As I’m snuggled in with a blanket draped over my lap, the chill outside prevents my normal porch visit. Instead, the sun gleams in and the ornaments of the Christmas tree sparkle with light, while a perfectly focused shadow of the tree is projected on the side wall by the sun’s powerful rays.
Like a wedding that is planned all year and over with a quick “I do,” Christmas is over. It seems as though we spend weeks, and sometimes months, in anticipation and preparation, then packages are ripped rapidly open and Christmas too is over, and we’re moments away from the hope of a new year.
With the beginning of a fresh 12-month cycle, we evaluate the last cycle and ask ourselves what worked, what failed, and what needs to change. We set new resolutions — but we later forget them, and we repeat our same routines yet another year.
Here I sit with a list of questions I should have addressed weeks ago, yet life, work, and Christmas got in the way. But a couple of days to think them through will set the tone for my coming year. It’s not really fair to myself to spend just two days planning the next 365, but something, I suppose, is better than nothing.
What should I celebrate?
Looking over a year that has been as much a blur as scenery out the window of a bullet train, I ask myself what worked, what I am most proud of, what accomplishments I should celebrate.
What should I not repeat?
That high-speed view requires that I devote even more time to my mistakes. What went wrong? Why? If I had to do it all over again, would I still want to do it? And if so, what would I do differently the next time around?
What do I regret?
Regret is an emotion reflecting something I’m not feeling good about. How did I treat others that was not the best of me? What behavior or attitude do I feel badly about? What opportunity did I take that I should have avoided? What opportunity did I pass up?
What should I have been doing?
There are also things I should have done that I did not. For instance, I should have gotten more exercise, but I allowed some excuses to get in my way. What was I too lazy to do that would have made things better for my family, or for my surroundings?
What did I mean to do that I never got to?
This is a giant one for me — projects or actions that have been put off yet one more year. They loom over me, causing stress every time I think of them. These are not necessarily high-priority, but they do eat away at my energy, knowing they need to be done. It might be a great idea I need to consider at work, or something at home, kind of like that loose banister knob on the stairs in It’s a Wonderful Life.
Where do I want to go that I’ve never been before?
Though this sounds like, and could be, a travel question, it’s really a question about pushing ourselves into a new experience, a new world, about doing or trying something new.
What have I always wanted to do that I’ve never done?
Will this be the year? Which dream did I, or you, cast off with some poor excuse for not pursuing it?
What’s my updated bucket list?
What are the places and experiences I want to get to before I die?
What do I keep talking about but never doing?
Talk is cheap. Excuses get in the way.
What do others need of me that I need to make sure happens? It’s not all about me, and that’s a good thing. How can I be there better than last year? It what ways do I need to make sure I show up?
Who do I need to spend more time with?
There are people I love who I want to be around more, even though they may be far away. If not now, when?
What superpower or gift do I need to share with the world?
I have gifts I need to share — and so do you. You know things others don’t. You possess superpowers in some areas. Will you share that? Don’t tell yourself others don’t want or need to hear from you. I used to have a lady contact me often and tell me about her troubled life. She could not keep a job, she was miserable, her life was filled with problems. She suffered depression and was even feeling suicidal. She asked me what she should do, and I told her she should become a life coach and a public speaker. She laughed and said, “No, seriously.” And I said I was dead serious. All she needed was for someone to believe in her. She took immediate action, got a chance to speak in front of a small group, then another, then another, and now she is speaking in front of big crowds and telling her story. I’m sure the book will come. Her life changed in one second when someone told her they believed in her and held her feet to the fire to go out and do something tomorrow. Had she not done it at that moment, she might have slipped back into her old life. I didn’t do that, she did it. That’s what we all need to do. The instant you decide you need to do something, take action that second before doubt demons keep you from your dream.
Questions Are the Way to Find Answers
The better the question, the better the answer. Ask yourself a question and give an answer, then deepen it with another question based on that answer, and then another one. Ask yourself “How else might I accomplish that? What else would make that even better?”
How might I _____, so that I can ______?
How did things get this way?
Why do things stay this way?
How can I improve things?
What are the possible reasons I’m noticing this gap (a symptom of an issue)?
What isn’t happening that if I did it, would cause the gap to shrink or disappear?
What is happening that if it stopped happening, would cause the gap to shrink or disappear?
What don’t I see?
How much money would I have right now if I could unwind any three financial decisions I have ever made?
“What sabotages our dreams and causes most of our problems is our excessive optimism and emotional belief in magic pills, secret formulas, and financial tooth fairies.” — Keith Cunningham, The Road Less Stupid (which contains these and other great questions)
Most of us, myself included, spend more time thinking about what we’re going to have for dinner that we spend thinking about our lives, our problems, and solutions to our problems.
A Powerful Tool
What if, before New Year’s, you locked yourself in a quiet room — no phone, no computer, no music, no distractions — and you made a list of every dream, of every problem, of everything you want to accomplish? If you just started writing down everything that comes to mind? Don’t judge, put everything down, and keep asking more questions about each.
If you did this for an hour or two, you’d be spending more time on your plans than 99.999 percent of the world, and if you do it a few more times, not only now, but a couple of times a month, you will see things change and worlds open to you.
Keep It Visible
If you and I looked at our list of goals, actions, and dreams once a day or even once a week, it would be more top-of-mind and not forgotten, so we wouldn’t get to next New Year’s Eve with the same list of unrealized dreams.
Manifest with a Plan
There is a mistaken belief in our culture that if you dream something, or manifest it, it will come. Though I’m very much a believer in this, the missing element is typically a plan, some action items, and making sure what you want is continually on your radar.
If Not Now, Never?
If it’s important to you, you’ll do it. And if not now, when? You may think conditions are not right and that things one day will be better, but that’s rarely true.
Roadblocks to Dreams
Don’t let excuses keep you from your dreams. Don’t tell yourself you’re too old, too young, too poor, too rich, too busy, too sick, too healthy, too reliant on others, too consumed with other responsibilities. Don’t wait on others to solve your problems, or you’ll wait a lifetime with no results. You are the only one responsible for you.
Poof, You’re Gone
You and I could be gone one second from now. Each breath is an opportunity to not waste the rest of our breaths and live the dreams we were placed on this earth to accomplish. Our dreams are not just random ideas that came into our heads, they are gifts we need to embrace and on which we need to take action.
Make new plans.
Keep taking action.
Live the joy of knowing your dreams became a reality.
Yes, it actually can be a happy new year.
PS: One of my action items, based on encouragement from many of my readers, is to help others find these Sunday messages. Maybe, if one day this gains some steam and gets some national recognition or notoriety, it could change more lives, maybe become a book or a few, and do what I was put on this earth to do.
If you, and each person who opens these e-mails, would do just three things, it would help tremendously. Because if I’m going to continue doing this, I need to do it right and amplify.
- Forward this e-mail with a note about why you find it meaningful (assuming you do) to three or more people.
- If you happen to know an influencer … someone in media, a blogger, a TV or radio person, a celebrity, a change agent, a book publisher, or anyone who, if they wrote about it, would bring in more readers, it could make a huge difference. Again, send a personal note.
- If you would copy the website link to this today and put it out on social media for others to discover it, I’d appreciate it.
My number one goal for 2019 is “Amplify to Cause Change.”
I want to say that I’m so grateful. I hear from a lot of folks every week by e-mail, in the comments below, and in person. It’s gratifying to hear your stories and how, on occasion, a thought helped you in some way. I truly, sincerely, and graciously wish you a year of abundance, of joy, and of great depth.
Shared to Facebook, Eric. Thank you for the advice.
I realized this morning, that for the past few YEARS, I have asked myself the same question every morning… “What are you saying?” I say this to myself silently & never paid any attention, but this morning it was like I was screaming it at myself. So this is what I typed into Google… Every morning I ask, “What are you saying” and your page was the first one that popped up. Thank you for finally answering my question 🙂
Hi, I truly enjoyed reading these questions and will spend some time contemplating them. I forwarded the message to 10 of my friends and I know they will appreciate them as well.
Hi Eric – so if you want to increase and amplify, how about adding in a subscription link somewhere in the article/post so that those who get it sent to them and/or happen upon it via search can sign up for your Sunday Coffee blog posts
PS If you’ve got one I didn’t see it!
Thank you for this article. I evaluate and set goals each year with a primary focus. This year I used your format and questions to look at it from a new perspective. I think I’ve identified a few new ways to get around roadblocks and realize some goals. I shared your article with others and they were interested and appreciative. Best wishes to you in the new year. It’s going to be a great one!
The form to forward your information doesn’t work. It won’t let you fill in the email address. So no one can forward your message.
Thank you for your passion. I just posted your article on Facebook –the first time I ever did that. It is true that we don’t receive because we don’t ask. a word before you get too excited — I’m not big on Facebook, but hopefully one of my friends will be moved and will take up your cause. All the best in 2019. Serene
There is no doubt Eric this needs to be seen by many. I will for sure pass this along to my friends and have already done so with family as you promote “goodness”. We need more in our world so I have no doubt your voice will be heard by a whole new audience in this coming NEW year. God Bless you . what’s a URL??
Eric, Thank you very much for your weekly messages. Each of them is inspirational, and usually always helpful for some issue with which I am dealing. Today, for example speaks to an important decision with which I am trying to make happen. Also, I plan to mail today’s copy to a friend.
Hi. We all know these questions but it’s the HOW that NEVER gets answered. It’s not in a book…. it’s removing the road blocks in your head! There are more self-help books on the market that get continuously written. Why? Because no one has the answer! It’s not in a book! These are just feel good things for the moment that don’t last or you wouldn’t have millions of books written on the subject. Most people don’t have a person in their life telling them here…. this is what you should do, what you’re good at, and that you will be fulfilled. Most people don’t have the luxury to pay for a life coach either. That story is a great story but it does’t happen to most. It’s just idealistic bs from well meaning people. Please don’t take offense.
Eric, I enjoy your Sunday Coffee Talks so much and I will forward this one to three people that I hope will help you to broadcast your messages to more people. Thank you so much for doing this.
Happy New Year Eric. We wish you and your family health, happiness and hours of creativity all throughout 2019. Keep writing, you have much to share.
You’re an inspiration and always set the tone for us to think deeper. Bob and I look forward and appreciate our SUNDAY COFFEE with you.
It inspires us and we often find, sets the tone for “ doing”, rather than just talking about it.
Thank you, Eric, for this much needed article. I have been wallowing a bit in a morass of art rejections, no sales, the death of my husband in May and the death of 3 of my beloved senior dogs this year. Even my secret santa from a group I participate with every year couldn’t be bothered to do her part!! Needless to say I have been as low as I have ever been in life…not because of one of these things, just because I went so low that the climb out is becoming like Everest! These questions will hopefully help me find a better path up. I am still doing art (making it, stacking it, making more!). I have travel plans for 2019, I have been accepting art challenges online…as in the Strada daily painting challenge. Still the plan needs tightening up. this article should help. I have printed it out and am putting it in my dream journal. Thank you again and have a wonderful 2019.
Thank You so much. I really look forward to these Sunday morning discussions but this was the very best so far. Thanks
This is a good post at this time of year… as we all reflect on what we want to accomplish in the coming year. I have enjoyed your posts over the last couple of years (could be longer… you know how time gets away). Many times I share your post on my Facebook page because I want my friends to think about the things you talk about. I think as a person you have become more introspective and seem to have more feeling for those of us that don’t have all the resources you do. I don’t mean for that to sound negative. What I do know is that as we age, we gain so much wisdom and become better people than we were before. At least I hope so.
One of my goals for the past couple of years has been to continue writing my book on being an artist. I want to continue this year and come close to finishing it after a year of a Father that fell, rehab and then passing away, which precipitated moving Mom to assisted living during that time, and now helping her with having never lived by herself. She is not alone, but the master of her days as she has not been before. I tell this, because my discussions with her are somewhat the things you mention above, or at least what they make me think of. Decide what you can do each day to make it a worthwhile day. Find the good things and not live in the past. Only use the past to help make better decisions. Thanks Eric.
My sincere thanks for sharing this enlightening, reasonable, in-depth guideline for planning a path forward and it’s source. I’ve come to actually read your emails, as opposed to skimming, and appreciate the thought and effort behind the writing!
As I was reading this post I was inspired to take action for the coming year. I also was thinking that a few of my close relatives and friends could possibly benefit from this writing. You are our cheerleader and show us ways we can do the things we desire or need to accomplish. Thank you for all your posts and I will pass this one on to others.
So now it’s my turn to be cheerleader. I do see a book coming from you in the future. I’m wishing you all the best for a happy and healthy new year.
I so look forward to your Sunday posts. Always inspiring; always a great way to start the new week. Each one is like sitting by the fire or on your porch and having a meaningful conversation that will impact our lives. Happy New Year, Eric! By the way, I’m sending your post on to others to enjoy 🙂
The thing I most enjoy about your Sunday Coffee is the authenticity of your self-reflection. Thank you for that. And thank you for your Podcasts. I binge on them often. I plan to recommend them to my readers in my first Newsletter of the New Year.
May your New Year unveil creative adventures you never thought to imagine.
Eric, I look forward to your newsletter every Sunday. It is so authentic and so comforting to me, and it is inspiring. you inspire me to be more authentic and to use the gifts that God has given me. I have forward this to my family every Sunday, and hopes that they too will gain as much as I do. Thank you so much for writing it each week. I would miss it if it wasn’t here. Thank you so much with all my gratitude. Debbie Tiller
Love it Eric – I’m sending it to my children and others whom I love. Thanks for the permission to lock myself in a room so I can plan out what will happen in 2019. Before I read this, I already booked a trip for a cousin’s 80th b’day party in Atlanta. Onward.😁😘👍
Wow, just wow. This kicked me in the seat of my pants and whispered loudly in my ear, “Pay attention!”
Thank you, Eric, for playing Jiminey Cricket to my foot dragging Pinocchio.
Eric I love your Sunday Coffee emails. They are so insightful and meaningful to so many people. This one is especially helpful. I intend to read it over and over again and really think about all you said. And I will forward it to my five children and some friends. Thank you. Have a blessed New Year!
Thank for the great information. It is motivating.