As 2011 begins, it behooves us (don't you love that word?) to examine our lives. A new year gives us another chance to live well. We have an art piece in our guest bathroom that says, "Live a good life." When I brought it home and hung it, my husband asked, "What's the definition of a 'good' life?" That's not easy to answer, since everyone has a different idea. As usual, my intrepid attitude impels me to try an answer.

A new year gives us the opportunity to evaluate our existence – to check on our progress toward living a 'good' life.

A useful saying is: "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." Or, in the words of Dr. Phil, "How's that working for you?" When we continue down the same old path, making the same mistakes year after year, we just compound our problems. Examining our life is the beginning of desired change.

Identifying what really matters in your life should be your first priority in 2011. On the path to living a 'good' life, understanding your priorities is critical.

If what really matters is money, then strive hard to work more hours and spend less so you'll have more in the bank. Clip coupons, stop donating to charities, buy clothing from consignment shops, and cut back on your personal expenses.

If what really matters is physical appearance, then go on that elusive diet, eat healthy foods, exercise daily, and listen to the doctor. Clothe yourself with good-fitting items. Keep your hair styled, your fingernails polished, and your teeth sparkling white.

If what really matters is power, then finagle and wheedle yourself to the top of your profession – or to the head seat at the family table. Take over the company. Run your life and home like a successful business, keeping in mind the bottom line – being in charge.

If what really matters is family, you might first want to ascertain who makes up your family. Blood relatives don't always qualify. To me, family trusts, nourishes, and promotes the welfare of each member. A family is made up of people who love, support, and care for each other. They tolerate each other's frailties and share each other's burdens. They have faith and trust in one another. They think of the other person's needs before their own. And, most important, family members are loyal to each other. They are each other's cheerleaders. They stand up for each other and celebrate the uniqueness of each family member.

If what really matters to you is always being right, then close your mind to anyone else's ideas. Push your own agenda. Be inflexible when it comes to discussion. When something goes wrong, find someone to blame. And, of course, pooh-pooh the thoughts of others whose theories conflict with yours.

If what really matters to you is good health, then stop smoking, don't drink to excess, eat fewer calories, move more, choose healthier foods, keep a positive attitude, and get enough rest. This is not rocket science. Anyone can tell you how to be healthy. It's just hard following the rules.

In 2011, living a good life might be an unattainable goal for some. However, if you are honest about what really matters to you, a path will open up and you'll be on the right road. Best of luck as you travel through the new year.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.