Starting Anew: Three Easy Steps to a Happy New Year

WhooHoooo!  Here comes another one!  A brand new, never-before-seen year is inching toward the horizon.

What are you going to do with it?  More of the same?  Something new?

If “more of the same means” life has been grand and your intention is only to make it even better, super!  And if you want to change a few things, that’s great, too.  “Better and better and better” is what gives life its zing.

Of course we don’t need a whole brand new year in order to make new beginnings.  Every morning, every moment, holds the potential for making new choices and reaffirming old ones.  The key to personal power is owning the choices that are ours to make.

The problem is that it’s not always easy to recognize those choices, let alone embrace them.  We get so mired in programmed behaviors and old stories that we lose sight of our alternatives.  But here’s a way to spot them, and it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

Finding Your Path to Happiness

If you’re looking for ways to define the choices that can give you fresh direction for the New Year, think about what brought you the greatest joy, satisfaction or personal pride in the year that’s so quickly coming to a close.  Then decide to do more of it.

That’s a formula that’s sure to bring you good fortune.   And unlike formulating  resolutions based on heavy “shoulds,” you won’t give up on it three weeks down the road.

It’s easy and fun to do.  Here’s a simple 3-step process:

Step 1

Look back over the past year—longer, if you like, and jot down ten experiences that brought you happiness, satisfaction, or meaning.   You can use the following question to trigger positive memories.

  • When did you feel most alive?
  • Whose company did you most enjoy?
  • What achievements left you with a soaring sense of accomplishment?
  • What activities gave you the most pleasure?
  • When did you feel most relaxed and complete?
  • When did you feel most authentic?  The most free?
  • What did you learn that was most valuable for you? What helped you grow?
  • What gave your life a sense of meaning in the past year?

Step 2

Let yourself remember and savor the experiences that  you wrote down in Step 1.  Which five stand out as the best?  Try to re-create the memories that triggered them so they’re vivid and alive for you.  Where were you?  Who was with you? What did it look like?  What did you hear?  What did you feel?

Ask yourself what made each of these five experiences so good for you.  What part of it was especially pleasurable, or meaningful or satisfying for you?

Step 3

For each answer, brainstorm a list of ways you could bring more of these kinds of experiences into your life in the year ahead.

Why Bother?

When I read lists like the one above, I usually just read them and stop there.   The idea of doing the exercise is interesting, but actually doing it sounds too much like work.  Besides, if you’re like me, you probably tell yourself that you don’t have time right now.

But let me ask you, is that really true?  What would it be worth to you to have a genuinely clear, vibrant, appealing sense of direction as you step into the weeks ahead?

Well, according to happiness researchers Foster and Hicks, one of the things that the happiest people among us have in common is that they know what brings them joy. (See Who’s Driving Your Happiness Bus?  ) Not only that, but they make the conscious choice to ensure that they give those things have a place in their lives as often as possible.

Planning for increased happiness is wise because happiness brings all kinds of benefits in addition to experiencing the pleasure, satisfaction and meaning it provides.  According to the work of positive psychology researchers like Dr. Barbara Fredrickson and Sonja Lyubomirsky, it promotes better health. It enables you to be more resilient and resourceful when life’s challenges come your way.  It makes you more attractive to other people because they enjoy its contagious effects.  It gives you greater calm and a greater sense of authenticity.  Looking forward to positive events increases your sense of purpose.

It makes you strong.  It makes you whole.

And all this can begin by simply writing down a little list of the things that brought you joy and choosing to do more of them in the New Year.

That’s why you should bother.

It makes you strong, and vital, and whole.

Give it a try!  You have everything to gain, including a fresh, new direction for your brand new year.



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