I enjoyed hearing from some of you regarding your insights and lessons from 2017. It’s definitely not necessary to answer a lot of questions in order to come to these understandings, but I wanted to provide resources for those who feel they benefit from structured introspection. I find that it often helps me to have questions to ponder, although I agree that taking on the task of answering fifty questions can be overwhelming!
Today’s post is all about yearly themes, having a word or phrase that directs our focus and our growth for a given year. I highlight a few resources to help you select your word, if you have not yet done so but would like to. I also debrief how I fared with my 2017 theme, “peace,” and share the word I have chosen for 2018 and why.
Why Select a Word/Theme for the Year?
I started selecting yearly themes back in 2014 during the second year of “Recovering Shopaholic.” Prior to that, I always wrote a long “laundry list” of goals I wanted to accomplish over the course of the year, many of which remained undone by the time December rolled around. While I still believe that goals can be powerful and effective, I no longer write a lengthy list of them each January. Instead, I select a word (well, I actually chose two words the first year, which I don’t recommend…) that encapsulates either the key aspect of my life I want to work on that year or the primary feeling I want to create in my emotional experience.
Although you can certainly choose your word without any guidance, here are a few articles – and one free five-day e-course – that walk you through the process step by step:
- “My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word” (Oneword.org)
- “Tips for Choosing Your Word of the Year” (Mountain Modern Life)
- “Choosing a Word to Define & Guide Your Year – 2018 Edition” (A Pair & a Spare)
- “Find Your Word for 2018: 5-Day Course” (Susannah Conway)
I did follow such processes in previous years, but this year I kept it simple. I jotted down potential words as they came to mind and then sat with them for a few days. Then, as I listened to a podcast in which a synonym for one of these words was mentioned, I instantly knew the right word for me. More on that below… but first I want to debrief how things went with my 2017 word.
Striving for Peace in 2017
I didn’t have to give my 2017 word much consideration at all. After focusing on balance during 2016 and feeling a lot of overwhelm over the course of the year, all I really wanted last year was some peace, so “peace” became my 2017 touchstone. As I wrote about in this post (originally published on “Recovering Shopaholic”), I had grown weary of being a relentless taskmaster toward myself, always trying to please others, and constantly worrying about keeping up. I wanted to get more in touch with my feelings, desires, and limitations, and start honoring them more.
I took a lot of steps back last year. I stopped blogging for the bulk of the year, I turned the Facebook group I created over to new leadership, and I discontinued the contract writing work I had been doing for a local marketing firm. I focused increasingly less on achievement and the million and one things I needed and wanted to do. In all honesty, I did much less last year than I did in previous years. While it would be nice to be all Zen about my reasons for doing so and say that it was all in service of my “peace” goal, that really wasn’t the case. In truth, I was broken in body, mind, and spirit. My health had considerably declined in recent years and that was compounded by going through menopause. I had also majorly depleted myself by putting other people first and doing things I thought I should do rather than what was best for me.
I didn’t get a whole lot accomplished during 2017, but I did regain some of my energy, brain power, and creativity. Although I’m still struggling with the same array of health challenges that have plagued me for years, I started to prioritize my wellness over other things and I continue to do so. I can only hope that this will eventually be a game-changer in terms of my health. Because I have backed off on some of the activities and people that didn’t serve me, I now feel that I have a lot more to give and that there is more space for new relationships and opportunities to come into my life. I was inspired to start this blog and do it in a way that resonates with who I am and my individual strengths and limitations. I enjoy expressing myself in writing, exploring themes that matter to me, and connecting with like-minded individuals, and I feel this will be a good venue for me to do all of these things.
Peace Will Remain at the Forefront
Do I feel as peaceful as I’d hoped I would feel at the close of 2017? In truth, the answer is no. I still have a lot of internal demons that impinge upon my serenity. I still feel the inner push to do more and more and tick off a multitude of items on a never-ending to-do list. However, what I feel I’ve created by putting peace at the forefront last year is a “clearing” of sorts. I began to honor myself more and push back on the expectations that others – and myself – had towards me. I chose to spend time with my husband more often and be on my computer less. I broke my smartphone addiction and loosened the grip that social media used to have on me. I spend less time engaged with people who aren’t a positive influence on me, both in person and online. Sometimes I miss some of the frequent online interactions I used to have, but I have gotten in touch with my limitations and am doing better at honoring them. I’m trying my best not to compare myself to others who seem not to struggle with overwhelm as much as I do, as I know that we all have different constitutions, thresholds, and needs for downtime.
Although I have elected to choose a new word for 2018, “peace” will remain a desired feeling state for me this year and always. Each time I recognize the inner nudge that something isn’t right and decide to change gears to a path of more internal congruence, I gain a bit more peace. Each time I honor my body’s need for rest and quiet and my spirit’s need to unplug from the world and commune with nature, still more peace comes my way. Bit by bit, peace will become more of a constant in my life, as it can for all of us. It will never be an uninterrupted state, but it can be a guiding force rather than an elusive target, as it was for me for many years.
This Year’s Word, “Essential”
As I mentioned above, when I was coming around to selecting my word for 2018, I made note of several possibilities. One of these was “priorities,” as I had become increasingly aware of my inability to do as much as I was continually pushing myself to do. I wanted to set better priorities in all of the key areas of my life, including health, relationships, projects, and finances. However, that word just didn’t feel quite right to me, so I held off on choosing it as my guide for the year. Not long afterwards, as I was listening to an episode of “The Minimalists” podcast (a favorite of mine) that included a discussion of what’s essential and what’s non-essential, I had a “lightbulb moment” and knew that “essential” would be my word for 2018.
In order to live a more happy, peaceful, and fulfilling life (the tagline for this blog), it’s necessary to make choices. I realize that I can’t do it all and that trying to do so only leads to my feeling frustrated and unsuccessful. When I start my day or week with a to-do list a mile long, I’m setting myself up for failure. When I try to be all things to all people, I can’t win and end up feeling like I have let others down. When I burn the candle at both ends, I feel worse and I burn out. We all do, although some can keep going and do a lot more than I can. I’m tired of beating myself up for who I am and for the fact that I can’t do as much as other people can. I need to face the truth of my limitations and make the most of what I can do. I need to focus on the positive and look at what I actually can and do accomplish rather than the ways in which I am lacking.
Asking the Hard Questions
In choosing “essential” as my word for 2018, I’m going to ask some hard questions. I’m going to prioritize quality over quantity in all areas of my life. I’m going to pare back to that which truly matters and let go of anything that doesn’t add value to my life. Last fall, my husband and I did a full “KonMari” of our entire home and we let go of many, many possessions that were no longer bringing us joy. I felt a tremendous release as we unburdened ourselves from layers of “stuff,” but the stuff is only one part of the equation. Most of us are additionally weighed down by a lot of mental and emotional “clutter” that also needs to be cleared out of the way.
This year, I will write about the different types of clutter we may all be wrestling with and how to both discern what’s essential and peel away the excess in order to get there. Although I’m not entirely sure of all of the areas I will address, I know I will touch upon time management, relationships, digital clutter, and emotional baggage. And yes, I will continue to write about wardrobe issues from time to time, as I certainly don’t have it all figured out in that department, either. My closet is still fuller than I would ultimately like it to be and I’ve realized that having too much variety often brings more stress than joy.
I feel very positive about my choice of “essential” as my theme for this year. In order to keep it top of mind, I have affixed labels with “Essential?” on my computer, tablet, phone, and credit card, as shown below:
This will hopefully push me to ask myself if what I’m about to do or buy is truly necessary. These reminders have already stopped me from making superfluous purchases and from spending excessive time mindlessly surfing the internet. Of course, I haven’t been perfect in these regards, nor do I expect myself to me. However, my hope is that as time goes by and I keep asking myself whether or not something is essential, I will choose more wisely and pare down the excess more and more.
I will be writing more about “essential” as the year progresses, but now I’d like to hear from you. Here are a few questions to spark your thoughts, but feel free to chime in with whatever you’d like to say regarding the topics of this post.
- If you selected a word for 2017, how did it impact your life? What changes did you make as a result of that theme?
- What is your word for 2018 and why did you select it?
- What do you see as the advantages of selecting a word for the year over making a list of goals?
- What changes do you want to make in your life this year and why?
I look forward to reading what you have to say on these topics and more! I have lots of ideas for future posts and although I’m not sure what I will write about next and what exactly I want this blog to be, I’m glad to be back to blogging. If you have ideas for topics you’d like me to write about, please let me know. I can’t guarantee that I will take all of your suggestions on, but I will definitely consider them. Thank you for reading and I appreciate your support.