3 Frames to Visualize Success in the New Year

3 Frames to Visualize Success in the New Year Barefoot Rehabilitation Clinic

28 Dec 3 Frames to Visualize Success in the New Year

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My fiancee, Katie, has pointed out often to me in the past four years:

I’ve never seen you cry.

Well, Katie, we’ve never watched Rudy together.

Ignoring movies that bring a tear to my eye, it’s true, I haven’t cried in years. Maybe decades.

My answer to Katie is always:

I cried it all out by the time I was 21.

It wasn’t just me either.

If we look, we might find that you suffered (or are still suffering) in similar ways.

Without remembering how badly we hurt, it is much more difficult to determine where we are going.

When You’re Alone, Before Sleep, What Do You Think About?

I’m fascinated by unspoken truths and realities.

Last year, I did some informal research behind why people suffer emotionally and spiritually.

In one of my interviews with a mom who has a husband, child, and still feels alone, she confirmed something I’ve been observing:

I feel like I’m on my own sometimes. My friends are not as open to things. They’re not as emotionally connected to energy as I am. I don’t have the support center that I need when I need it. Xanax at night. Anxiety starts to kick in. Cyclical. It comes when I’m in bed after I put my daughter to sleep. Distract myself with reading a book. If I have time to think, anxiety kicks in. Almost every night.

I don’t know how to fix this.

I hate this feeling.

I feel lost I’m like a chicken with my head cut off. I keep it to myself, but it bleeds out occasionally. I flipped out on my husband. We were supposed to be somewhere. I did all my errands and he was still in his PJ’s. I lost my shit on him. Then I got upset and started crying. Makes me feel like you don’t appreciate me. Being a mom and a wife. I handle myself my stuff often. Compartmentalize. Sometimes I lay in bed and cry. Occasionally I lose it. My 5 year-old doesn’t want to hear it. I don’t want to upset her.  When I walk in the door, my heart is there.  

At night, I put the kids to sleep and kiss my husband in bed, that’s when it’s the worst.

I lie in bed, alone.

This woman isn’t alone.

Many of us, who I call the heavy-hearted, suffer in the same exact way.

My suffering as a child and teen is cemented in uncomfortable memories:

  • Walls I built around myself to protect my heart and the fear of talking to people.
  • Harm I inflicted on myself through the violent sports of football and rugby.
  • The coat hanger I’d heat on the stove top to burn myself.
  • Video games I’d play to distract myself from the pain.

The memories’ background was of darkness. Always night time.

The lamp was dimly lit with quotes written on charcoal on my walls to lift my spirit up. No more homework to do. The video games had been played.

I’m on my hands and knees, tears streaming down my face, sobbing, punching the floor with my fists.

Rage, deep sadness, and immense fear seep through my veins.

It took me years to fully vent those buried emotions and make sense of it all.

If only I had these frames to drop the victim-hood and become a creator in life.

In the New Year, Who Will You Be and What Are You Creating?

Sitting, fully present of the pain and suffering of the past, allows us to be still enough to decide what we want to do today and tomorrow.

The mindful observation of moments of change gives us, as conscious beings, an opportunity to pause on life’s path and auto-correct:

Yes, my trusty compass (your heart) says I’m going in the right direction. Onward!

Or …

No, I’m off track. Where’s the path that brings me closer to my goals, dreams, purpose, and being?

In 21st century America, there’s no greater moment for reflection than the time before the New Year.

Social media runs rampant with content around resolutions.

But, there’s a major problem.

Only 1 out of every 10 people who make a resolution will stick to it.

Reflecting over my past year, part of me asked myself:

Why bother making any goal or resolution for next year?

You sucked enough this past year and you’ll probably suck the same amount next year.

Two epic failures marked my 2017:

  1. Dr. Curtis, Barefoot Rehab’s associate doctor for two years, quit.
  2. Heroes Journey Fitness, the CrossFit gym I helped start in 2012, closes on December 31.

Losing Dr. Curtis hurt, a lot.

I’ve been (and I’m still) looking for an associate doctor for the past four years. Specializing in Integrative Diagnosis methods, which require a ridiculous amount of autodidactic studying and financial/energetic investments to take 18 seminars/year as I’m striving to do in 2018, it’s difficult to find doctors who want to study more. Dr. Curtis is an amazing doctor and had proven that he wanted to be the highest quality doctor around.

He quit due to my own business mistakes. We weren’t ready to open a 2nd practice in the largest market in the world. With me not stepping foot even once into New York, the city ate us for lunch.

And what about Heroes Journey Fitness?

I made a million mistakes right from the very start.

  • I chose the wrong partners.
  • We didn’t have an operating agreement at the very start.
  • We didn’t choose one majority decision maker (instead having four people argue out every little point).
  • Our space was too big from Day 1 (12,000 square feet when most gyms start between 2,000-4,000 square feet).
  • No marketing plan.
  • I thought I knew how to do things and ended up hurting my partners in the process without being effective.

After spending the last 6 months grieving Dr. Curtis’s exit, Heroes Journey’s death, and having nightmares of dying, I’ve been able to hold on to the perspective that:

If you’re still alive, you can still make an impact.

Hence, I write this now.

And I’m using three frames to make sure I’m one of the 1 out of 10 that is successful next year.

Frames are perspectives we can adopt from a positive psychology viewpoint that allow us to look at conscious thought in a way that is helpful and productive for our purposes.

I invite you to use them too if they speak to you.

Get Comfy: Sitting on the Stoa

Stoicism is a philosophy that goes back 1,000’s of years and allows you to focus on what you can control and not what you can’t.

It began on the stoa in ancient Roman times. The stoa is the porch where you sit on your rocking chair and ponder life. Images of the porch bring stillness, space, and opportunity to see the world around us.

When philosophers were given an opportunity to reflect, they were able to use the mind to come up with questions and perspectives that bring focus.

Without focus, the probability of achieving any goal or dream becomes doubtful.

I invite you to create space to reflect.

If you’re able, set aside a day (or least a few hours), where you can be still. Perhaps meditating or walking in nature prior to beginning.

Then, use the frames to process your deepest goals and desires.

You’ll learn what you really want to be doing (vs. what’s just something you say that you want) and how to go about making sure you implement daily habits that one of your friends can observe you care about by looking at your daily to-do list or calendar.

Frame #1: The Death Bed Meditation

Take a deep breath.

Close your eyes.

Imagine being on your death bed.

You’re an old man or woman, having lived a very full life.  The life you dream for your kids and grand kids. Do a Deathbed Meditation

Your spouse or partner is holding your hand. Your kids are staring at you with deep love. Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren are wanting to jump on your lap. You feel enormous love in the room.

Put yourself in that mental state.

Now ask yourself:

What actions did I take in my life?

What will people say about me when I die?

Who was I?

Do I have any regrets?

Working backwards, using the Death Bed Meditation allows you to see your deepest heart’s desires and where fear might be stopping you from pursuing them.

It can help you overcome the fear of failure to pursue it anyway.

On your death bed, even if you end up failing, you can at least say:

Well, I gave it my damn best.

Instead of the enormously painful:

Shit. I should’ve have done this or what. Now, I have regret.

In the book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, Australian nurse Bronnie Ware asked her patients before they passed:

Do you have any regrets or is there anything you would’ve done differently?

The top 5 regrets were:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

What rings the loudest to me, as someone who has struggled being my weird, introverted, whole self throughout my life is #1.

Then, I ask myself:

Is what I want to do for me or because other people expect me to do it?

As I reflect, here’s what I will create next year:

Goal #1: I might start another gym with a new partner. (This one is a maybe based on what Spirit wants me to do.)

Goal #2: I’m going to continue to dive deeper into emotional and spiritual healing for both myself and other people.

Goal #3: I’m creating space for less work and more time to be present with people (and a new baby) that I love.

Here’s where this exercise is powerful for me.

Goal #1: A new gym and a new partner is a mind-fuck.

I failed with Heroes Journey Fitness. I was a horrible partner.

I’ve spoken to many entrepreneurs who had business partners, failed, and then said (seemingly) out of fear:

I’ll never have a business partner again.

I get it. But I’ve also read how many successful businesses have been even more successful because of their partnerships.

While going down with the Heroes Journey ship has caused me emotional pain and while I’m massively scared of starting another gym and having a new business partner, I still may move forward if the conditions allow for it.


A pain doctor who knows how to prevent hurting people is massively valuable.

My dad is 68 and still takes CrossFit classes. I wouldn’t want him working out in any other gym.

I believe that New Jersey needs gyms that respect the individual’s body, previous injuries, goals, and current abilities.

Therefore, I go into 2018 knowing I have something to offer people if I can not make the same mistakes.

Death Bed Chris nudges me forward.

What does your Death Bed self insist on this year?

There’s no time to do anything like RIGHT NOW.

Frame #2: Fear-Setting

Before April, 2017, if you asked me what I feel, if it wasn’t anything negative, I’d say:

I don’t know. But I don’t like it.

After a 9 day ayahuasca retreat to the Temple of the Way of Light in Peru in April, I learned how to feel emotions.

Returning home, I remember getting pissed off at Ninja, our dog, for pooping in the house. I was irrationally angry.

Then, I remember being scared to tell Katie:

I feel like I want to kick Ninja into the wall.

Saying those words, immense guilt came over me.

After reading Language of Emotions, I learned how to get grounded and be present with my feelings.

The beauty of all of this is that I spent the first 32 years of my life being completely out of touch with my heart’s messages (aka emotions) to my body.

With this new ability to sense emotions, I can’t believe how many times a day I experience fear.

I continue to have a recurring vision of being on a boat in a turbulent ocean with lightning crashing in the background.

As soon as I have it, I notice my lips mouthing silently:

WTF was that?

I can usually trace it back to a real life concern.

  • What if my income drops to a point where I can’t pay my mortgage?
  • What if Katie and I lose our baby?
  • What if, during my next ayahuasca ceremony, I completely lose my shit?

Part of my job as a doctor is to be effective in my communication so that patients implement the necessary behavioral changes to be as pain-free now and in the future.

Beneath every negative emotion we have, whether it’s anger, sadness, guilt, shame, jealousy, or hatred, fear governs all of them.

Fear is everywhere.

What are we scared of?


Try it.

Sit with the next negative emotion you have. Point at it with your finger and say “I see you. You’re ______.” Then, ask yourself why you’re feeling it. Asking is your shovel to get to the root of that emotion.

I’m always amazed how often fear is the root of my negative emotions.

If you want a more formal practice to examine your fears, try Tim Ferriss’s fear-setting, based on stoic philosophy.

When it comes to doing what your Death Bed self wants you to do, what if you did it?

How is fear stopping you?

The first step is to Define (point at the problem):

My biggest problem? Fear of failure if I start a new gym.

  1. What if I start a new business – a CrossFit gym?
  2. What if the gym fails again and it doesn’t work out?
  3. What if I partner again and it doesn’t work out?
  4. What if my partner somehow steals equity from me or takes money from me?
  5. What if I lose the income I need to pay the bills?
  6. What if it requires energy, time, or more capital to get started?

Then, Prevent (how do I prevent the worst case scenario from happening?):

  1. Have a lawyer look at a legal agreement.
  2. Implement buy-sell agreement in operating agreement.
  3. The operating agreement should have no responsibilities for me.
  4. Have conversations with the potential partner around what a quality partnership looks like.
  5. Outline the vision and who is in charge.
  6. Don’t rush any random space to put the gym in out of urgency. Sit on it for a week.
  7. Be sure the financial cushion is available to live if start-up capital is required.

Finally, Repair (if worst case scenario happens, what can do you do?):

  1. Buy-sell agreement gives me an out.
  2. Operating agreement doesn’t require work or effort on my part, even though I will work to assist the new partner.
  3. Because I have a financial cushion, I don’t need the gym to produce income.

What might be the benefits of an attempt or a partial success? (write them down)

Starting a new gym would allow me to continue to fulfill a purpose of making older people or individuals with an injury history feel safe when pursuing their highest level of fitness. Based on the potential partner’s track record, it would also give my family an opportunity to have passive income and create a lifestyle that leaves me freer to be present (and not work).

The Cost of Inaction (emotionally, physically, and financially) (1 = no impact and 10 = massive impact)

6 Months From Now:

7 – Having to work actively for the rest of my life to create income is not conducive towards my time to reflect, create, be still, and nurture my heart and soul.

1 Year From Now:

8 – The pain of having to work actively will only get worse with time as I regret not pursuing passive business opportunities.

3 Years:

9 – We want to have multiple babies. I’ll want to spend more time being present with them and less time working.  My Death Bed Self urges me, “Do it, Chris.”

Your turn.

What do you feel?

What are you scared of?

How can you point at your fear and face it?

Frame #3: If You’re Going To Tattoo “Love” On Your Knuckles, You’d Better Love People:

If you haven’t seen me in a few months, I have a new black tattoo on my hand.


Having this tattoo on my hand scares me every day just as it did when I made a decision to drive to the tattoo parlor to get it.

I was finally able to trump the massive fear of judgement by people in society by using the framing of The Stoic Purple Robe.

Cato was a stoic who wore purple in Roman times to get comfortable with judgement and more specifically, discomfort.

I want to be true to my authentic self. I wanted a reminder to help myself be who I want to be.

Prior to the tattoo, I didn’t realize how often I thought about other people:

You hurt me. F*** you. I don’t need you in my life.

… and threw people to the side of the metaphorical curb.

This stupid tattoo causes me to ask every day:

What would love do?

I curse those four letters on a moment-by-moment basis. Only to remember, before I go to bed at night, that I’m now handcuffed to being a person who never kicks people to the side of the curb, reinforced by who I want to be on my Death Bed.

It forces me to take 100% responsibility for all of my relationships and at the end of the conversation, say with honesty “I love you.”

In the past, it’s been a struggle to get past the dark energy between other people and me when I’m alone.  With the help of my spiritual business coach, the magical Susan Lustenberger, the ho’oponono mantra made its way into my daily meditations to heal the negative energy around these interactions:

I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

You may not be a person who has committed to loving as deeply as I am.

But when it comes to creating the life that you dream for yourself, the people in your life are the ones who help you get there.

If they don’t feel loved by you (or at minimum, liked by you), how do you actually expect to get there?

Unless you’re of those people that has to do it all by yourself, which is utterly exhausting, then, you need other people.

You need love.

You don’t need to tattoo it on your hand.

But using this framework makes sure that your relationships stay healthy and nourishing for all parties involved:

How do I love this person, even when it’s hard?

Even more important, how do I love myself, even when I hate myself?

Keep it Simple and Choose One Thing

If you’ve read this far, there must be at least, ONE THING that you want to create for yourself in the new year that is worth looking at from various angles.

Now, how do you look at that one thing to stack the odds that you’ll achieve it?

My advice is now, to:

1. Write down that one thing.

2. Choose the frame that helps you the most.

  • Death Bed Meditation: is there one major thing you’ve been avoiding?
  • Fear-Setting: do you know what you need to do, but you’re paralyzed by fear?
  • What would love do?: do your relationships feel like they need more cultivation?

3. Act accordingly.

Us Americans are over-achievers and easily succumb to overwhelm.

Until you tackle your one thing, don’t lose focus.

When you become aware you’re not making progress (which is guaranteed to happen at times), remember those nights (or whatever memory you have of your struggle) when you suffered and how you’re working to prevent that from ever happening again.

Your one thing, when achieved, will spill over into other areas of your life.

Remember, there’s no compartmentalization of life. How you make your bed is how you do everything.

If I can help you create your goals and dreams in the new year, all you have to do is ask.


I’m curious, how could one FRAME seen here have helped you achieved your goals and dreams in the past? Can you see how using one or all three of these frames will help you this year?

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Dr. Chris Stepien, DC, Full-Body ID Certified, ART Certified, CSCS, and CrossFit Level 1 Certified, fixes your annoying and frustrating pains, even when it's been over 6 months and you've seen 3-5 other doctors or therapists without lasting relief Barefoot Rehab in Denville, NJ. And when you're sad, depressed, or not enjoying life, Dr. Chris wants to hug you. He invites you to reach out, no matter what your concern is. Barefoot Rehab is here to serve you.
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  • Kitty
    Posted at 18:52h, 28 December Reply

    Chris, this was a excellent read. I am so proud of you. The one thing I will say is that you need to have a positive outlook on life and the surroundings. I have learned this in many ways. I have experienced situations in my life that I couldn’t have ever imagined. Steve Harvey said on one of his programs “you are at a place in life where you are suppose to be” I believe it. Did I like it at times…no. Everything will fall into place as it will, even if things are beyond our control. I have said many times, I wouldn’t mind sharing with someone else everything I have been through. I believe it has made me a much stronger person and if I can help someone else with my experiences that is a plus for me. I love you I wish you and Katie a Healthy and Happy 2018.

    • Dr. Chris
      Posted at 16:23h, 29 December Reply

      Kitty! You’re one of the strongest women I know. Your sharing means a lot to me as the strength I’ve seen from you is unimaginable. TY for commenting on my own path. I hope to come see you in 2018. I’ll talk to Pop.

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