Goal-setting is awesome (says the goal-nerd). In fact, I like it so much that I create a big set of goals twice a year: once at New Years, and again on my birthday (which just happens to be June 30th, right at the half-way mark).
But New Years resolutions can also be overwhelming. So overwhelming that January 17th is literally National Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day. I’m not even kidding.
So while I do like to make some long-term S.M.A.R.T goals, the way I really like to welcome in the new year is much more low-key:
I just choose one word.
I can’t remember how I stumbled across Ali Edwards’ One Little Word® project, but I fell in love with the concept at first sight. The idea is simple: you choose a word–just one–that will inform your choices, goals, and decisions for the year.
As you return back to your word again and again over the course of the year, you’ll find yourself organically moving in a new direction. You might be learning to have more faith in yourself, to take more chances, to try new things, or to be more content.
There are a million ways you can direct your life, and this is absolutely one of the lowest-stress ways I’ve found to do it.
My Words So Far
If you’re not quite sure how to begin, that’s okay. I’m going to give you a little rundown of how it’s gone for me, share my new 2016 word with you, and then give you a super-quick bit of guidance about how to choose your own.
Over the past seven years, I’ve chosen eight different words. (One year I switched things up at the half-way mark.) Each one helped me strengthen a different piece of my character.
My first word was Do. At the time I was a new mom. I’d quit work to stay home with our sweet, bubbly firstborn, and, suddenly away from the rush and deadlines of work and school, I was stagnating. I wanted action. I wanted achievement. And most of all I wanted to stop waiting until I “had time” or “felt like it” to do the things I really wanted and needed to do.
It was an amazing year of change. I used my word up. I went for it. And as I did, I discovered that God gives you a boost when you’re heading in a sure direction.
My second word was Make. The “year of make” was busy, focused on exploring new projects and finishing old ones. I made lots and lots and lots of things: printed journals of my first two pregnancies, crocheted scarves, papercut family portraits, hand-drawn pictures, baby neckties, pillow covers–heck, I even baked my first successful loaves of bread!
My first two years were vastly different–one focused on internal motivation and one on the physical act of just making things–but the both brought new joy, growth, and satisfaction to my life.
I kept at it, each year focusing on a new little word:
Light. (Be lighter, find loveliness in myself and all around me, trust the light of God, and lift, support, and nurture my children.)
Engage. (Engage in life rather than just getting through it. Ironically, a difficult pregnancy that began a few months into the year made this word pretty tough to follow through with!)
Nourish. (Tend deeply to my relationships, my health, my family, my intellect, and my peace of mind.)
Simplify. (Automate, streamline, and pare down the “must-dos” to make more room for the things that fill my heart.)
Trust. (Release the anxiety of “getting it wrong” on all fronts of life. When faced with a question big or small–should I hang this picture here? Should I start a small business?–consult my Father in Heaven, consult my intuition, and then: leap.)
How to Choose Your Own One Word
There are no rules, okay? Only suggestions.
You don’t have to start in January.
You don’t have to know where the word is going to take you.
You don’t even have to stick with just ONE word.
But there are a three things I recommend, if you want to really give this a go:
1. Give it a few days to marinate.
I’m always tempted to jump in to stuff like this, but I usually give my word-choice some thought, and then let it sort of simmer in the back of my mind for a few weeks. This gives me time to really get a deep feel for its rightness–or not.
That might sound a little cheesy, but all that back-of-your-mind processing really helps to find a word and direction that really speaks to where you are now.
2. Choose the word that feels the most authentic to your soul.
When you first give this a shot, you might come up with a word that you think you “should” do. You might feel like a certain next step or trajectory is expected: You’re settled into your mom-life and you are living in chaos, so you should choose “organized” or “simplify” or “calm”. You’re heading into a year of chaos (moves, newborn babies, new jobs, etc.!), so you should choose “grace” or “patience” or “courage.”
THERE IS NO “SHOULD.”
There’s nobody forcing you to choose a word that doesn’t speak to you.
So as you spend that time lingering over which word feels right, be honest with yourself. Find the word that fits. It will feel like relief, or empowerment, or inspiration. There will be no “Is this right…?” It’s going to click into your heart like a missing puzzle piece.
It might seem weird at first. That’s okay!
My word for this year is “heal.”
Heal seemed like a weird word. I’m not terribly sick, or terribly grieving, or terribly anything, really. So why devote an entire year to healing things that are only marginally broken?
It felt right, but it didn’t make sense in my brain at first. Yet the more I tried to force other “better” words (small, simple, grace) the more I felt like I was shoving a square peg in a round hole. They seemed like good ideas. But my gut kept repeating: The right word is “heal.”
It was right, and there was just no denying it. And as I’ve thought about it more I realize–I finally have the mental space and energy to give myself this gift. And if I work on it now, I won’t have to get to those places of anguish and dire need to become proactive.
So this year, I’ll be focusing on healing:
Healing my body–addressing physical pain with yoga, stretching, healthy healing foods, and visiting specialists as necessary. (I just went to a podiatrist for the first time! I felt like an old lady, but he said he can easily fix my aching arches!)
Healing my heart–I’ve seen 4 dear, dear friends move away in the past six months, and dozens (yes, really dozens–we live in a really transitional area) over the past few years. My heart aches. I don’t know how I’m going to heal those hurt places yet, those missing places. But I’m open to discovering how.
Healing my mind–addressing some deep and abiding fears through counseling, discussion with loved ones, and journaling, finding ways to give myself more grace, and making time to rest, breathe, and just be.
Doesn’t that sound lovely?
I’m glad I gave in to the word that felt right, even though it initially sounded kind of dumb. ; )
3. Share it, and write it down.
Our brains are busy places! It’s not nice to try to make them remember everything, without even giving them a hint.
Write your word down so you don’t forget it.
So you keep feeling inspired by it.
So you can remind yourself to redirect, shift, and keep moving in the direction your heart is pulling toward.
And share it! It is so inspiring to discuss words with other people you care about. It gives you accountability. It allows you to give someone the gift of being vulnerable and open. And it can start some really great conversations.
I would love to hear your word/focus for the year in the comments! Do tell!
p.s. Still time to fill out the 2016 reader survey–help me give you more of what you want from Bright Light Forever!