“We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.” ~ Steven Pressfield
Here we are, already a month into 2020.
How are you feeling?
There’s something about the new year—the chill in the air, the clearing of the house after Christmas, the return to routines after the chaos of the holidays—that breathes new life into me. It’s time to start fresh and make a change.
Speaking of change: how are your New Year’s resolutions going? If you’re anything like most Americans, those resolutions you made not so long ago may already have fallen by the wayside. Maybe you’ve traded in feelings of anticipation and excitement for ones of discouragement and disappointment.
For years, I attempted resolutions. Goals like “travel more” and “eat better” swirled around in my mind. Like many others, I’d go to the gym for a while, but ultimately my resolutions got lost somewhere between February and April. Statistically, I held on longer than most.
So, if most people fail at keeping, or even remembering, their New Year’s resolutions, why do we continue to make them? As a society, we know that words mean something. Words have power. And we want to be better. We want to change.
A few years ago, I ditched New Year’s resolutions for good and changed my approach to change. Now, I spend a day or so before the New Year (or sometimes after) choosing just one word to frame the year. By limiting my hopes for the coming months into one simple word, I’m naturally bringing more mindfulness into my life. I’m able to recall my word often, applying it to the present moment, as well as nearly all areas of my life.
Here’s an example. For 2019, my word of the year was intentional. Coincidentally, last year also included a lot of travel. I visited more countries and cities in 12 months than ever before. Often, just the act of traveling would bring the word “intentional” to mind. But I could also consciously choose to focus on it when moving through various experiences—interacting with a local, deciding what souvenirs to buy, or branching out of my comfort zone and trying new foods. While “travel more” might have been an admirable New Year’s resolution that I would have achieved, the word “intentional” framed how I traveled and made my experiences much richer.
So how should you choose a word of the year? I’ve found the prompts over at My One Word to be quite helpful. To start, determine what kind of person you hope to be at the end of 2020. What’s the condition of your heart at the end of the year? What would it look like to be your best self?
Next, list out the characteristics of the person you hope to become. Is he adventurous? Are they generous? Is she present in the moment? List out at many as you can think of; there’s no right or wrong answer.
Lastly, pick your word. Go through the list and find one that resonates with you. I like to use a dictionary to define the word. Doing so helps me to strip away preconceived ideas or associations I may have with it and gives me an objective view.
Now that you have your one word, write it down. Meditate on it. Journal about it. Keep your word fresh in your mind. Recall it often. I like to spend a little time brainstorming how my chosen word fits into the many facets of my everyday life. Having some focus areas and simple intentions written down gives me a lens to see how I’m progressing.
For me, this time of the year isn’t about changing who I am. An international move showed me that, fundamentally, I’m the same person no matter the year or where I reside. But taking some time to reflect on the person I hope to become allows me to be the best same me I can be. Because change takes time. Change is important.
Of course, the new year isn’t the only time to start fresh. Each day, each month, even each hour offers a chance to change. Don’t be afraid to choose a new path, no matter the date on the calendar.
Here’s hoping a word of the year will bring clarity and a more mindful focus as you work toward becoming the best version of you.