Make the most of this month of beginnings

January is an exhilarating month. A month of opportunities. A month of “new beginnings,” as we often say.
But what do we mean when we say “new beginnings.” Isn’t that redundant? Doesn’t “new” mean “beginnings?” And doesn’t “beginnings” mean “new?”
To better understand what we mean when we say “new beginnings,” I searched the Internet for the phrase and got roughly two million hits. So redundant or not, “new beginnings” is here to stay.
January is the queen of new beginnings. Even the name of the month means beginnings.
The month of January was named by Roman King Numa Pompilius in the eighth century B.C. in honor of the Roman god Janus, who is the god of beginnings.
The god of archways and gates. The god of dawn. The Guardian of the Threshold. A very important Roman god, Janus is superseded only by Jupiter.
Morning prayers were addressed to Janus. And the Romans asked for his blessing at the beginning of every project—especially at the New Year.
As Guardian of the Threshold, Janus watched over the important transition from old to new. In ancient myth, threshold was a magical place linking the known world of the past and the unknown world of the future.
So Janus was not only the god of beginnings, but also the god of endings. As such, he is portrayed with two faces—one looking forward and the other looking backward.
Thus, January is a month when we look in both directions. A month when we look forward to the future with expectation, but also ponder the past.
The idea of threshold is not unique to the Romans. In fact, almost every culture has a Guardian of the Threshold. In all mystical traditions, the purpose of the guardian is to challenge us; to determine our worthiness to pass over the threshold.
Having passed that threshold this January, 2006, how do you rate your worthiness? Most of us come into January feeling an upsurge of spirit. You want to get rid of your bad habits, your excess weight, your negative thinking about people.
You’re inspired to organize the clutter in your mind, forget insults you may have received in the past, frame new dreams, and set new goals.
In this season of thresholds, you have a unique opportunity to evaluate the past and prepare for a better future. A new beginning energized by wisdom from the past and empowered by commitment can lead to new growth in 2006.
But crossing the threshold wisely takes planning.
Steven Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly-Effective People,” puts it this way: Just think how ridiculous it would be if a farmer forgot to plant in spring, played all summer, and then tried to bring in a harvest in fall?
“The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed,” writes Covey. “You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.”
Now, halfway through the month named in honor of Janus, how are you doing? Is it time to recommit to your New Year’s resolutions? Or to reassess and change directions?
As you embark on this New Year, remember to look in both directions. Draw on the wisdom of the past and then plant the seeds for a successful harvest in 2006.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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