Skip to main content

Questions to ask for New Year

By Eric Liu
December 27, 2013 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
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
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2152 GMT (0552 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT