Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Word of the Year

(Hey, look what I found in my drafts folder! Too late for a resolutions post?)

A word of the year works for me.

Rather than a list of resolutions that are more wishes than determination to better myself, I choose one word every January to guide my life for the year, to send me off in one direction.

It's not an original idea.

I trace it back to a post on the Happiness Project blog a few years ago about setting the tone for the year, and this one with a video about choosing a one-word theme, and this recent one that I just discovered, one-word theme.

Then there's this author who believes you can change your life with just a word. (Haven't read it, so I can't recommend it, but it seems like a popular idea.)

My daughter told me she was doing it as a way to simplify and still move forward, and, of course, remove the guilt when resolve usually fails.

Who needs one more thing to fail at, feel bad about, or stress over? Not I.

How I choose

Every year I ponder on something that I think will benefit me personally and possibly others. I try to keep it broad, but not nebulous; focused and measurable, but not restrictive and too defined. I ask others, but not to copy, just to be inspired. I make lists, look at a thesaurus and dictionary sometimes, but essentially it just comes to me at a random moment.

The implications

I like this one-word approach because I already put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed and improve, and I don't need the extra pressure of a long to-do list. Besides, at this point in life I've exhausted the long lists (either as impossible, fruitless, or trivial).

So here's why I choose just one word:

  • It's easy to hold in my mind.
  • It can apply in so many ways. 
  • Anticipating how it will manifest is half the fun.
  • Every year can be a success.
  • The outcome usually surprises me.

A few examples

One year I chose Color. I felt life was a bit drab, a bit boring, a bit colorless.

So I focused on buying fewer gray or neutral pieces of clothing and more items with color. I didn't realize that I was always pulling beige-colored or gray pants off the rack to try on.

I live in a house with beige carpets and off-white walls. So I took a risk and bought richer curtains, rugs and towels, and a red chair!

More colorful food is better for you, richer in vitamins and variety, better for digestion and cancer-fighting goodness, instead of the processed, soft, white, starchy diets many of us have. I choose colorful food.

That word color continued with me through the years since that first one. I think about color more and not just in clothing, food and home decor. Color lifts my spirits. I look for that really blue sky in October and really green grass in May (and the azaleas!)1 and all the shades and seasons in between. I notice the "pops" of color that make life good and interesting.

The point was to get out of my comfort zone, or climb out of a rut or two, and get some variety and zest into life.

The year I chose Authenticity, I strove to bring my home self, my work self, my church self, my family self and my inner self more into alignment.

I stopped myself from pretending when I didn't really feel it, and smiling when I didn't want to (or when someone told me to!). I started keeping quiet when my opinion wasn't really needed, and speaking up when it was important.

I cherished real life moments (good and bad) rather than rushing to the next thing or wishing away a situation. A lot of healthy goodness came from that year.

For example, it was a relief and a revelation when I finally said to self and family I hate to cook. In our culture it's just assumed that women like to cook and nothing pleases them more than feeding their families. And for some that is true. I gave up trying to fit a mold when it comes to cooking. I now put together nice, simple, balanced meals to nourish us, but I'm equally fine with picking up prepared meals on the way home from work, eating leftovers, or warming something from a can. It's all good and doesn't reflect on me personally, or as a wife and mother.

The point of Authenticity is that my thoughts and opinions are a valid as any other, how I express myself in word and dress and action is unique. My preferences are mine, and I value those ideas.

Last year I chose Truth. As the year unfolded I did a lot of pondering and listening to my heart and soul for answers. I ended up writing in a journal a lot more than I have in years. It was so good to take the time I needed to just think about what's important in life and to me. I knew I had a whole year to figure a few things out and I wandered (and wondered) down many avenues of thought, sometimes aimlessly and sometimes with dogged determination.

What felt serious and heavy at one point gradually flattened out, thinned, and dissolved away. I equate the feeling to a Bible scripture, John 8:32, "and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

The point is that some things can't be forced, but need time to mature or resolve. A year to focus on one word provides that for me.

If resolutions don't work for you or you just don't want another thing to do, give a Word of the Year a try, instead.

Share with me and I'll give you a thumbs up and whatever cheering and validation you need.

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