A Word of Inspiration

January is a time of new beginnings?and also the ubiquitous resolutions. These plans and goals are all made with a lot of optimism and the best of intentions, but they always seem to fall away by February. Breaking New Year’s resolutions seems to be as much a part of making them! Psychologists say that January resolutions fail more often than they are kept because people make them with no clear and detailed plan on how to put them into action, or else people procrastinate on getting started which then leads to a “why bother starting at all” air of resignation. Another cause of failed resolutions is that people make wildly optimistic goals that are too big to achieve, especially in a short time. Instead of feeling empowered, many people just end up discouraged.

But there is an alternative that is gaining momentum across the globe. Instead of seeing resolutions themselves as the problem, or that a failure to follow through is a personal weakness, there is a shift in mindset that is positive, empowering, and may end up giving the whole concept of new year’s resolutions a makeover.

This resolution revolution begins with just a single word. It is a deceptively simple but powerful tool. The “one word” concept involves choosing a personal theme word to guide goals and decisions for the year instead of creating a huge list of items to achieve. The concept shifts the rigidity of New Year’s resolution to something that is more gentle, flexible and personal. It is a means for growth without all the pressure. It sets intention and invites change, but does so with a blank canvas of possibilities rather than a defined set of perimeters. The great thing is that It can be started at any time of the year and incorporated however you choose.

If you are intrigued about this idea and want to try it, here are some guidelines for choosing your word and how it can be meaningful for you.

The first step is to take some time for quiet self-reflection. Let your mind dwell on any patterns you noticed emerged over the past year. Think about the areas in your life that speak to you as needing attention. Consider what kind of person you want to become and how can you strive toward that goal. What could you have done better in the past that you now want to change? You can focus on areas of health and wealth, but your word can also encompass areas that you don’t often think about, such as spirituality or inner well-being. What is most important to remember is that the idea is not to force yourself to choose a word. Let your subconscious dwell on it, maybe for a day, a week, or even longer. Many people say that it is easier than one might think to settle on the right word; that more often than not, the right word ends up jumping out when they allow their intuition to guide them. In effect, the right word chooses you. That perfect word might be “courage”, “abundance”, “forgiveness”, “possibilities”, “joy”, “thrive”, or perhaps something else, but there is no right or wrong word. If it has personal significance for you, then it is the word that fits. It doesn’t even have to make sense to others, as long as it has significance for you. And others may choose the same word, but that doesn’t mean they will interpret that word in the same way as you. It is helpful to write down the reasons you’ve chosen your word and keep the piece of paper close by so you can refer to it when you need to.

What happens after you choose your word? There are no rules about what to do with it. Many people keep their word very personal and known only to themselves. Other people use their word as a theme in blog or social media posts or explore what the word means through visual art, photography, or personal journal entries. You can meditate on it or find quotations or song lyrics that contain the word as a basis to ponder its meaning. What ultimately matters is that your word becomes a backdrop and a filter through how you see aspects of your life. For example, if you have the goal to achieve greater fitness this year, rather than say “I want to join a gym, and lose a lot of weight” in the way that a traditional resolution does, you might choose “self-care” as your word. You might then put that word into practice by first asking yourself what little steps you need to take to create some self-care in your life and then make some effort to reach that goal. This may include increasing your physical activity, but it might also include learning how to meditate or setting some healthy boundaries with others. Rather than having weight-loss as the end goal, your theme word creates a holistic approach.

There are those who are skeptical about how and why this practice is effective. The perception is that it is an airy-fairy technique compared to traditional methods of goal-setting. But the one word concept is picking up momentum and becoming mainstream, even to the point where business coaches urge their clients to pick a word that will help them think about and focus on the next level of their careers. If you need more convincing, people who have chosen words for several years remark how their word manifests in their life in uncanny ways. They say that it is far more enlightening to learn about themselves through their word than a traditional resolution, which is all about being results-oriented. Members of the “One Word 365 Community” group on Facebook recently discussed the results they’ve noticed each time they have chosen a word of the year. They said that no matter what their word choice is, it becomes a focal point for them and they notice that “their word” unfolds in all kinds of ways as the year progresses. Often they put their word to the back of their mind for a while and don’t consciously dwell on it, but it pops up again when they least expect it, such as seeing it on a billboard or mentioned in a television program. Their words of the year may help them process a life event or in making a difficult choice or decision when a path seems unclear. They also say it is a way to seek out clarity in the present as well as guide the future. It also provides a way to move on from the past because the words tend to be positive in nature and invite positive action. They also say that a single word is so powerful that it can define and narrate your life story, and ultimately, your self.

So instead of making yet another resolution that might fail, maybe it’s time to resolve not to make them and to find your theme word of the year instead.

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Carla is a Calgary writer and AU student who loves all things “wordy.” She has chosen “bloom” for her theme word of the year and is interested in finding out what that means for her in 2017.