Faithful readers of this space may remember that in 2017 I wrote about author Debbie Macomber’s decades-long habit of choosing one perfect word to focus on for a year. She chose words like wisdom, prayer, surrender, hope, purpose. My own experiment with the word ‘kindness’ was not a total failure. I didn’t do all the interactive things Macomber did to intensify her contemplation, but I did find myself being more mindful about how I talked to myself.
And while I haven’t (yet) chosen a word for 2018, I did hear a new spin while watching a recent episode of Marilyn. Her guest was family therapist, Joe Rich who seems to have a quirky balance of empathy, humour, self-deprecation, and a keen understanding of how people really are. He was there to discuss How to Conquer Your Goals.
We all know that making resolutions is usually a recipe for failure. According to Rich, eighty percent will be a distant memory in a matter of weeks. He describes resolutions as black and white, hardwired, and offering no flexibility because of the strict focus on outcome. Either you quit smoking or you didn’t. Either you lost forty pounds or you didn’t. Either you went to the gym five days a week or you didn’t. Insert your own vice here.
Better, according to Rich, is setting goals because they are more process focused. To increase the chances for success they need to be simple, measurable, and realistic. I will save $500 in six months. I will use my debit card only three times a day. If you can understand why the goal is important to you, you’ll have a better chance of sticking with it when the initial enthusiasm and focus wanes. Writing it down also helps reinforce it. The best approach is believing the addictions self-help mantra of one day at a time because that is all we have, today. If we fall short today, we have a fresh new chance to succeed tomorrow. Even with two steps forward and one step back, we’re still making progress. Rich also urges us to remember past goals we’ve achieved and replicate the conditions of that success.
But, apparently the latest, greatest approach is to ‘find your word.’ To sit down and figure out what we want with our head and heart, how we want to feel in 2018. He used the example of a parent wanting to use technology less. Digging deeper shows the intention, which is to be present with your children. Choosing the word ‘present’ is insightful and will affect behaviour and ultimately be more effective than saying I won’t use my cell phone.
I see those head, heart, feelings questions as a simple tool to choosing that one perfect word. It seems quicker, easier, more definitive than the process Macomber uses. I love being able to cherry pick the best of all strategies and collective wisdom for my own use. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some navel gazing to do, from where I sit.