Stepping Stones to Success

As the new year approaches, you may be thinking about making New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you hope to improve your life by  eliminating unhelpful habits and/or by establishing  new positive  habits.  While contemplating what you want to do in the coming year, you might find yourself thinking about resolutions you made but didn’t keep during the past year. Keep in mind that if you only focus on what you didn’t accomplish this past year,  you can end up feeling like you’re not good enough and you may even feel  like a failure.

Beginning a new year with a defeated mindset will only make it that much harder to reach new goals. Instead, focus on what worked well for you this past year and what you achieved. Then lay down more stepping stones.

A good place to begin is with a sense of gratitude. Ask yourself what has blessed your life: health, loving friends, a comfortable home, special family members, employment — you fill in the blank. Also, try to think about your blessings in context. Maybe your job doesn’t pay as much as you’d like, but you find your work fulfilling. Perhaps you’ve experienced some health struggles, but you feel good about the way you handled those challenges. You may not have tons of friends, but the ones you have are truly special. Your family may not live nearby, but you love each other and keep in touch regularly. Take some time to really savor these good things in your life.

canstockphoto29626029Focus as well on giving yourself credit for your own successes, large and small. Even if you didn’t meet all your goals this year,  it’s important to recognize and celebrate the things you did accomplish, and, give some thought to how you contributed to those accomplishments. Of the things you tried to accomplish, what went well?

Next, consider how you can build upon your blessings and your successes. Maybe you want to develop new ways to support your health, such as learning how to make healthy food choices that are also tasty, finding enjoyable ways to increase your activity level, and so forth.  Perhaps you can deepen your relationships by showing your appreciation to your friends and family.  Maybe you can make your work more satisfying by performing random acts of kindness at the office (who left that cookie tray in the break room?), or by finding creative ways to make the work more interesting. Whatever your goals now, you can consider how to develop new strategies, but you can also build upon elements of the strategies you’ve used before that worked well. No matter what you want to do, you can use the blessings and successes from this year to inspire and encourage yourself.

canstockphoto21501545Lastly, set reasonable, incremental goals. Think about your larger goals, and then break them down into smaller steps so you can experience a series of successes on the way to achieving the overall goal. For example, if you decide you want to develop a new exercise routine, but you haven’t exercised regularly in a long time, you can try to begin by walking 20 to 30 minutes 3 times a week, rather than trying to run for an hour daily. Then you can gradually  increase the amount you exercise, if that’s your larger goal. Remember to keep track of your progress, so you will be able to recognize what you are accomplishing and give yourself the credit you deserve.

The same applies to any resolution you set: use small, achievable goals towards your ultimate goals. As you reach your smaller goals, acknowledge and celebrate each accomplishment. You’ve earned it!


As you consider how you would like to build on your blessings and successes in the new year, keep in mind that…


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For more ideas about developing a “What Went Well” perspective as the new year approaches, you can also check out


[HAPPINESS AND WELL-BEING, PART 8]  by Audrey Berger, Ph.D.                                                                                                      “Pleasure is the flower that passes; remembrance, the lasting perfume.” ~ Jean de Boufflers  Have you ever noticed how much happiness you can experience by simply thinking about a special memory in your life?  Many studies have found that savoring positive memories is a powerful way to promote and strengthen positive feelings in the present, especially for older adults. Positive memories can bring us joy, and they can even help us to cope with, and recover from, some of the difficulties that we all encounter in life. Fortunately, no matter what challenges we currently face in our lives, we all have within us the ability to transport ourselves to another time and place.

Research has shown that by recalling times when we felt truly happy, we are able to experience those same feelings again – sometimes even with the same intensity that we felt during the original event. Possibly because positive reminiscence is a relatively simple and accessible way to promote happiness in the moment, some studies that have found that the more time people spend remembering positive events from the past, the more they tend to enjoy the present. Some researchers have even been reported that positive reminiscence contributes to increased self-esteem and greater optimism about the future.

A number of studies have identified some things that can help to fine-tune the process of positive reminiscence. Taking mental snapshots of positive events as they occur, and memorizing the details, facilitates future recall of your happy experiences; as pleasurable as it can be to collect and save memorabilia, it turns out that simply bringing positive memories to mind is a more effective way to promote happiness. Also, when engaging in positive reminiscence, it is best to stay emotion-focused, since analyzing positive emotions has been shown to detract from the experience.

 Although remembering happy times doesn’t require any special strategies, there are a number of structured positive reminiscence activities that are worth your consideration. Over and above the fact that these activities can be quite enjoyable, they can also help to strengthen your brain wiring for positive emotions, enhance your resilience, and facilitate your overall happiness and well-being.


Make a list of your happy memories: This list can include both special events from your life as well as any generally happy experience you are able to recall. Set aside time to select and recall the individual items on your list, and in each instance, bring to mind as many details as you can. Immerse yourself in the memory, and pay close attention to the feelings you experience.

Share Memories: Research has found that reminiscing with others about a shared memory is especially likely to evoke strong positive emotions (e.g. joy, accomplishment, amusement, contentment and pride), particularly as we get older. This can, of course, be done informally, but there is also a more formal approach that you can try. In the structured version of this activity, you and a friend each make a list of 3 -5 of your own happiest experiences. Then take turns sharing those memories with one another. As you describe a specific memory, include the following details: where you were; what was happening; what you were doing; who else was there; what made it such a memorable and positive experience; how you felt at the time; and how you feel now as you recall it. Try to really picture the experience and savor the memories. When you are the listener, help your partner savor their memories by paying close attention and asking questions that will help to enrich the experience for them.

Work with specific positive emotions: Instead of making a list of positive memories, you can begin by working with specific positive emotions. For this activity, choose a specific positive emotion, and then generate a list of times when you remember experiencing that emotion. Think of as many instances as you can, and for each instance, include as many details as you can recall. Your positive emotions portfolio can evolve over time, as you remember more experiences, and as you have new experiences that you would like to remember later.

If you have chosen to focus on one specific emotion for this positive reminiscence strategy, consider repeating it for a variety of positive emotions. If you proceed in this manner, you can then create resource boxes (or, if you prefer, computer folders) for different positive emotions. Linger over the process of creating these boxes/folders and use it as an opportunity to really savor each emotion and the associated memories. In each box or computer folder, include anything that can serve as a trigger for a particular positive emotion: photos, songs, written descriptions, letters, etc. Savor new positive experiences as well, and then integrate descriptions, photos or other mementos of these new experiences into the resource box/folder you created for the associated emotion. After a while you will have a wonderful array of resources for different positive emotions, which will be available to you whenever you wish.

Accomplishment Savoring – Think back over the years of your life, and make a list of things you’ve achieved. To facilitate recall of your achievements, it may help to generate a separate list of your achievements for each decade of your life. Include both large and small achievements. Include items that are meaningful to you, regardless of whether they would be seen the same way by others. What makes you proud of this accomplishment? What positive feelings do you have now, looking back on it? Who else was involved? What setbacks or challenges did you have to overcome? What skills and abilities did you use?



Audrey Berger, Ph.D. has been a life coach, psychologist and psychotherapist for 33 years. In her life coaching practice she specializes in mid and later life transitions such as retirement, empty nest, midlife transition, positive aging in general, and creating a new life after divorce/loss. She also works with an array of other life issues and goals, including helping couples to create the relationship they want. You can learn more about her life coaching services, and find out about receiving a complimentary coaching consultation, at Audrey can be reached at: or at (585)292-0095.


Biswas-Diener; Diener, Ed (2010-01-22). Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Kindle Edition. Retrieved from

Bryant, F. B. & Veroff, J. (2007) Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Cohen, G. D. (2008-07-31). The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain. Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

Cozolino, L. (2008). The healthy aging brain: Sustaining attachment, attaining wisdom. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc.

Fredrickson, B. (2009-01-27). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. [Kindle Edition]

Lyubomirsky, S. (2007-12-27). The how of happiness: A new approach to getting the life you want. [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from

Seligman, M. E. P. (2002-10-02). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from

 If you haven’t yet read the seven previous posts in this series, click on the links below so you can learn more about Happiness and Well-Being:

Happiness and Well-Being, Part 1: Can You Make Yourself Happier?                                            Happiness and Well-Being, Part 2: Developing Happiness Habits                                             Happiness and Well-Being, Part 3: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness
Happiness and Well-Being, Part 4: Cultivating Optimism                                                                Happiness and Well-Being, Part 5: Overcoming Pessimism and Self-Criticism                          Happiness and Well-Being, Part 6: Developing A Growth Mindset                                         Happiness and Well-Being, Part 7: Savoring

“Positive Reminiscence” by Audrey Berger, Ph.D. was originally published on the Transition Network website.


[Happiness & Well-Being, Part 3]   by Audrey Berger, Ph.D. –  Coach at Turning Point Life Coaching

Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures  that occur every day, than  in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom”  –  Benjamin Franklin  

Hardwiring HappinessCreating new happiness-increasing habits, which involves changing how we think and what we do, is the most powerful and enduring way to increase happiness and well-being. Many people believe that large activities are required to increase happiness; however, studies show that small but regular happiness-increasing activities are actually more helpful. Continue reading


[Happiness & Well-Being, Part 2]  by Audrey Berger Ph.D. –  Life Coach at Turning Point Life Coaching


“So what kind of reality do you want to create for yourself?” Tal Ben-Shahar

Not that long ago, scientists believed that we are born with all the neurons we will ever have, and that our brains are incapable of creating new neurons or developing further in any substantial way. But, in recent years, scientists have determined that we create new neurons throughout our lives, that injured neurons can repair themselves, and that new connections between neurons are routinely established. Thus, we now know that our brains are regularly being rebuilt, rewired and reorganized. This amazing process of on-going change in the brain is called neuroplasticity. Continue reading


[Happiness & Well-Being Series, Part 1]  by Audrey Berger, Ph.D. – Life Coach at Turning Point Life Coaching

[This article is Part 1 in a recurring series entitled “Happiness & Well-Being.”  Look for future articles in this series by clicking on the “Happiness and Well-Being” topic category in the side bar.]

Happiness Word Cloud

“At every moment in my life I have a choice. Moments add up to a lifetime; choices add up to a life” Tal Ben-Shahar

Most of us believe that our happiness has a lot to do with our life circumstances, since that seems only logical. And, because of this belief, we often pursue happiness by trying to alter our circumstances. But, as counterintuitive as this may seem, researchers have concluded that only around 10% of our happiness can be attributed to our life circumstances (Lyubormirksy, 2007). Continue reading