With the start of a new year, it is a natural time for reflection, celebration, and forethought to the year ahead. Many of us will be thinking about New Year resolutions, which I’d prefer to reframe as intentions, but they too often get dismissed after a few days or if you’re lucky weeks. Yes, I believe in setting goals for the year, in six different areas of life (as described in The LifeTime Management Playbook™), and this selection of the powerful, Focus Word of the Year is in addition to that more detailed, recurring planning exercise. Stay with me – I promise it’s worth it. If you were to do one thing related to planning right now, this should be it.
Why choose a Focus Word?
When I first learned of the practice (from a source I can’t remember or would gladly credit), my goal was to choose one word to keep top of mind throughout the year as an overarching theme to serve as a powerful tool for focusing intention, guiding attention and ultimately shaping execution. It has had such a strong impact I now consider it a ritual for this time of year.
A word is sometimes about doing, but more often it’s about a way of doing or being. It has the ability to guide your thinking and ultimately your actions. It recurs in your mind to keep you attentive to that which you have decided warrants your energy and resources. It serves as a powerful reminder of how you want to show up.
It’s not a foolproof strategy, for sure, but if I slipped, just keeping the word in mind helped me check in to see how I had missed living my intentions, and prompted me to think about what I might do differently in a similar situation should it arise again. It can quickly centre you and bring you back to intention.
Consider choosing a word more of a foundation. To find your Powerful Focus Word, you will have to dig a little deeper. Your word only has to be meaningful to you and you can keep it completely to yourself if you wish. I did that for the first year.
Why just one?
I’ve seen the practice become more popular in the past year with some people choosing one word, and others three or more. Choosing one word is perhaps more difficult than choosing several words, but ultimately for me, has greater impact, and is simpler to apply. If you have more words, you will have to move between them and apply your resources to all. This is how we have to manage things to successfully integrate life, after all. For me, landing on one word has a simplicity and elegance which I crave, and the constraint forces deeper thinking and some tough choices.
That said, one word often has several partner words which go along with it. Find the cluster of related words which help give the depth of meaning you are looking for. This might make it easier to land on one. That word cluster ought to feel like a nourishing broth from which you’ll drink, daily.
As with most things, there is no one way. I invite you to explore the idea and find what works for you. Start with one and if it feels like that isn’t enough, keep going.
Does the word only last a year?
Thankfully, no. Powerful words linger. Even though I focused on one word per year, with each it was merely the beginning of a journey in relationship to that word. Learning and experimentation continue. I continue to aspire to the words I chose previously, though more subconsciously now. It feels as if I have absorbed them into my way of being. On my best days, anyway!
How to choose your word
Get ready for some extreme self-reflection and simmering. For the past month, I’ve been thinking about my Focus Word for the year. When I come up with something that seems like a fit, I let my mind dance with it, applying it to various situations and feel what it inspires. I tune into how my body reacts. Some words feel onerous and constrictive, whereas others feel motivating. Don’t be afraid to let go of a word and move on. Look for a word you’ll like to tango with this year. One which will lead you towards good things.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to generate your own Powerful Focus Word. To get to your word, you will want to combine careful thought and idea incubation. Let a few words come to you. Feel the word. You’ll know when you’ve hit the right one.
1. If you could skip ahead a year and reflect on 2019, what would you like to be proud of?
2. If you’ve set goals for the year, is there a word that could serve as a foundation to that success?
3. Are there moments from the past you wish you could have handled better? What word comes up to help support shifts in a positive direction?
4. Who inspires you? What word describes them?
1. How do you feel when you think of this word?
2. Does this word apply broadly to your life? The more areas for which it is useful, the more powerful the word.
3. Are you ready for this word? Is this the right year for it, or will it serve you better later?
Make the word part of your day
A word will only be useful to you if you hold it in your mind. Here are a few ideas for you:
1. Write the word in a prominent place – by your bed, bathroom mirror, in your daily planner, incorporate it into jewelry or a piece of art
2. Incorporate the word in a daily meditation
3. Journal with the word in mind. Set an intention every morning with respect to the word. Reflect each night on how you showed up. Celebrate the wins. Learn from the challenges.
4. Tell others about your word – incorporate it in regular meetings with your coach, good friends or therapist
For those who are curious, my Focus Words of the Year have been
2015 – Replenish (Cluster words: heal, rest, rejuvenate)
2016 – Transform (Cluster words: change, reinvent, progress)
2017 – Grace (Cluster words: calm, strength, serenity)
2018 – Cultivate (Cluster words: grow, nourish, feed)
2019 – Trust (Cluster words: believe, faith)
What word will you choose, and why? Love to hear in the comments below.
I speak and coach to inspire sustainable performance. Find out more at www.clarekumar.com