While the eternal debate rages over the usefulness of New Year’s resolutions, I have paid them no attention for nearly two decades. Instead, I choose a single word at the end of each year to define the coming year. I find this a very powerful tool that has helped me move through times of transformation, shifted my mindset, and grown my business.
All that from just a single word?
In a word: absolutely!
How It Works
In our formative years we all have universal developmental processes we must go through. Research has shown that although this process slows down in adulthood, it never stops. (If you are interested to read about this, check out the landmark book by Gail Sheehey, Passages.)
Choosing a word for each year helps join us synergistically with our natural growth process. We are co-creating who we become next. For myself, I’m not trying to control how my year unfolds. Quite the opposite. I am embracing where I am, and leaning into where I am headed. It isn’t a course correction. It is an acknowledgement what ought to come next. When I choose well, I put all my focus on the necessary work, and accelerate my mastery of each year’s level in the game of life.
My Word for 2023
My word choices have a dynamic and flexible quality to them. The first time I chose a word for the year was in 2007. I was in the middle of a stressful divorce from my then business partner. My world had been turned upside down, but I knew I couldn’t continue like things were. My word that year was really a phrase: Letting go. And I did let go. I let go of trying to fix everything and everyone around me. I let go of the dream of that marriage. I let go of believing my work was the source of my security. I let go of about two tons of fear and self-doubt. I let go of being so deadly serious. I laughed and danced and learned who I was without someone else in the room.
During Covid I kept the same word, which I had never done before: Prosperity. That word isn’t just about finances and material wealth, although I did flourish in those areas. For me it was about the ability to thrive, derive great joy and gratitude right where I am, and to let myself follow my bliss. I kept that word for three years—not because it wasn’t “paying off”, because it was—because I could tell there was more to do. I simply knew I wasn’t done with that growth phase, which also is some very old, deep work for me.
This year it is time. My word for 2023 is adventure. Again, this year’s word chose me, and for the first time since 2007 I resisted. Adventure is one of my core value words. And it also contains an inherent level of risk. A little voice (fearful and timid, so not my intuition) said, “Uh-oh. Be careful what you ask for!”
Those who know me know that I love travel, trying new things, taking a risk, and shaking things up. I’ve walked on fire, jumped from a plane, explored Manchu Picchu, and am planning to walk the Camino de Santiago. Sure, there are others who are far more adventurous than I am, but it takes an adventurous spirit to be an entrepreneur, and I am definitely that. So, why the anxiety, Stace? I will let you know on the other side of 2023, but I am fairly certain it is because authenticity and vulnerability go hand-in-hand. Vulnerability can feel scary at times. Just like walking on fire. But millions of people do it, and in truth, you have to try really hard to get burned.
How Do You Pick Your Word?
There is no science behind picking your word for the year. Unfortunately, lots of folks I know just “pick it, and forget it.” If that has been you, I suspect you tried too hard to pick the “right word.” You tried to control what the word would be, and wound up going for what sounded good. But it wasn’t really the word for where you were or where you were headed.
Lots of people have different approaches to picking their word. I strongly encourage you to lean into your intuition on this front. Ask yourself during your reflection time, meditation, journaling, or other self-awareness exercises, “What is my word?” (Wait, what? You don’t have a daily reflection and self-awareness time?? Well, now might be an excellent time to start.)
Either way, here are some questions I have heard others use to narrow their field of word options:
What do I want to create more of?
What do I want to have less of?
Are there patterns in my life that might currently define my focus (e.g.: creativity, love, support, learning, health)?
Is there something I am trying to master?
Who am I ready to become?
How do I want to feel?
Am I repeatedly seeing a word that resonates with me right now?
FYI: You get a bonus point if your word addresses more than one of the prompting questions above.
How To Get The Most Out of Your 2023 Word
All this meditation and self-reflection might seem a bit soft or nebulous to a business owner who is anxious to grow sales in the next 60-90 days, or sell their business for a tidy sum. After all, where are the tangible tactics, the sales funnels, the strategy and plan? Don’t worry, my practical entrepreneurial friends. You can have you word, and your sales funnel too!
Much like a business’ core values words, our word works best for us when we use it as a measuring stick for our decisions throughout the year. It doesn’t replace the cash flow forecast. It becomes a lens we see the forecast through. For example: my word adventure is about trying new things, learning, adapting and expanding what’s possible for me. So creating a series of classes for leaders on the topics we want most to master, such as time management, overcoming overwhelm, creativity and innovation, motivating ourselves and inspiring others, as well as personal branding, goals-setting, and handling difficult conversations, is a wonderful channel of adventure in my business I am leaning into. It also becomes an evergreen revenue stream, so I can have loads of travel adventure and maintain my cash flow in the same moment.
So, I recommend you write your word down and keep someplace you will see it every day, and ideally many times throughout the day. Then in the morning set 3-5 intentions of how you will embody that word throughout the day. I might strike up a conversation with a stranger, take a class, learn something new as I am developing my classes, or try a new restaurant.
It doesn’t need to be solely about your work. Your word is about your life, and your work happens to be a part of that. If you would like to brainstorm your word for 2023, reach out to me to schedule a no-cost personal discovery call.