In A Word


Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me. – Carol Burnett

New Years. I always think of it as a restart or do-over. A chance to start fresh with a clean slate. Out with old and in with the new! The only thing is, I don’t do resolutions. I dislike them. For me, they are self-defeating, unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, wishful-thinking expectations that only end in disappointment and frustration. Who needs all that noise? Certainly not moi.

Let’s face it, we’ve all made resolutions with the start of a new year, but when that year comes to an end, we look back to see what we could have done or should have done differently. We usually beat ourselves up for all of the could’ves and should’ves that we failed to do. But then as we face the dawn of a new year, hope begins to rise. We have another chance; another shot at whatever we took a shot at last year and missed! So we gird our loins; strap on our most self-determined armor; take aim at our bad-habit nemesis while professing our recycled resolution to the world with renewed confidence, vim and vigor! Woohoo!

By the second or third month in, we’re done. Defeated! Vanquished! Our confidence quelled. Our vim and vigor stymied. Our bad-habit nemesis, once again, gaining the upper hand and beating us without breaking a sweat. And when asked what’s become of our new year’s resolution, we mumble some excuse about bad timing or the need to focus on more “serious” matters. We come away all the more disappointed and frustrated in ourselves than before. We may even begin to question our resolve or ability to achieve anything worthwhile. Which, now you see, is why I avoid resolutions like the plague.

Nope, no thank you. Life has enough pitfalls, sideways detours and one-eighties of its own that I don’t feel the need to add more with silly resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, though; resolutions are usually made with good intentions. Certainly improving one’s self is important. We should always strive to better ourselves, promote our well being, and take care of our mind, body and soul. There just has to be another way that works with a greater chance of success. With resolutions, I think we underestimate our own preparedness, or the determination of our bad-habit nemesis to stick around. It just all becomes an exhaustively uphill battle.

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And then a few year ago, someone presented the idea of focusing on one word for an entire year rather than a resolution. I hadn’t heard of this before but I immediately liked it! I could do this! Psf, one word… No problemo! I could come up with one word and ditch the resolution nonsense without a second thought. Easy-peasy! It could be any word, too, but it needed to inspire some sort of personal growth, and then at the end of the year, reflect on how that one word was applied.

I soon realized that the idea of one word was not exactly one-sided or limited. Actually the application of that one word had the potential to permeate every corner, every aspect of my life if I so choose. What started out as a seemingly simple exercise could conceivably turn into a personal sojourn of ameliorations.

So what was the catch? What was the fine print to this one-word “resolution”? Well for starters, recognizing that it was not a resolution. It was not about swearing off some bad habit per se but instead determining what I wanted for myself and attaining it in a positive, non self-deprecating way. Huh, well there was a game changer. Doing something for myself that was uplifting, positive and attainable without having don yoga pants or workout tights and then kill myself by doing some twisty, bendy, over-under-around-and-through contortion pose while huffing and puffing like a chimney? Glorious. I was in!

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Like I said, resolutions are just pitfalls waiting to happen. They focus solely on the bad habit instead of the person. It never addresses the why of the bad habit just that there is a bad habit. The thing about bad habits, they form because there’s a root problem, not because someone’s a bad person.

For instance, I’m a stress-eater. When I get stressed, I eat and not the good-for-you stuff either. Nope, I go for the junkie stuff; the you-might-as-well-smear-it-on-your-hips-cuz-that’s-where-it’s-going-anyway kind of stuff. If there’s a bag of chocolate around, it’s mine. All of it at once. (Just for clarification, though, chocolate is always a good idea. Okay, maybe not the whole bag in one sitting but still…). Nonetheless, that’s my bad habit – stress eating.

If, however, I were to focus on the cause of my stress and deal with that, then my “need” to stress eat would be eliminated. The same is true of this one word concept. It’s about the person and their potential. It allows them to gain clarity; to focus, like a camera lens, on a particular characteristic or goal that they want to achieve rather than on what’s wrong with them. One word eliminates the effort of strong-arming bad habits into submission and risking failure.

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So let me ask you, do you aspire to become a better version of yourself? To change your life, transform, grow, and achieve that which has intrinsic value rather than be held back, shoved down and doomed to repeat the same bad habits? Yep, me too.

Okay, so here’s the skinny on the one word process: first, decide what it is you want to attain. What do you want or need for yourself? What area of your life have you been neglecting or ignoring? What personal development and growth do you desire? A healthier you? A positive attitude or character trait? Time management? Better relationships? Remember, use your “camera lens”…focus.


Once you’ve decided on the area of your life you want to work on, determine what that improvement should look like. What does a healthier you mean? What kind of attitude or character improvement are you going for? What kind of relationships are you seeking? What do you need to eliminate, emulate or accumulate to achieve your desired goal? It may help to write things down so you can see the pattern that emerges.

Then finally pick your word. Remember, words have power; the right words just as well as the wrong words so choose wisely. Pick one that’s uplifting, positive and motivating! I’ve listed some of my favs. Feel free to take one or have them inspire a word for you: Peaceful. Rested. Time. Joy. Contentment. Valuable. Mindfulness. Authenticity. Truth. Laughter. Happiness. Love. Living. Healthy. Relational. Commitment. Simplicity. Worthy. Purposeful. Cherished. Kindness. Patience. Hope. Possible. Humble. Compassion. Inspiration. Optimism. Aspiration. (One year, I used the word Nike. No, not because I wanted to be a Greek goddess. No, because of the sport company’s tag line. You know…”Just do it!”).

Got your word now? Good. Write it down and put it where you will see it every day. And then keep focused on that word. Keep it in the forefront of your mind as you go through your year. See where and how that word can be applied in every aspect of your life. You may want to share your one word with someone. Accountability is always helpful with personal growth.

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Keep at your word all year. The long-term goal is for this one word to become an intricate part of you; a new characteristic; a permanent good habit. No lofty, unrealistic expectations; just an attainable objective for a new year.

By the way, if I’m talking about accountability, then here’s my word: Intentional. That’s what I’m going to work on this coming year. Feel free to share your word with me, too, if you like, and have a blessed new year!


Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. – Roman 12:18

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. – James 1:5

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”… – Matthew 11:28-30

...endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…- Romans 5:4-5

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. – Galatians 5:22-23

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