by Megan McDonough

Revitalizing your life in the new year is less about making an exact plan and more like doing a puzzle. When you start a puzzle, you dump the pieces on the table and begin sorting. You start with edges and colors, creating groups and boundaries to help you focus.

This is a good analogy for how you can build your year to come. Rather than hard-and-fast resolutions, consider one puzzle piece at a time as you form your habits of well-being. There are only two questions with this approach:

1. What “colors” (or values) am I focusing on this year?
2. What “edges” (or boundaries) am I creating by saying yes to this new habit or intention (which, by default, means saying no, too)?

The first question is about what gives life vibrancy, because values add meaning and purpose. The second question is about what actions support your intention.

Puzzles are frustrating. They seem too hard to finish when you’re just starting, and it becomes a mush of confusion when nothing seems to fit. Keep at it (or walk away and come back again and again) and, sooner or later, you’ll fit one piece, then another.

Professor of Psychology Gabriele Oettingen has a well-researched process for creating the “edges” of your new year wish fulfillment puzzle: the acronym WOOP.

Wish: What is your most important dream?
Outcome: What would be the best thing about fulfilling your wish?
Obstacle: What’s standing in the way?
Plan: What can you do to overcome your obstacle?

It’s easy to look back in time and see how the puzzle pieces of life created your experience over the last year. It’s a bit trickier to look ahead to how the pieces might fit together in the future. Set your boundaries (the edges that define what’s important to you) and your palette (the values you choose to engage) and keep working at it. The puzzle pieces of your life are worth the effort of integration.

Learn more from Megan McDonough in The Certificate in Positive Psychology.


Megan McDonough is CEO of Wholebeing Institute, an educational organization co-founded with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. WBI is committed to spreading ideas and practices that can help individuals and groups live life to its fullest.

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