Happy New Year! 

New Year’s is my favorite holiday. I know that January 1 is just a construct of the Gregorian calendar. Still, I love how the transition to a new year offers us an opportunity to imagine what we’re longing for and find renewed energy to make these changes happen.

I always choose one word as an intention for the new year, and “strength” is my word for 2020. Strong body. Strong business. Strong family. Strong country (in the best sense of the word).

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been imagining changes you want to make in the new year. That’s awesome. Having a clear image of the future you’re working toward can help you clarify your priorities, focus your attention on what’s most important, and avoid wasting time following some shiny object away from where you truly want to be. 

But, as I’m sure you know, the problem with New Year’s resolutions is that most people abandon them by the time February rolls around. One reason so many people forsake their New Year’s resolutions is that they don’t know about the common pitfalls related to imagining the future, and when they fall into them they don’t understand why they’re stuck.

Most people don’t know about these pitfalls, and when they fall into them they don’t know why they’re stuck.

At the end of this article, I’m going to share a practice that will help you envision the new year and choose one word for the year. But before I do, I want to introduce you to four common pitfalls that people fall into when envisioning the future they long for. By knowing about them, I hope that you’ll be better equipped to navigate around them. Here they are:

1: Being disconnected from inner guidance.

Many people try to imagine their future without first being connected to their inner guidance. As a result, they come up short. Perhaps they don’t quite trust the vision they create, even though they can’t quite name why. Or they achieve what they think they wanted, but still don’t quite feeling satisfied. Or they burnout and change paths, imagining that different work will feel better, but they burn out all over again. What they really needed all along to feel sustained and satisfied was a deeper connection to themselves.

Before you envision what’s next, I encourage you to get centered and listen carefully to your inner compass. This article can help.

2: Getting attached to specifics without understanding the longings underneath. 

In Nonviolent Communication, they talk about the difference between needs and strategy. Needs are universal qualities that contribute to a sense of fulfillment and wholeness. They are things like connection, physical well-being, meaning, autonomy, and play (click here to see a longer list). 

Strategies are the actions we take to meet our needs. For example, every year I choose a word as a theme for the year. As I write, it’s January 2nd, and the need I’m choosing to center this year is strength. An essential aspect of this for me is strengthening my body. There are many strategies that I’m experimenting with to meet this need: setting up a boxing class with friends, early morning spin classes, weekly walking dates with a friend, listening to recorded yoga classes at home, etc. If I got super attached to one strategy (i.e., “I will run a mile every day!”), I could quickly fall off the wagon. But by focusing on my core need of strength, I hope that I’ll have an easier time staying the course. 

We humans suffer when we get attached to a specific strategy. No matter how much you or I might like, we do not have complete control over where we go in our lives, and when we cling to a particular strategy, we can lose sight of what’s most important. Because of that, I encourage you not to get super attached to any specific strategy. Instead, get curious about the core needs underneath what you’re longing for.

3: Having a very loud Voice of Doubt.

When you set an intention for yourself, your inner Voice of Doubt is the one who screams back, “Yeah, but” and “What if?,” creating all sorts of anxiety to try to stop you in your tracks. 

If your inner Voice of Doubt yells, “That’s not possible!” or “What if something bad happens?” acknowledge it. Don’t fight against it. Compassionately acknowledge it and set it to the side. Or, if you want more support with soothing your Voice of Doubt, read this.

4: Asking “how” too early. 

Although you might want to know how you’ll reach your vision, the truth is that you don’t need to know how you’ll get somewhere to know that’s where you want to be. If you ask how you’ll reach your vision too early, you can short-circuit your imagination and end up with a vision that is not quite true to the heart of what you’re longing for. When you get clear about what you want, you’ll have an easier time figuring out how you’ll get there.

With all that in mind, I invite you to find a distraction-free space where you feel comfortable and envision your next horizon now. 

Exercise: Your Next Horizon

Although I could ask you to envision yourself a year from now, the reality is that depending on where you’re at in your life, that may or may not be realistic. On the journey through life, sometimes it’ll be like you’re at the ocean, able to see for miles. Other times, you’ll be bushwhacking through a dense forest, only able to see a few feet ahead. With that in mind, I invite you to imagine the next horizon that you’re able to see. That may be a year from now, or it may be a different distance into the future.

I find that it’s most powerful to do this exercise standing up with your eyes open, facing straight ahead, as if you were looking out toward the horizon. If that’s not possible, though, you’ll get just as much out of this sitting down.

Center your body then write down every detail that comes up in response to the following questions: 

  • What do I know about what I want to be doing with my life on the next horizon?
  • How do I want to feel?
  • If you find yourself saying that you don’t know what you want, acknowledge that you cannot see the entire puzzle, and ask yourself: Which pieces of the puzzle am I able to see?
  • If you find yourself listing things you don’t want, pause and ask yourself: What’s the opposite of what I don’t want? What is it that I do want?
  • Keep asking yourself: Is there anything else? What else? Stop when you feel complete.

When you’re done, look over what you wrote and notice key themes. What one word speaks to the heart of what you’re most longing for? Choose one word and write it down somewhere you’ll see it frequently. You may find that your word changes over time, and that’s okay. Just keep listening to your inner guidance, focusing on what you truly need, and staying to what the path there might look like.

I wish you and those you love a very happy 2020. May your needs be met and your longings fulfilled.

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Much love,


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