It’s that time of year again: time for me to come up with something fresh, helpful and possibly humorous about starting a new year. I just reread my January column in Living.Well Magazine from last year and realized I’d pretty much captured, in that article, all I’d want to say about setting intentions for a new year. So where do I want to go from here?

Hmmm, I wonder if I could just use the article I wrote last year? I wonder if my readers would mind? I’m sure everyone’s forgotten what I wrote, so reading it again would seem like a totally new experience.

That’s not a bad idea! But not a particularly creative one, either. Efficient, maybe, but not creative.

Or is it?
No, I don’t mean the recycling-an-old-article idea. But it just occurred to me that the very choice I made to reread a previously written article is actually a great way to get my creative juices flowing – because it gave me an opportunity to appreciate what is already good, fun and useful about my writing.

Now don’t worry, I’m not going to write an article about my writing process, other than to highlight its simplicity: I allowed myself to actually appreciate how my writing has evolved, and then I asked myself, “So where do I want to go from here?” Then I recognized that this basic, two-step process is incredibly useful not only for stimulating new article ideas, but also for setting intentions for the New Year.

Let me explain.

Too often, in our zeal for fresh starts and wanting to move as quickly as possible into our slimmer bodies, peaceful minds, fulfilling careers, deeply satisfying relationships and lots and lots of money, we set specific goals that reflect our assumed “end points” for those experiences. Consciously or unconsciously, we fall into the trap of believing that we’ll be happy when we’ve reached those end points, which are way out in our future. And in the meantime? Well, we’ll just have to grin and bear it and push as hard and fast as we can to get to where we want to go.

The difficulty with that approach is that it deprives us of satisfaction and enjoyment right now. It also, by the way, runs cross-current to our very nature. As I said in last year’s (quite competently written) article, happiness is not a thing we can obtain or a point in time we can “get to.” It is a vibration, a state of being from which our experiences flow. The happier we are, the happier the circumstances we attract and create.

And here’s why: in this vibrational universe, our attention is a powerful creative force. It’s like a frequency tuner. What we focus on becomes the frequency we’re on, and since like frequencies resonate with each other, this means that the essence of what we pay attention to becomes the essence of what we attract. So when we set goals that arise from our attention to the lack of what we have now – such as not enough money, or a career that isn’t fulfilling, or a state of health that lacks vitality – and as we keep paying attention to the gap between where we are and where we want to be, we’re on the frequency of not having what we want. And so we perpetuate our experience of being in the gap.

When we set intentions to create or experience more of what we want, and then pay attention to anything and everything that matches the “more” right now, we perpetuate the experience of having what we want.

And it gets even better than that! When we not only pay attention to, but appreciate, the things in our now experience that match the “more” of what we want, we accelerate the experience of having more of what we want. Appreciation is a vibration that lines us up with more things to appreciate.

Which brings me back to my simple process for jumpstarting the writing of this post, one that we can adapt to the setting of intentions for the New Year. When I reread last year’s article and allowed myself to appreciate its good points, I was in the vibration of “good writing.” When I asked, “So where do I want to go from here?” I stayed in that vibration with a focus on expanding it. And then I started writing.

Had I reread last year’s article with a critical eye and zoomed in on all the awkward and unclear places, I would have been in the vibration of “bad writing.” And from there it would have been easy to find more to criticize, or to try figuring out how to fix what’s wrong with my writing – or to close the laptop, walk away and hope the good writing fairy would visit in time to meet the submission deadline.

From the “bad writing” vibration, had I asked, “So where do I want to go from here?” I would likely have answered, “As far away from this computer as I can.” Actually, from that vibration my next question would likely have been something along the lines of, “So what’s the point?”

I might have been tempted to simply give up.

And isn’t that what often happens as we trudge into the New Year with resolutions we’ve set in order to fix what is “wrong” with us? We think the outer goal itself will galvanize us into action, not recognizing that inspired action and inspired results arise from our inner sense of empowerment and our ability to sustain positive momentum.

When we start from a place of lack or self-judgment – we don’t have enough money, we’re too lazy to stick with a good diet and exercise program, we can’t seem to get it right in the relationship department – we are hardly in an empowered place. We can try forcing ourselves to take action toward our goals but deep down we don’t really believe we can meet them.

So we might be tempted to give up.

There really is a better way to create the experiences we wish to create. And it starts with understanding that our desires for change arise from our evolutionary impulses to grow. We’re not broken and in need of fixing. We’re simply where we are – and expanding into our ever-growing potential.

And with our understanding that what we pay attention to is what we create and experience, we can support our expansion in a loving, empowered way by starting first with appreciation. When we take the time to thoughtfully acknowledge and deeply appreciate all we have accomplished in the past year, we reinforce a self-identity of someone who has what it takes to create a fulfilling life. We initiate a spiral of positive momentum that carries us into our next phase of growth.

And when we ask ourselves, “So where do I want to go from here?” rather than, “So what do I need to fix or improve about myself?” we build on that momentum rather than stopping it in its tracks.

You might ask, “But what if my accomplishments from the past year have nothing to do with what I want to create in the new year? What if there is nothing for me to appreciate about, say, my progress toward a more stable financial situation?”

The fundamental process is still the same. Take time to genuinely acknowledge and appreciate all you can about yourself and your life. Intend to get on the frequency of “my life is good and getting better all the time” by noticing progress you’ve made in any area – and don’t overlook significant progress you may have made on the inside. Maybe you’re far less reactive than you used to be, or you’ve let go of old resentments, or you’ve finally started supporting rather than doubting yourself. These are significant! Those positive shifts in your internal vibration will ultimately lead to positive shifts in your external circumstances.

So you’ve taken the time to really feel appreciation for all you’ve accomplished this past year. Now you ask, “So where do I want to go from here?” And in this example, you really want to improve your financial situation. Don’t be tempted to criticize yourself for not yet being where you want to be. Stay with the good feeling of self-appreciation, and let yourself imagine how great it will feel when you’re making the progress you want to make in this area. Ask yourself helpful questions such as:

· In what ways am I already good with money?

· What ideas do I already have, about how to get to an even better place with money, that I’m willing to take action on?

· Who might know something helpful about this?

· What inner and outer resources are already available to support me?

· How could I make this process fun?

The idea is to focus your attention – your frequency tuner – to the frequency of success. Which is why it’s so helpful to start by appreciating all the ways you already are successful, and then expand from there.

You may be tempted to judge this as simplistic or superficial. Let me assure you nothing could be further from the truth. When we shift from a paradigm of fixing what is wrong to one that focuses on lovingly supporting our natural impulses toward growth, we gain access to a whole new way of living. We live fully in the present rather than waiting to come alive in the future. We learn to love ourselves and appreciate our value. We relax more, we enjoy more and, liberated from self-doubt and self-criticism, we accomplish more.

So before you make resolutions or set intentions for 2013, take the time to deeply acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate your many fine qualities and accomplishments. Ask yourself what you most want to create or experience in your life, not what you think you should fix. Remember, there is nothing wrong with you that needs to be fixed. You’re evolving and expanding into the next delightful, amazing version of yourself. And you deserve to enjoy the ride.

Here’s to a new year of vibrant growth and unexpected pleasure.

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