Resolutions are a tricky practice. Committing to changing a bad habit or starting a new one for an entire year is daunting. After trying both and failing multiple times, I’m ready to try something new.
Instead of setting goals or raging against the tradition, many people pick an annual theme, a word to define their year and serve as a guiding light. I like this approach because it’s less intimidating and seems to have broader application to everyday life.
One word for the year provides a daily reminder of an underlying purpose as you approach both obstacles and opportunities.
Here are a few popular options:
In considering a yearly word, it’s important to look back on the last year to consider where life’s journey has taken you so far, what you’d have done differently, and in turn, what you hope to apply from those lessons this year.
Triple the value
One word for a whole year needs to deliver value in more ways than one.
- Inspire. If your one word isn’t encouraging and empowering, it’s going to burn you out before you’ve made any real progress. When you wake up each morning, your word must fuel you like a strong cup of coffee.
- Inform. If your word is just a coherent combination of letters that can be found in the dictionary, and it doesn’t impact your decisions, try again. A word for the year is a torch to light your path.
- Clarify. If your word doesn’t clear away the mud and ambiguity of your decisions, then it’s basically useless. A one word must be specific enough to provide clarity, while being broad enough to apply in nearly every situation.
This criteria helps you select a memorable, actionable word for the year. With this in mind my word for 2016 is:
Looking back on 2015, it was a year filled with new projects, adventures, relationships, and lots of coffee. Early mornings at the gym, sleepy bus rides to and from work, and late nights writing for side hustles has opened new doors, but also left me exhausted.
This isn’t a sustainable pace, but the hustle isn’t quite over.
It’s no surprise that someone who writes a lot is also a voracious reader. One of the best books I read in 2015 was Essentialism by Greg McKeown. In it, the author talks about how hectic and scattered our lives are.
Everyone is in a hurry and doesn’t have the mental margin to make wise decisions. We’re constantly pulled in a million directions and we feel a false sense of productivity when we’re really just running full-speed on a hamster wheel.
Thinking about the frenzied nature of 2015, while it was exciting to attend two conferences and pick up new clients, the candle was being burned at both ends with a flamethrower.
Intentional is the perfect word for me going into a new year. As much as 2015 was all about embracing new opportunities and saying “yes” in the face of fear, 2016 is already shaping up to be a crucible where the future will be forged.
Intentional – done on purpose; deliberate
- Family. I want to be an intentional husband and dad. To chose the words I say to my wife, and the time I spend with my children on purpose. Great marriages and good kids don’t happen by accident.
- Day job. For the last 7 years I’ve been an agile survivor, adapting to corporate restructuring, and learning in the midst of ambiguity. This year I want to make intentional career moves in a positive direction.
- Side hustle. The busier you are, the more people ask you to do stuff. I love helping people, but I can’t help everyone. I want to be intentional with time and resources while maintaining a generous mindset.
- Creativity. Learning is a passion, and it’s a blast to try new things. Experimenting is where the roots of expertise are grown. I want to intentionally focus creative exploration and develop existing skills.
- Fun. All work and no play makes KC a big, crabby baby. Making time to enjoy wasting time is important to stay balanced and clear headed. Whether it’s playing Xbox with our son, board games with the girls, or reading The Martian.
On a daily basis, the word “Intentional” is a great reminder to constantly ask “why?”. It ensures there’s a purpose behind whatever I’m doing.
- Why am I writing a blog post at 11:00pm?
- Why am I playing a video game?
- Why am I checking Facebook?
- Why am I responding to this email?
- Why am I watching Friends re-runs?
- Why am I eating another cookie?
- Why am I getting up at 4:00am?
- Why am I reading H3 Leadership?
- Why am I working on XYZ project?
Intentional is going to present some tough questions. I expect the answers to be simple, but not always easy.
The best things in life rarely are.
What do you think of intentional as a one word year focus? Which word are you considering for 2016? Share in the comments.
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