“Self-reflection is necessary to dig beneath our own layers and visit the inner crevices of our heart and mind to develop an understanding of life.” ~Unknown
This year, I’ve not set New Year’s resolutions nor planned to completely “reinvent” myself or my life.
The past three years have brought up many unresolved issues, emotions to release, and wounds to heal. It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride, and I want to be gentle with myself.
Instead of setting resolutions, I sat down with a simple moleskin journal and pondered a few questions to create my own happiness this year based on what matters most to me.
I’d like to share bits of this process with you—seven questions—to help you achieve the same in your life. Because, let’s face it, we deserve it!
You may grab your journal or any notebook and a cup of your favorite beverage (mine was a mocha latte), play a music playlist that inspires you, and take some time to reflect upon your life and how you want it to look and feel like moving forward.
1. What is meaningful to you?
Or, put another way, what gives your life meaning right now? I say “right now” because it can change over time.
My mom and I were reflecting on the past three years the other day, sharing how certain things have lost their importance and meaning while other aspects of our lives have become almost vital.
Conversation topics, activities, and even certain relationships are not fulfilling anymore. As we talked, we realized we’ve been grieving them quite painfully for the past couple of years.
For example, I’ve become more sensitive, and shallow relationships don’t satisfy me anymore. I want deep and honest conversations and heartful connections. I seek fewer distractions and spend more time in contemplation.
Although change can be painful, it always opens doors to new horizons. It’s not that nothing has meaning anymore, but that not the same things do, and it’s to us to find what those are.
So, what is meaningful to you right now? Nurture it.
2. What’s your most critical need?
Last year, I realized the importance of regularly identifying and addressing unmet needs as a form of self-care. So, after experiencing mild to moderate feelings of depression for several months—and finding comfort in neither meditation nor bubble baths (nor red wine)—I dug deeper to discover the source of my unhappiness.
The search began with a question: “What do I need (really) right now?”
At that time, I was craving social connections and laughter. Once I became aware of it, I started taking the necessary actions to fulfill those needs and soon felt better.
What’s your most critical need?
Once you’ve identified it, you could ask yourself, “What’s preventing me from meeting that need today? And how could I start attending to it?”
3. How would you like to feel this year?
In the end, we’re all seeking to feel good. “Good” can come in many flavors, like at peace, alive, or loved. Your favorite flavor may change from day to day, but there’s likely one feeling you crave more than others in this season of your life.
What is it?
Mine is playful. I’ve been too serious for too long, and my soul is calling for a good laugh.
What about you?
Once you’ve identified your top one to three feelings, you may ask yourself, “When do I tend to feel that way?” Think of the past week, month, and even several years, and identify the moments when you experienced those feelings. Try to replicate those moments (or similar ones) more often.
4. What are your top three priorities this year?
Greg McKeown wrote in Essentialism, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
Essentialism, as described in the book, is to do fewer things—the most important ones—and do them better. Less in quantity, more in quality.
It’s about being clear on your priorities and designing your life around them. Doing so makes you feel more satisfied and at peace with yourself and your life. You also experience less stress and overwhelm because your life isn’t cluttered with activities that drain your energy.
So, where do you want to focus most of your attention and energy this year? Think of no more than one to three aspects of your life.
If you have difficulty identifying your priorities, another question I ask myself every few months is, “If my life came to an end right now, what would I regret not having done, experienced, accomplished, and become?”
Almost every time I reflect on this question, the first answer to arise is “not having attained a higher level of consciousness.” And every time, it reminds me to make more room in my schedule for my spiritual practice rather than filling it up with work. It helps me get my priorities straight.
5. What are your top three goals?
I used to ignore setting clear goals because having measurable targets to attain made me feel more anxious than excited. ‘That’s until I realized I was going in circles.
Year after year until my mid-thirties, I found myself in the same place I was the previous year, especially with my creative projects. I wasn’t making any progress, and it got frustrating.
Eventually, I understood and accepted the value of setting goals: it gives our minds a clear direction to move toward. It helps us to stay focused and avoid constantly getting distracted and sidetracked.
As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
Setting too many goals is rarely effective and can feel overwhelming and stressful. However, I find that having three main ones and perhaps a few smaller objectives is a good number.
So, what are your top three goals this year?
6. What are three actions you’ll take to achieve each of these goals?
That’s the most practical question of the lot, and it invites us to be proactive and think of how we can start tackling those goals.
I’m very “Vata”—the creative personality type of Ayurveda. Vata is heady, gets easily distracted, and constantly changes its mind. It wants to take all paths and often ends up getting nowhere.
Defining my priorities, setting goals, and defining three actions to start accomplishing those goals helps me stay focused on what matters and avoid wasting time and energy on what doesn’t. Plus, clarity reduces stress, and it’s a powerful antidote to procrastination. You’re more likely to do something if it’s clear in your mind.
What three actions will you take to tackle your goals for this year?
7. What are twelve new things you want to try, learn, or explore?
Every year, I choose twelve experiments—things I’m curious to try and explore—one for each month. I started doing this a few years ago, at a time when my life felt sort of bland and uninspiring.
So far, I have attended a cacao ceremony, had a reading with a medium, tried Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Abundance Meditation challenge, participated in a laughter yoga class, tried ecstatic dancing, had a Quantum Healing Hypnosis session, and experimented with a bunch of other things.
Doing experiments is a great way to discover new interests that could become passions. It also allows you to meet new people and uncover aspects of yourself—like desires and personality traits—that you didn’t even know existed. Overall, it makes your life richer!
You just have to pick twelve experiments and assign each to a month of the year. Then, after each experiment, ask yourself, “Did I like it? Do I want to do it again?”
I hope you’ll find value in some of these ideas and that they’ll inspire you to create your own happiness.
May this year bring you experiences that make you come alive or give you more of the feelings your soul craves the most in this season of your life.