I sat at the kitchen table reviewing my goal list for the previous month. A dozen or more boxes stared back at me like broken promises and unfulfilled expectations. Oh yeah, I was going to read at night. I did say I wanted to run more. Finishing that story – nope. Not spending so frivolously – ha! Following up with friends – not even one.
On and on and on the list went. Promises and ideas that felt so good and real just four weeks earlier now left me feeling like a failure. I have the time and desire to do these things, but I keep giving my time and energy to things that don’t really matter.
Goals are good. We need them. We need to take time and realistically identify where we want to go and what we want to give our time to. But no amount of fancy lists, planners or dry erase schedules are going to help us if we don’t have a focus that drives us. And that focus can be as simple as one word.
At the start of every year I like to choose one word for the year. It can be any word, but it has to have meaning. It has to be a word I can say to myself when I just want to watch TV that gets me to put down the remote and do what I really want to. It has to be a word with value. One that reminds me of what I really want to accomplish in this life.
Consider the word like a road map. If you don’t know where you are going, you will drive around aimlessly for hours. It’s like going to Target without a shopping list. You walk out with a dozen things you didn’t need and that only get shoved into closets and desk drawers when you get home.
But how do you choose your word? Lara Casey has a helpful blog series on goals and choosing a word. For me, I usually find mine while I am working on my yearly goals. It keeps coming up in journal entries, in conversation with friends around what I want to do for the year, in the lists I make as I get to my goals. My word kind of floats around like a feather until I pluck it out of the air.
I came face to face with my word during church. My pastor was doing a series on how the small things add up to something big (more on that later) and kept coming back to the idea of choice. Our choices ultimately define our habits, which define our life and where we go.
CHOOSE. It came out of the sermon and lingered on my ears.
Every day we have a dozen moments to choose what is easy and takes no effort, or what moves us closer to what matters. I can zone out after work and watch TV, or I can choose to sit down and write. I get takeout, or I can choose to make something healthier at home.
I choose how I respond.
I choose what I get riled up about.
I choose who/what gets my time and attention.
I choose my attitude, thereby choosing what kind of day I am going to have.
One of the biggest things I learned in 2017 is that my emotions do not define me.
I can choose to let a bad mood ruin my day or I can shift my attitude, seek the good and be kind. It really is that easy. It’s amazing how much power we take back when we realize life is a choice.
Am I going to respond with anger or compassion?
Am I going to do what is easy or what is better?
Am I going to pursue what is holy or take in what feels good?
If you don’t like how your life is going you can choose to make small changes to get where you want to be.
Here are some practical questions to ponder:
- Where do I want to be when I’m 30? 40? 80?
- Is my life currently on a trajectory to get there?
- What isn’t in alignment with how I want my life to be?
- Where do I struggle with time, energy and money?
- What am I currently not able to do that I would really love to fit into my schedule?
- What is one small thing I can take off my plate that would make room for what I really love to do?
Does that mean it’s going to happen overnight? Nope. Nothing worth doing comes easily. There will be peaks and valleys – but with one word before you – stick it on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, your home office computer, put it in your car – you will be able to weight more carefully if what you are doing is easy or if it matters.
This month the list of unchecked boxes was smaller. I took the time to really focus in on what matters and then I made the effort to choose what was better. For me, the word helps me focus on what I truly want and ensures my decisions are in-line with those priorities.
What is your word for 2018? What process did you take to find it?