Four Questions to Start Your Year

The holiday lights have been taken down.  The ball has dropped and Mariah Carey has, well, performed.  The Christmas season is over.  Even the college football bowl games are done.   This can only mean one thing – the new year is officially upon us.  It’s time then to separate the pretenders from the contenders, those who’ve made hollow resolutions from those serious about change.  Rather than setting resolutions that will be forgotten by February 1, take time to reflect upon what you really want to manifest in 2017.

Here are four questions to get you started:

 1.  For what are you most grateful from 2016?

Gratitude is an act of grace.  It creates a sense of perspective, allowing us to see the bigger picture.  Gratitude fosters the gift of hope which we all desire beginning a new year, and is the antidote for the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” negative thinking that can keep us stuck in past regrets or future worries.

Start by focusing on what went right last year.  Express your gratitude for it.  Let the people in your life for whom you are grateful know it.  Allow yourself to humbly acknowledge your own strengths and the work that you’ve done over the past year.  Allow each day to begin and end with gratitude.  This sets the tone for moving forward.

2.  What is your vision for 2017?

Dream what you genuinely want for your life this year.  Be bold and have the courage to set this as your vision.  This may sound like a resolution.  That’s OK, it’s not a dirty word.  If it’s what you want you can either speak it out loud and make it real or quietly coddle it, thereby assuring it never sees the light of day.

Two quick tips here.  First, make your vision positive – state what you want vs. what you don’t want.  Second, state it in the present tense – when the brain hears what you “will” do, it puts it off into the future.  When it hears what you “are” doing, then it’s happening now.   “I am losing thirty pounds.”  I am creating a healthy relationship.” “I am writing a book.”   Dare to dream.

3.  What are the action steps to manifest your vision?

Why Resolutions Fail –  Reason #1:  They’re great ideas, but too broad and lacking any clear plan for how to achieve them.   This is why they’re soon forgotten.  To give them some teeth, develop strategies with SMART action steps.  A SMART action step is crystal clear.  Anyone watching would agree that it’s happening.  Be SMART:

S – Specific.  Make it a specific action.  “Exercise more” is vague.  “Go to the gym” is specific.
M – Measurable.  Quantify it.  How many times, how often, for how long, etc.
A – Attainable.  Polyanna may be a nice girl, but she’s no help here.  Be realistic and assure that it is something you can complete.
R – Relevant.  Make sure the actions directly help you move toward your vision.
T – Time Limited.  Saying you’ll do something forever is daunting.  Take it one day at a time.  Commit for the next month and re-evaluate.

4.  What barriers to your vision do you need to embrace?

Why Resolutions Fail – Reason #2:   You think that if you’re motivated and have a plan, you should succeed.   Fact:  The same reasons that kept you from doing this last year will try to keep you from doing it this year.  Your inner demons could care less about a newfound motivation.  In fact, they’re typically invested in preventing you from changing.   Those demons will arise, armed with mantras of self-criticism, and tell you to give up.

Ask yourself, “What am I holding onto that I need to let go of?”  The common culprits of fear, frustration and resentment can maintain their grip year after year until we respond to them differently.  Uncovered they yield the pain of old hurts, losses and disappointments which the ego wants to keep a safe distance from the surface.

Rather than ignore, bemoan or criticize, accept and embrace these demons.  Learn from them.  Be compassionate toward them.   Only through this process will you begin to let go and give yourself a fighting chance to achieve your vision.  This may sound counterintuitive, but it is the only way to get through them.


Thank you for taking the time to read this.  May your visions become manifest in 2017!


Dr. DiPaolo will expand upon these ideas at the upcoming presentation, “Light for the New Year,” to be held on Tuesday, January 17 at 7:00 at St. Monica Catholic Community Caruso Center.  All are welcome.

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