At the beginning of every year, many of us make New Year’s resolutions. At the end of every year, we find out if we kept any of them. But sometimes to guide your goals, you need to go deeper.
I know plenty of people that write down their goals for the new year. In college, some peers and I wrote letters to ourselves at the beginning of the year to be opened at the end of the year. And while it’s fun to see how our growth progressed over the year, I always find it difficult to know what I actually want in the upcoming year and in life. Growing is inevitable, but finding direction is much more difficult.
I finally realized that you can find where your heart is by seeing where your mind wanders. Last year, I started a new tradition to ask myself thought-provoking questions about my life. While we all know that time is limited, many of us don’t actually realize that our time is running out. A series of different circumstances led me to view my life as extremely finite. I would wonder if I would make it to the end of summer, survive the next couple months, or even the next week.
From those experiences over the years, I always come back to this list of questions to put my heart where my goals are. Use these questions to guide your goals towards heart-centered and purposeful living:
- If this was your last year, what would you do?
- Who would you want to see?
- Where would you go?
- What would you regret?
- What scares you?
- Now, what really scares you?
- What do you wish you had more time for?
- What don’t you want to admit to yourself?
- What haven’t you told others yet?
- What do you really want to say to people?
- Would you profess your love to anyone?
- Who would you forgive?
- Is there anything you need to say before it’s too late?
- Is there anything you want to leave unspoken?
- What do you wish you had accomplished?
- What do you wish you had more time for?
- What would you want to change about yourself?
- What do you wish you could tell others?
- What’s a secret you can never tell anyone?
- What rules would you break?
- Would you visit anyone’s grave?
- Would you apologize for anything?
- What do you believe in?
- What would you fight for?
- What do you wish you believed in?
- What will you miss?
- What advice would you leave for others?
- What would you say to those who will miss you?
- How would you say goodbye?
- What do you want people to say about you?
- How do you want people to remember you?
These questions help you find your priorities in life, from who you really care about and what you really love to do to what you can live without. Like pretty much everything else in life, our priorities will change, and that will be reflected in our changing answers.
Your responses can be as long as you like. These are not the typical thought-provoking life questions that ask what your goals are, what age you want to be married, or what job you want. Instead, they encourage you to think as if you have a finite amount of time to live out your passions and desires, and that is what forces you to set your priorities straight. You just have to read between the lines of your own responses and find what your priorities are. Once you respond to these questions (and any others that come to your mind), read them over. See if they are what you expected.
I keep my answers to look over during the year. They keep me focused on what really matters. It’s also rewarding to see how I’ve grown over the past year, what things have changed, and what has stayed consistent.
Here are some follow-up questions:
- Did you mention your significant other?
- Your family?
- Your friends?
If not, challenge yourself to dig a little deeper and ask why you may not have mentioned who you thought you would have, or why some people were prioritized over others. The people that really matter to you are the ones you will write down. Anyone else that you did not mention or forgot are not your priorities.
The same goes for the way you spend your time. Of course, we all need jobs — sometimes for money to sustain ourselves, and for many of us, they also provide a sense of purpose and a way to use our talents. Beyond that, use these questions to narrow down what you really want to spend your time doing (through your work or otherwise). If you mention something more than once, you’re onto something. What you would do with your time shows what you really want to do with your life.
Your fears and secrets are your insecurities, and what you cannot admit is what you are afraid to face yourself. I have found that I know what scares me, and I know what I want to do in terms of big life decisions, but it gets muddled into weighing pros and cons, what I should do, and what others expect of me. Some questions are too redundant and don’t force us to dig a little deeper and find the truths buried within ourselves.
Here’s another follow-up question:
- What do you do daily or regularly that you didn’t mention in what you want to do?
For example, I never mention wanting to surf social media. Even now, I often deactivate my social media accounts temporarily to remember what’s real and what matters. While social media has many positive aspects, it’s just one example of something that distracts me from my heart-centered goals.
Lindsey graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communications. She studied abroad in Austria (Summer 2013), Switzerland (Spring 2014), and India (Winter 2014). Her previous internships include the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland, the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S State Department in Washington, D.C., and CNN International in Atlanta, GA. In her free time, you’ll find her reading, writing, making jewelry or friendship bracelets, sewing or refining her photography skills.
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