A common practice for bloggers and other lifelong learners is to pick one word to focus on as an intention for each new year. For some reason, the word “flexible” or flexibility popped into my mind within the first couple of days of 2018. Ever since then I’ve been playing with the idea. Like buying a new outfit, it’s important to see if your word fits you—to see if it has a hold of you. Now, with January quickly coming to an end, I decided it was time to reveal my word for 2018 to the world. Plus, I want to invite any of you who haven’t yet picked a word, to join me in allowing one word to mold your life in a more positive and SMART way for the remainder of the year.
That sounds easy, right? But what makes picking a word challenging is that by putting it out for all of you to see, and most especially my husband Thom, that means that it might be used against me. Before if I was impatient, controlling, over-planning or attached to something, I could just behave that way and carry on with my day. Now, with my word so obviously in contrast to my old habits, I must do my best to be more flexible, fluid and adaptable as I move ahead in this world. And by telling others, and most especially anyone close to us, we become even more accountable for our intentions.
How do you know if your word is the right word? I’m guessing that if your word doesn’t make you squirm a bit, or at least generate excitement, it might not be the right one. Picking a word is an enticement to reach for something we believe has value. But like so many things, it really depends on what is important to you in the coming year. Want to focus on “health?” That’s always good, but then know that the idea of your health will stay front and center in your mind all year and guide everything you do—even when you’d rather do (or eat?) something else. And yes, that can be intimidating.
What about a word like “letting-go?” Again, that excellent word is an invitation to let go in every situation where it can apply in your life. How about: Trust? Love? or Peace? I think a key is to see both a benefit to your life and a trait you want to master. Even a positive looking word like “happy” requires a deeper awareness of when we are experiencing it, and when we’re not. And like I said above, by sharing it with others we hold ourselves accountable.
Some people like to make their word relate to their goals or intentions in life. If you want to make your word more related to your work than your personal life, no problem. Again, the idea is to look inside yourself and attempt to discover something you would like to see more of in your life.
Why did I pick the word flexible? I believe it will benefit me to learn to be more flexible in how I relate to my writing, my life and my relationships. Flexibility implies resiliency and adaptability to me. Like a tree in the wind, I want to be able to face anything without it breaking me. But it really doesn’t matter if anyone else understands why I think it is important. What matters is that I believe it will help to make me a better me.
Many others seem to think that picking a character trait is a good way to go. That’s why you’ll often see words like transformation, creativity, passion, freedom, success, thrive or any one of hundreds that might catch your eye. Some people suggest that you make a list of several dozen words that sound good to you, and then gradually narrow it down to the one that stands out. Others recommend meditating and asking your inner guidance. Remember, this word is your word, so never let someone else pick it for you.
Then what? Do you best to keep that word in front of you every day. I journal every day and I write it in a sentence every morning to remind me. Another idea would be to have sticky notes all over your house. Maybe set the alarm on your phone, knowing every time it goes off you will be reminded of your word. But perhaps the most obvious way to remember that word is to catch ourselves as much as possible when we act contrary to the word, and then adjust.
For example, last night I learned that some of my coming vacation plans could be dramatically affected by weather. Now I realize that this is definitely a “high-class problem” in the big scheme of things, but I had spent a lot of time and effort lining up all sorts of reservations, including making deposits and other details. To learn that might all be wasted, and worse completely canceled, threw my mind in revolt. Did I remember right then that I want to be more flexible? No. But I did this morning. And that might be the power of having a word as a guide. Next time I hope to remember it more quickly—until it becomes second nature.
A huge benefit of picking the right word is how it can guide our decisions and actions in a variety of ways. When I picked the word flexible, I didn’t just mean on a mental and emotional level. I also want to increase the flexibility of my body. Thom and I have been taking yoga once a week for several years. Earlier this month, with “flexible” on my mind, I signed up to attend a second yoga class with a different teacher for the coming six weeks. Now with a heightened focus on becoming more flexible, I hope it will get easier with each passing day.
Like New Year’s resolutions and most goal setting, I think picking a word can seem like something we do to make ourselves do things we may (or may not) want to do. And, in so many ways, goals often appear as a path away from something. Instead, choosing a word you wish to embody, gives you the opportunity to move towards something positive. By the end of 2018, my intention is that when something unexpected happens I flow with the situation, rather than fight it. Also, I plan for my body to stay healthy and flexible for all my needs. By choosing to be more flexible, regardless of how it looks to anyone else, I believe it will enable me to live a more happy, peaceful and compassionate life. Will it require me to change? Yes. But in the end, I see it as a path to a better me—the me I want to be in the years ahead.
So, what do you say? Will you pick a word and join me in making it yours for 2018? Just be honest with yourself about whether you are only interested in the idea, or truly committed to giving it a try. As author Ken Blanchard says, “There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.” Remember, it is SMART to commit ourselves to things that matter. But don’t worry, if you don’t follow through I’d never hold it against you. Why? —because I’m flexible!
Okay your turn: Have you ever picked a word for the year before? Do you have a word for 2018? Please share any experience you’ve had with this practice in the comments below.