by Margarita Tarragona, PhD

This ritual from Margarita offers a twist on the Appreciative Inquiry exercise, as well as specific questions to support your reflections.

I love celebrating the new year. Finishing a cycle and beginning something new makes me feel enthusiastic about what comes next and hopeful that—this time for sure!—I’ll stick to my New Year’s resolutions. (By the way, research by John C. Norcross found that making New Year’s resolutions does increase our chances of changing our behavior and acquiring new habits.)

I recently heard about a Mexican tradition called “burning the old year.” In the southeast of Mexico, it is customary to make a figure out of old clothes, straw, and cardboard and burn it at the end of the year. Like all rituals, this one is full of symbolism, and the idea of burning, letting go, or even cleansing through fire something that is ending is very powerful, since it allows us to make space for new things to come.

In my family and with my colleagues from Grupo Campos Elíseos, we have a New Year’s ritual that we have been doing for years. We answer in writing a few questions that invite us to reflect about the year that is coming to an end and about our dreams for the year that is beginning.

This is how we do it:

• We print a page with eight questions (one copy per person) and have pens and envelopes available.

• Members of the family, or of the group, write down their responses (they don’t need to share them), put them in an envelope and seal it.

• One of us keeps the envelopes in a safe place.

• When we get together again at the end of the following year, people get their envelopes back and can see what they accomplished, what surprised them and what experiences they had in the past 12 months.

If you would like to try this exercise this New Year’s Eve, these are the questions:

1. What was one of the moments you enjoyed the most in 2023?
2. What are you most grateful for in 2023?
3. What was your most important achievement this year?
4. What is something new that you learned in 2023?
5. What are you glad to leave behind as this year ends?
6. What is one of your most important projects for 2024?
7. What do you want to do for others in 2024?
8. What do you want to do for yourself in 2024?

Happy New Year!


Dr. Margarita Tarragona is the creator of the course Your Best You: Crafting Positive Life Stories at Wholebeing Institute. She is a psychologist who specializes in personal and relational transformation. As a clinician, coach, and organizational consultant, she incorporates scientific findings on flourishing from positive psychology with conversational and narrative ways of working with clients, with the goals of generating dialogue and expanding their life stories. Margarita is the author of Positive Identities: Positive Psychology and Narrative Practices.