Four Questions for Your New Year

John Bailey
6 min readJan 5, 2021

January is “busy season” for self-development coaches and “improving myself” types. There’s blogging, and suggesting resolutions, and shtick about “killing it in the New Year”. It’s time to get the pump-up going — some loud music and strobe lights like a Tony Robbins seminar.

Try to create a bunch of emotional momentum and conjure commitment and inflate that will-power — as if we actually believe it’s going to last THIS year.

Because, with the list of “to-dos” and “tasks” and “goals” and “dead-lines” most people are going to put themselves under — and all the stress that’s likely to cause, it’s a wonder anyone gets started with anything.

And, we all know that will-power pump-up is going to go flaccid as the party balloons in a week or two, don’t we?

Personally, I like to sleep in late and get a relaxed, though well-focused and intent start. So, maybe you won’t mind if I skip all the New Years’ pressure-hype and do something much simpler — and hopefully more useful. We can come back to the limp will-power in a later post.

For my New Years’ blog, I want to just suggest asking FOUR questions — easy ones. They aren’t questions most people would expect. And, asking them in the right way may help you wake up to the new year with a different view.

Q1: What was your biggest lesson of the last year?

For most people, that question will remind them of their biggest mistake of the year — something that may seem negative at first. But, if you think of the lesson as something you’ve already paid the tuition for — in time, money, heart-break, etc., you may see it differently.

Ask yourself: “If you’ve paid an expensive tuition, aren’t you entitled to some valuable learning?”

Think about what the “biggest lesson” cost you: Consider how valuable the learning ought to be based on that. If you are the subject of the lesson, and the content of that lesson is personal insight that is positive and empowering for your future — what will your notes about it look like?

Whatever mistakes you make, the cost is your tuition, and that is the amount of value you should get from them.

Think about it until you can honestly say you would not reverse your mistake if that meant giving up your learning. Sometimes, this takes more thought and notes than other times. But It’s almost always worth the effort.

In Motivational Literacy™, we call this “error conversion”: You get to stop feeling bad about the mistake — and instead feel really good about learning something valuable.

It can take a little practice to get good at this. Luckily, there’s a “biggest lesson” available on a daily basis for most of us — if we bother to convert it. So, you can do this now for your previous year — and practice it on a weekly or even daily basis during the new one!

A Personal Biggest Lesson:

One year, we learned to paraglide, and made the mistake of
letting that type A personality creep in to my “just for fun”
activity. I pushed too hard, grasped too tightly — and in the
end learned more slowly and had less fun than if I
had remembered how to relax and play like a kid.

Of course, that was why I decided — at 50 — to finally do something
just for fun (something I never did) — to learn just that
lesson. Again.

Tuition paid, and lesson learned. I’ve been having more fun since then because of it. And, even my “work” productivity has been going up as I’ve allowed myself to be more playful. I would call an overall increase in both productivity
and happiness a great return on my investment!

Q2: What are you proudest of from last year?

That’s a simple question.

Take the time to put the answer in writing — whether a private journal or a social media post doesn’t matter. Just acknowledge the achievement and let yourself feel good about it.

A Personal Proudest:

I took time away from “work”, and spent more time with my
wife, having an adventure. The adventure included navigating
frustrations of learning and schedules and weather and paragliding equipment. It also included facing fear and danger as we both had some phobic responses to free flight. I had a close call in some trees. We even
had some physical pain from exertion and minor injuries.

After that, we dealt with the FAA to fly in restricted air space —
and scouted and cleaned-up some launching and landing areas in our
town. Along the way, we made new friends and have the beginnings
of a local paragliding club.

Whatever your achievement was, feel especially good about it, and about the ways it had a positive influence on others. Think about it a bit — and see how much you feel like taking that thing to the next level — or maybe tackling something similar. Imagine what that could be. Invest some thought and notes, here, because the next question circles back to it…

Q3: In the New Year, where will you most make valuable use of those things?

Think about the valuable learning from your biggest lesson — and the things you learned around your biggest achievement of the year, too. Think about the feeling of wanting to do more of the thing you’re most proud of — or to take it farther.

Imagine how those things may come together in the New Year — to empower you to … something. Use these questions to explore that:

  • What do you think that something might be?
  • Where do you think it might happen?
  • Who do you think will be with you?
  • What will the first step of that feel like?

My Personal Anticipation:

Sticking with my paragliding adventure, the New Year is already
very exciting. The lesson of playfulness along with the
achievements of connections and technical skills are going to
let me enjoy some great exciting regular flying routines.

Just let your imagination fill in the blanks of your anticipation — and consider how interesting it could be if you were to write those things down — and then the same time next year see how they fit into the “lesson” and “achievement” questions.

There’s no pressure, here — just curiosity — and you may find the next (last) question increases that.

Q4: In the New Year, what are you most interested to learn more about?

This is completely different from what you should feel most pressured to do!!

What are you most interested in — curious about — to learn more, or to build a skill for?

Use the following questions to explore that:

  • How does that connect to your other answers?
  • Your biggest lesson of last year?
  • The thing you’re most proud of from last year?
  • What you may do to build on those things?
  • Even if your biggest fascination to learning and skill is completely different — what will it be about?
  • What will the first part of learning that be like?

My Personal Interests to Learn:

I’m going to learn more about hiking and flying random remote locations, as well as a great deal more about navigating unfamiliar landing zones. I’ve got some great friends to work this stuff with, and loads of open air with hawks also waiting for us to fly with them.

I confess there are more than four questions on this page. But, the extras are just to help you explore the four main ones. While this may seem like the lazy-man’s slow-start to a New Year, remember: A great wave seems small as it forms out at sea. But, when it meets the beach it will be huge. As they say, you’ll get out what you put in.

Done right, answering of these four simple questions can form the ripple that becomes your personal tsunami of momentum for this year’s achievements — and fulfillment.