5 Things to Look for This Year


You get what you look for.

I’m not a believer in the law of attraction per se; however, it’s pretty basic human nature to see what you want to see and what you’re expecting to see.

You’ve experienced it yourself and you’ve probably heard of numerous studies that prove the point: Your mindset can influence the way you perceive literal, physical objects (as this study demonstrates), lead you to ignore information or experiences that contradict what you believe to be true (known as confirmation bias), and, by reinforcing neural pathways in your brain, shape the way you interpret all your experiences. You’ve probably seen one of the many famous video experiments on how you can miss crazy things happening right in front of your face because you’re focused on something else. Personally, I’m ashamed to admit the number of times I’ve been late for an appointment, frantically running around looking for my keys, only to discover they are right in my hand because that’s not where I expected them to be. (Front pocket of my purse—if the keys aren’t there, I’m toast.)

As they say, “What you focus on expands.” But we all have mental habits. We’re hardwired to take mental shortcuts and to follow the neural path of least resistance, which—just like in the wilderness—is the path that’s been trodden before. So chances are, without making some intentional changes in your awareness, you will look for, focus on, and find the same things you always have. When my keys aren’t where I expect them to be, I have to change how I look if I want any hope of finding them.

What do you want more of? While your specific goals are unique to you, like most of us you probably want to increase the good things in life: You want to feel better emotionally and physically. You want stronger relationships. You want more money and time to enjoy it. You want to grow—intellectually, spiritually, professionally.

To achieve those things, sometimes you have to cut things or responsibilities or hobbies or habits—or even people—out of your life. That can be brutal. And absolutely necessary. But instead of focusing on what you want less of, focus on the good things you want more of. Not only does it make change less painful, you’ll get more of what you actually want.

Here are five things to look for as you walk through this year. If you look for them, you will find them. (Kind of like, “If you build it, they will come…”?) You’ll increase the good things you want in life that underpin your goals.


Seek Joy and Peace

Why do we downplay these cornerstones of mental health and interpersonal connection? Just about everyone, particularly in the United States, wants to be more happy and less frazzled. Why do you want to be stronger and healthier and have better relationships and more time and money?? You’re really seeking joy and peace. So go ahead and make your goals, and along the way, remember to spot joy and find pockets of peace. Your life is already—yes, right now—teeming with both. But you won’t see them if you don’t look. Start looking for the sparks of joy in your surroundings, your routines, your relationships. Start savoring the momentary pockets of peace in your schedule. Soon, you’ll find them everywhere.


Celebrate Wins

Instead of focusing on problems, notice and celebrate the wins. Don’t ignore or downplay your problems; they need to be addressed head-on. But put them in the context of what’s working and what you want more of. It’s so much easier to tackle bad performance, conflict, a lack of employee engagement, difficult decisions, or any other thorny issue when it’s not the only thing taking up your head space or all you ever talk about. You’ll also be able to approach hard conversations with less angst and anxiety, too, if your motivation is to create opportunities for success rather than to avoid failure. Look for wins instead of harping on deficits and you’ll find people listen more intently and respond more positively.


Accept Gifts

Anything and everything can be a gift if that’s what you’re looking for. Tony Robbins said, “Every problem is a gift—without problems we would not grow.” Or, as poet Mary Oliver put it: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” Nothing is ever all good. Likewise, very few things are all bad. Papercuts maybe—those are awful… By looking for gifts, you change the lens through which you view your life, making way for acceptance, growth, and peace. 


Make Space

Make some room for those things you want more of in your life. To do that, you need to set limits, create boundaries, cut stuff out. But instead of always saying, “No,” figure out what you want and need to say “Yes!” to. Yes and no always come together. Every time you say “Yes,” you are also saying “No” to something else, and vice versa. Focus on “Yes,” and saying “No” become less difficult and negative. You’re looking for and finding ways to create openings for the good things to grow. That’s hopeful and positive.


Expand Your Power

In her book, Presence, Amy Cuddy discusses two types of power: 1) Power over—the capacity or authority to control others and 2) power to—the capacity or ability to control your own state and behaviors. The second type—personal power—already resides in you and cannot be taken away. But the feeling of personal power can fluctuate dramatically based on any number of factors, many of which are beyond your control, like how others respond to you or whether you win the case or if you’re hit with a sudden health or family crisis. Unfortunately, when you feel powerless, you act accordingly and create a downward spiral. Look for ways to notice and exercise your power and it will grow. You already use it all the time:

  • Every time you act according to your values Power
  • Every time you respond instead of reacting Power
  • Every time you give a true “Yes” or a true “No”  Power
  • Every time you face a fear or practice courage  Power
  • Every time you work toward or achieve a goal  Power
  • Every time you give freely  Power
  • Every time you set and maintain boundaries  Power
  • Every time you accept responsibility for yourself  Power
  • Every time you choose to refocus your thoughts toward something that serves you and aligns with your values  Power

The list could go on and on. The point is, you exercise your power all day long. Notice when you do, and you will feel less battered by the storms of life and more grounded in yourself.


Life is full of trials and trouble. Craptastic days are not going away. Pain, loss, slimy con artists, bias, heartbreak, really annoying coworkers, violence, disease—it kills me to say it, but you know it’s true: They’re part of the human experience. You don’t have to look hard at all to find them. If that’s what you’re looking for… well, let me congratulate you in advance on your success!

Life is also full of joy and peace and wins and gifts and all the time and space you need. And you are full of power. It’s all there, even when things look pretty dark. What are you going to focus on?

May your year be full of all the good things you’re looking for!


Change your communication, change your life.

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