The Very First Question You Should Ask Yourself this Year

In the last week, my inbox has been flooded with advice about New Year’s resolutions, goal setting, and achieving personal success next year. Some of it is valuable, much of it tedious.

Everyone tells me that goal setting is an essential habit of successful people. Yet, I wonder. Did Picasso set a goal to become a leading exponent of Cubism in the early 20th century? Not really. In fact, he later said, “When we discovered Cubism, we did not have the aim of discovering Cubism. We only wanted to express what was in us.”

Instead of setting goals, I wonder if Picasso simply picked up his paintbrush each morning and painted. We do know that when he was sent to Madrid at age 16 to attend Spain’s top art school, the Royal Academy of San Fernando, he skipped classes and spent a lot of time wandering through the Prado museum, studying paintings by Velasquez, Goya, and other masters. That’s what excited him.

Those excursions, apparently, energized him far more than sitting in class. (Keep in mind that at age 16 Picasso already painted like a mature artist, and had undergone years of training under his father, a professional art teacher, and other instructors).

So the question I suggest you ask yourself is this: As you look ahead to the next year, what are you most excited about?

I’ve been asking a lot my friends and family this question, and it invariably leads to a wonderful, lively conversation. Some people talk about a new project or initiative at work that they are looking forward to; others focus on something in their personal lives that they are passionate about. It’s a bit like asking, “What gets you up in the morning?” (instead of what keeps you up at night!)

As you look out on your horizon this year, what activities, pursuits, or relationships are you most excited about? Try and keep those at the forefront of your mind, even as you face adversity. Doing so will help you wake up eager to get going each day, and those around you will perceive a sparkle in your eye and lightness to your steps.

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