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.