“Run a half marathon” was on top of my New Year’s resolutions list for probably four years before I decided that running is not the right activity for me. (I sprained my ankle trying to train and kept hurting myself!) I was so caught up in what I thought would make me feel like I accomplished something that my New Year’s resolutions turned into a lists of “show and tell” for social media — and didn’t represent the the impact I wanted to make or the way I wanted to feel and live. I was following the standard way of approaching resolutions — goals you can check off a list that will make you feel good.
It’s probably not news to you that New Year’s resolutions don’t work very well. We set big, lofty goals at the beginning of the year when we feel like we can take on anything. We see tons of “new year, new you” campaigns, ensuring that the things we have failed to accomplish in the past are now readily available to us. We think to ourselves, “This will be the year that I figure it all out.” News flash: we’re human. Things change. You may get a new job or move or lose a loved one or go through a breakup or the entire range of human emotions. Setting goals blindly at the beginning of the year merely to pat ourselves on the back at the end of the year just doesn’t work.
This year, I tried something new — I jumped on the “word of the year” train. No hard goals, no metrics, no sense of failure at the end of the year if I hadn’t accomplished a certain thing. Rather, I reflected on what I want to focus on for the year: how I want to grow, what difference I want to make. In the end, I chose a rather unconventional word: green. To me this meant four things: I wanted to eat more greens (focusing on eating more veggies and nourishing foods), surround myself with more greens (spending time in nature, bringing more plants into my home), live more green (embracing a low-waste lifestyle and teaching others), and make more green (focusing on financial abundance). It worked rather well, as I have incorporated all four of those areas much more deeply into my life, while recognizing I still have a lot further to go. It’s a process, not a destination.
I also made a list of goals at a retreat I ran last winter, right before the new year. I recently looked at that list and realized I accomplished many more of the “soft” goals (building a community of people who care about sustainable living, for example) than the very specific goals, where my priorities changed over the year (like going to yoga teacher training). Clearly setting “ways to live” works better for me.
Picking a word takes the pressure off the deadlines and allows you to evolve in the way that you are called to, instead of setting arbitrary goals that may no longer feel relevant as your year unfolds. Here are three things to consider when choosing your word for 2019.
Focus on how you want to feel
When setting out to choose a word, consider how you want your year to feel. Are you looking for more creativity or more grounding? Do you want to be more external-focused or internal-focused? This may also be heavily influenced by your past year — if it was a bit chaotic, you may seek simplicity. If you were bored and uninspired at work, you may crave more energy and stimuli. Consider whatever you’re attracted to — taking time to travel, simplifying, connecting to your friends or significant other more — as a way to guide you.
Look for signs
I am not going to go full-out woo woo here, but sometimes there are signs pointing you to where you need to go. This may be a sign in your physical body (a health concern, for example, that forces you to slow down), a concept or idea that you keep seeing pop up around you or recommended to you, or just a gut feeling about something you want to explore. When I was deciding what my word of the year would be for 2018, I kept thinking of the word green, but it felt a little funny. I accepted the word as “the one” when I found myself a few weeks into the year sitting in a cafe in Bali, surrounded by the most lush greenery I have ever seen, drinking a green smoothie. It was like the universe screaming at me!
Allow yourself space to evolve
When you come up with ideas for words, take a look at them and see if they feel expansive or restrictive. Does this word make you hyper focused on one specific goal that may or may not come to fruition? Or does it allow you an opportunity to explore, learn, and evolve within the word? This process is supposed to help open opportunities for the year while being a guide — not create stress or tension. You may have multiple words, or you may pick one word that ends up changing! Whatever it is, your word should be something that excites you and provides you with multiple pathways for success and growth.
Need some added guidance finding your word? Susannah Conway’s find your word guide may provide some helpful prompts to get you on your way. And once you decide, please do let me know what you word is — I would love to hear and be inspired by you!