We are a month into 2017. Did you make resolutions? I did not, but I did choose a word of the year. In case you’ve never come across that notion, the idea is that you choose a single word that will guide you through the year instead of specific resolutions. Life moves so fast, and things change, and I really liked thinking about an overall theme instead of a fixed target. I tend to put my head down and focus on micro targets, to the exclusion of the big picture. That helps sometimes (when I’m on a book deadline, or when I’m training for a race) but as an overall life plan it’s not too healthy.
In 2016, I chose the word BUILD. Not surprisingly, it came to me at the gym toward the end of 2015. I had just embarked on a new weight lifting regime and had a different mind set towards my health than I ever had in the past. Instead of working out to fit into smaller jeans, I was working out with an eye to my middle aged and eventually senior years. I’m watching people not too much older than me who are already suffering some age-related problems, and it motivated to build muscle and strengthen my bones.
BUILD made sense in my professional life, too. I had just published my first book and wanted to build a good strong base that would grow over the next few years. I knew had a lot of beginner work to do on my new business, and I wanted to work hard setting up a proper foundation that could support future growth.
I made some new friends that I sensed would become very important in my life, and I wanted to BUILD up those relationships. My oldest son started college last year, and so that relationship changed a lot. 2016 was our chance to build a new relationship as a mother and young adult.
How did it look in my day to day life? It just came down to examining my activities, and asking myself constantly: how is this activity going to BUILD my life? If it was easy to answer (it will expose me to new readers, it will teach me how to use a new software that is critical to publishing, it will build a positive new relationship) than doing the activity was usually a no-brainer. But obviously there were days where building one thing would tear down something else. A great writing conference across the country would build my career, but it would happen at the expense of my marriage and family, so I have to say no. Sometimes, I’m OK with the trade off. Having coffee and a long chat with Tara won’t build my writing career, but it will build my mental well being and an important relationship. Eating ice cream straight from the carton while binge watching Friends might feel like it is building my mental well being, but it will damage my sleep and my health goals. Not a good trade off (which is not to say I never did it.)
There were setbacks in each area. In early spring I fell while ice skating and got a concussion. That set my fitness goals back significantly, and recovery took a lot longer than I expected. Since I hadn’t set a specific fitness goal (bench press XX pounds by XX date) I just kept my eye on the word BUILD, and started building up my strength again as soon as my body could handle it. I made a lot of mistakes in my new author business and I had to correct them. I didn’t nurture some of the relationships I meant to.
Overall, I liked having a word in 2016, though in retrospect I think “Foundation” would have been more accurate. Everything I did last year felt new, and my eye was always on building a strong base, so that all of the good and positive things in my life could continue to grow on that.
The word I’ve chosen for 2017 is STRENGTHEN, and so far I’m really liking it as a guiding principle. I’ve noticed that it keeps me from jumping in to anything new, which is a big hazard for me. I have way too much on my plate already. So I need to choose activities that will strengthen what I have, instead of trying to create something brand new. I have to continually ask myself: is this activity strengthening something in my life? Or is it just creating more busy work? If the latter, is it worth it to take my energy away from strengthening what I already have?
It’s a balancing act, and I certainly don’t always get it right. I spent most of last weekend watching reruns of Parks and Recreation with my daughter, and that didn’t strengthen anything except my witty comebacks. Let’s just say I strengthened my relationship with my daughter, and call it a win.
What do you think of having a word for the year? What is yours?