The start of a new year brings promise, hope, intention and resolve. Even in the dead of winter, the light is returning in the northern hemisphere, and the days begin to shorten in the global south. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions of some sort, even if we don’t say them out loud or write them down. After we have reflected on the past year, we use this time to think about what we want to let go of and what we want to carry forward into the coming year.
When I was younger, I made lists of things like eating less or exercising more, or both. I vowed to procrastinate less, be more organized, and make steady progress toward my career and personal goals. As I got a little older, I realized I needed to be concrete and specific if I wanted to be able to accomplish those goals. So my resolutions became to join a gym and work out three times a week, set intermediate deadlines and stick to them, chart goals on a monthly basis, etc. At some point, I realized that setting these kinds of goals didn’t really work for me. Unlike concrete, measurable goals and benchmarks that organizations must outline and meet, my personal life worked better on a non-linear basis.
For the past few years, I have chosen a theme for the year, a quality, habit or attitude I want to adopt or foster. I have focused on that particular word or phrase in both my personal and professional life. The theme helps me stay on track, and when I look back at the end of the year, I can see all the ways I have grown in relation to this particular concept. At the beginning of 2015, I shared my theme with a friend, and we decided to help each other stay committed through daily text messages about how our themes showed up. Each text sat without comment from the receiver; if we wanted to discuss one in more detail, we sent an email or made a phone call. It turned out to be a wonderful practice for both of us, and we are going to do it again.
I invite you to set some intentions for this upcoming “Sweet Sixteen” year. If it sounds intriguing to you, feel free to try this “Word of the Year” method. If not, maybe you will make a general list, or a specific list, or find some other way to honor your aspirations for the year and pay attention to them as the months unfold. I welcome your comments: How will you outline your hopes and dreams for 2016?