and then repeat the whole 26 all over again. That’s lots and lots of practice – love it!

This self-improvement thing is a lifelong journey that’s well worth the time and effort. I’m so happy that Jenna is committed to bringing out the good within her at such an early age and that we can learn together.

Jenna…

Embarking on this self-development journey through MDF was a great experience. Blogging about ways we wanted to be better, setting commitments and forcing ourselves to report back to you – our readers – was the perfect accountability I needed to go the extra mile and strive to become a better person.

Some character traits were definitely easier than others! Each month, we set intentions to become better and sometimes we just didn’t make as much as progress as we would have liked. (We tend to be pretty hard on ourselves!) While it was sometimes difficult or embarrassing to report back on our shortcomings, my mom and I really value honesty on MDF and wanted to give truthful reports on how we were stacking up to our goals.

Regardless of how we did, simply having the monthly intentions helped me stay focused on ways I could be a better daughter, sister, friend and classmate. While we always looked for ways to use the character traits to improve our mother-daughter relationship, the ripple effect was clear in other areas of our life. For example, mindfulness helped me deal with the stresses of school; listening helped me in my new long-distance relationship; and creativity helped me start a new venture with a good friend.

But my mom is absolutely right that this self-development journey is never over. It requires constant work and we will never be perfect. While we have completed our year-long journey on MDF, I hope to continue this work by taking a Jewish character development class in Philly.

Even though our character development series is done, I’m excited to see what’s to come for MDF in 2016! We met so many amazing mothers and daughters this year who continue to inspire us. Expect to see even more mother-daughter profiles, guest posts, and exciting events in the next year. We are so grateful for this amazing community of mothers and adult daughters that continues to grow! We wish you all a happy, healthy, fulfilling 2016!