Skip to main content

Questions to ask for New Year

By Eric Liu
updated 4:51 PM EST, Fri December 27, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eric Liu: I've been working with creative thinkers who are mining the meaning of a good life
  • Liu: This New Year's, resolve to reflect on your life
  • Here are a list of questions to ask yourself, including who are your influences, aspirations
  • Liu: The questions were originally developed for young people, but they're really for all

Editor's note: Eric Liu is the founder of Citizen University and author of several books, including "The Gardens of Democracy" and "The Accidental Asian." He served as a White House speechwriter and policy adviser for President Bill Clinton. Follow him on Twitter @ericpliu

(CNN) -- Here's a New Year's resolution that's easy to keep, good for your health and beneficial for your relationships. And it won't cost you a penny. Sound too good to be true? Read on.

In recent months, I've been working with a group of creative thinkers who are mining the meaning of a good life. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Bill Damon and Howard Gardner are renowned psychologists who've collaborated to create the Good Project, which explores the behaviors and mindsets that add up to good work, good play and good citizenship.

Together, with Lynn Barendsen, we've developed a simple set of questions for the New Year. They're catalysts for reflection rather than formulas for imitation. Their purpose is to get us thinking about our purpose, in both private and community life.

Eric Liu
Eric Liu

We originally developed these questions for young people, on the belief that the new generation doesn't get enough structured opportunities to explore meaning and values. But the truth is, it's not just millennials today who might lack purpose, feel uncertain about shared beliefs and goals or wish they could be part of something greater than themselves. It's people of all ages.

We Americans rarely get to make a truly mindful assessment of who we are, what's shaped us and why we hope to change. If we did that first, we'd probably be more capable of making wise resolutions and keeping them. We'd become more conscious of the web of relationship and mutual obligation that holds us together and that makes our freedom truly worth cherishing. And we might just end up being better humans.

So I invite you, whatever your stage of life, to explore these questions. Ask them of yourself. Talk with family and friends about them. Write and share your reflections. Feel free to adapt and revise the questions to suit your circumstances. And let us know on Twitter what the experience is like for you and those close to you.

If you make it your first resolution to consider these questions well, your other resolutions will almost certainly end up being more honest, more meaningful to you and more useful to others. Enjoy reflecting, and may your new year be happy -- and deeply good.

Who you are

1. Think of something (an activity, a job) to which you're really committed and that takes up a lot of your time. Why do you do it? Do you consider it time well spent? Why or why not? What would make you stop being involved?

2. Who or what do you consider your community? What do you do for the community? What would you expect the community to do it for you?

3. To whom or what do you feel responsible? What does that entail? What happens when you don't meet that responsibility?

4. Are you a good worker? A good citizen? A good person? How do you distinguish among them? Which is most important to you?

Influences

5. Who's influenced you, and how do you pass it on?

6. What individuals and institutions do you admire and why (current or past)?

7. What/whom don't you admire and why?

8. What and whom do you love?

Aspirations

9. What would it mean for you to be successful? How important is recognition, through money or esteem? What about unheralded acts or contributions?

10. What would it mean for you fail? Who or what will make that judgment for you and about you?

11. What kind of person do you want to be right now?

12. What should -- and shouldn't -- be written in your obituary?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eric Liu.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:10 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
If Obama thinks pushing out Hagel will be seen as the housecleaning many have eyed for his national security process, he'll be disappointed, says David Rothkopf.
updated 8:11 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
The decision by the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney to announce the Ferguson grand jury decision at night was dangerous, says Jeff Toobin.
updated 3:57 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
China's influence in Latin America is nothing new. Beijing has a voracious appetite for natural resources and deep pockets, says Frida Ghitis.
updated 4:51 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in the capital Tehran on June 14, 2014.
The decision to extend the deadline for talks over Iran's nuclear program doesn't change Tehran's dubious history on the issue, writes Michael Rubin.
updated 2:25 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Maria Cardona says Republicans should appreciate President Obama's executive action on immigration.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Van Jones says the Hunger Games is a more sweeping critique of wealth inequality than Elizabeth Warren's speech.
updated 6:29 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
obama immigration
David Gergen: It's deeply troubling to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order.
updated 8:34 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Charles Kaiser recalls a four-hour lunch that offered insight into the famed director's genius.
updated 3:12 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
The plan by President Obama to provide legal status to millions of undocumented adults living in the U.S. leaves Republicans in a political quandary.
updated 10:13 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Despite criticism from those on the right, Obama's expected immigration plans won't make much difference to deportation numbers, says Ruben Navarette.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
As new information and accusers against Bill Cosby are brought to light, we are reminded of an unshakable feature of American life: rape culture.
updated 5:56 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
When black people protest against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, they're thought of as a "mob."
updated 3:11 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Lost in much of the coverage of ISIS brutality is how successful the group has been at attracting other groups, says Peter Bergen.
updated 8:45 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Do recent developments mean that full legalization of pot is inevitable? Not necessarily, but one would hope so, says Jeffrey Miron.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
We don't know what Bill Cosby did or did not do, but these allegations should not be easily dismissed, says Leslie Morgan Steiner.
updated 10:19 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Does Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have the influence to bring stability to Jerusalem?
updated 12:59 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
Even though there are far fewer people being stopped, does continued use of "broken windows" strategy mean minorities are still the target of undue police enforcement?
updated 9:58 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
The truth is, we ran away from the best progressive persuasion voice in our times because the ghost of our country's original sin still haunts us, writes Cornell Belcher.
updated 4:41 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Children living in the Syrian city of Aleppo watch the sky. Not for signs of winter's approach, although the cold winds are already blowing, but for barrel bombs.
updated 8:21 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
We're stuck in a kind of Middle East Bermuda Triangle where messy outcomes are more likely than neat solutions, says Aaron David Miller.
updated 7:16 AM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
In the midst of the fight against Islamist rebels seeking to turn the clock back, a Kurdish region in Syria has approved a law ordering equality for women. Take that, ISIS!
updated 11:07 PM EST, Sun November 16, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says President Obama would be justified in acting on his own to limit deportations
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT