For the past 5 years, long before it was a “thing” all over the place with bracelets and Today Show coverage, I’ve been choosing my ONE WORD for the year and asking our team to do it with me. I happened upon the concept in a random article I read that December. One of those times when something finds you at exactly the right time. I was looking for a way to kick off the new year with intention but had long since come to believe that resolutions weren’t the ticket. I knew I wasn’t alone in having a pile of neglected disappointments and failures every year by around mid-February.
But I also recognized that simply declaring a WORD wouldn’t be enough. By the time this concept found me, I had realized that without establishing priorities for the coming year, how could anyone know where to spend his or her time? To say Yes to what really mattered, No to what didn’t, and the permission to stop Should’ing all over the place.
So as I ushered in 2014, I developed a practice that I’ve been following ever since, and I invite you once again to do it with me.
Here’s how it works. We each figure out the ONE WORD that encapsulates our intention for the next year. What we hope to work on, experience, accomplish, give and receive. Think of it this way…this WORD is to become so much a part of you and your being over the next 12 years that you could tattoo it on your wrist. Now, I’m not saying you should, but that’s how ever-present it should be.
But this ONE WORD exercise is so much more than a declaration. It’s a process. Once we figure out our ONE WORD, from there we can establish our Priorities that serve that WORD, and then set our Goals that serve our Priorities. I’m not talking about a habit I’m trying to start or break, like many resolutions. This is an intention, a focus from which everything else flows—our thinking, our actions, our day-to-day living.
And I’m asking you to trust me and do the ENTIRE process I’m about to walk you through. It’s essential to making our ONE WORD work for us instead of simply being a cool declaration with no sticking power.
Every year my WORD has come easily to me. Like a spotlight shining on a singer that was belting out “This is your WORD!” Not this year. I kept toying around with a few different options, but nothing felt right. I wasn’t getting that Ah-Ha moment. But now at 47 and having had innumerous gifts of the right thing presenting itself at the right time, I didn’t stress about it or get frustrated or worried about how I was going to lead others through this if I couldn’t even come up with my own word. That’s what my 35-year-old self would have done. Hell, it’s what my 42-year-old self would have done.
But I kept thinking and reading and reflecting, knowing that my WORD would present itself when I was ready to welcome it.
So off John, the kids and I went to Deer Valley for skiing the week before Christmas. I had a feeling that all would become clear somewhere among those mountains. Maybe it’s because I was born and raised in Montana and have a love affair with mountains and cold, dry, clean air. I just knew that being in those open spaces and away from day-to-day demands would open my eyes to what 2018 should hold for me.
The first day of skiing wasn’t pretty. Despite little snow, runs were open because of Deer Valley’s exceptional snow-making capabilities. But it was icy and slick, and I’m an intermediate skier who loves fresh yet packed powder and long, meandering easy blue runs. I was having a hard time feeling my edges and getting into a rhythm. So I was trying to over-control my way down the runs, trying to brake against the fast flow on the ice by muscling turns and leaning back on my skis, afraid of what would happen if I leaned forward. Would I go to fast? Go out of control?
Before we broke for lunch, John (who’s an expert skier and raced as a kid) gave me some tips. “Look, these conditions aren’t ideal, but you’ve got to trust your equipment. Instead of fighting it, if you allow your skis to work, they’ll take you where you need to go.”
Trust your equipment.
That afternoon I relaxed my body, stopped trying to force every turn and muscle against speed. I leaned in. I wasn’t only skiing better, I was having more fun and enjoying being there.
The next morning after getting the kids to ski school, John and I were deciding what time we’d head out to the slopes. The expected snow storm hadn’t come, so the conditions were no better and it was cold and windy. I didn’t want to ski. But instead of going with that feeling, I started to tell myself “should messages.”
We’ve already paid for the gear and the lift ticket so I should ski.
We get so few ski days so I should go out there.
I know John wants to and I want to be with him, so I should suck it up.
So when he said, let’s get on the lift by 10, I pushed myself to enthusiastically, yet unauthentically, respond with “Sure!”
It was a few runs in when we were traversing across an easy stretch I’ve skied countless times. John had skied ahead to meet me at a landing before descending the final stretch of this run to our favorite lunch place. I was cold, not loving the icy conditions and thinking about soon being in the warm St. Regis and the Bloody Mary that was waiting for me. I curved to the left to give a beginner skier a wide berth. Then one of my skis slipped from under me.
In a split second I was falling down the side of the mountain.
Ironically, it was the same conditions I had been grumbling about that left trees uncovered, which ended up being what saved me. I was able to reach out and grab a cluster of branches about 10 feet down and hold on while I tried to dig my edges in. I knew my screams for help wouldn’t reach John, but thankfully a couple skiers and an instructor got to me, helped me remove my skis and scale back up to the top. “We saw you go over,” one of my rescuers said. “You really gave us a scare. We didn’t know if you’d stop.”
I got back on my skis, got to John and sobbed for quite a while. Then we skied back to our hotel. And I got to rest for the next day and a half with a gorgeous view as a much-needed snowstorm swirled outside. I was very lucky; I escaped with a few bruises and a sore back, and I had the priceless time and space to think and reflect.
Here’s what became clear. That day, the day my gut and heart were telling me what I wanted and I needed, I didn’t listen. I not only didn’t listen but, I drowned it out with a loud list of Shoulds. I allowed my decision of what to do with my precious day on Earth to be dictated by what I thought I should do because of money and what others would think and need, and my desire not to disappoint.
I didn’t trust my equipment.
How many times had I done this in my life? While 2017 had been an unequivocal stellar year in so many ways for me, I could now clearly see how what happened on the mountain during two days of skiing had happened all year. With the success of my book, my life was getting bigger and faster in 2017. New opportunities coming my way, new risks to take. Not knowing what the landscape would look like, or if I’d disappoint others, but sure that it would require me to rebalance everything that was in my life. I could look back and recognize that I had been trying to over-control my way through, to brake against the fast flow of where things were headed, and leaning back, afraid of what would happen if I leaned forward. Would I go too fast? Would I go out of control?
Most of the year I had delayed projects and held back on decisions and said no to opportunities because I was trying to muscle and brake and control it all. And it had left me fatigued and knowing deep inside that I didn’t live up to what I was capable of. Sure I had plenty of moments of Joy in my Year of Joy, but I had also been carrying around this darkness and heavy weight that I hadn’t been able to put my finger on. I had attributed it to the poisonous political discourse, the natural and man-made disasters and friends struggling with their health, relationships and death.
But laying in that gorgeous bed in stillness and quiet, watching the snowfall to create something clean and smooth and fresh, I faced the hard truth: this girl who had devoted an entire chapter in her best-selling, award-winning book on how to #FUCKFEAR, had been limiting my life, fighting the path God and the Universe was laying out for me. Because of fear. That weight and darkness that I had been carrying around wasn’t because of divisive politics or cancer or hurricanes. It was because I was fighting the flow of my true path. And it was making me feel like a fraud.
I recalled the words I had read from Gabby Bernstein earlier in the year but hadn’t started living: it was time for me to let go of my need to control and allow the Universe to do her thing. Yes it was scary. Yes I might fall flat on my face, and disappoint some people and have to say No more. And yes, I may find that I’m just a one-hit wonder.
In spite of all that, it’s time for me to follow my life’s path that’s being laid out in front of me and TRUST. Trust God, the Universe, that the people who love and get me will understand and support me and trust that I am enough and capable of doing whatever is put in front of me, whatever I am called to do. It was time to trust my equipment.
Now I hope it doesn’t take you falling and sliding down a mountain to discover your WORD for the year. But it does require quiet and stillness, so you can really hear. Not the chatter of your mind, but the feelings in your heart. As I look back on the last few months of my year, of course it took me a long time to find my WORD. Amidst the kids’ activities, how much I poured into our businesses, volunteering, philanthropic efforts, getting ready for the holidays, another round of injury for Bebe, and my mom breaking her arm and having surgery, there was no quiet or stillness. I had stopped seeking quiet every day. The endless chatter in my head kept me from hearing the voice coming from my heart.
If you’re having a hard time hearing your Heart Voice—whether it’s to determine your ONE WORD or anytime throughout the year to stay true to you, I implore you to make sure to find stillness at some point in every day. It can be as little as 5 minutes, but it’s just you and your breathing. No screens or scrolling, no to-do lists, no multitasking. On any given day I find it through yoga or meditation or sitting quietly in our backyard and watching the nature around me. The truth is, even though I had a ridiculously busy 4th quarter, I still could have found time every day to do this. But I somehow told myself and believed it was no longer a priority. Well it’s one of my key priorities this year, and I hope you’ll make it part of your 2018, too.
Clear your mind, your heart is trying to tell you something. And that’s where you’ll find your ONE WORD that captures your intention for your life this year.
Now to the rest of the process. Once we have this overarching intention, we can establish our Priorities that serve our WORD. And once we have our Priorities, we can set our Goals that serve those Priorities. I want to make sure you understand the difference between Priorities and Goals.
Priorities are what’s most important and meaningful in our lives today. The values, beliefs, lifestyle, principles, and standards. The things that we’re not willing to give up for anything. I think of them as the non-negotiables of our lives right now.
Goals are different. They’re a future-based end result or experience that we’re working towards creating and achieving. In other words, our goals are things that haven’t yet been realized.
Here’s what’s so important about their relationship. If our goals don’t support our priorities, we feel off, scattered, stressed and unfulfilled. It’s because we’re not living our truth. So I’m asking you to invest the time to really soul search your priorities and then align your goals with them.
And I’m a big believer that at any one time we can only focus on so much. So, each year I set a maximum of three priorities and five goals, and I encourage you to do the same. Unless you’ve found that elusive pill that gives you more than 24 hours in a day and no need for sleep. As you figure out your top priorities that serve your WORD, know that you may be putting some others on the back burner in exchange for the ones that are most important right now. And that’s ok.
So now I get to show you how this works. My Word is TRUST.
I have 3 Priorities in service of TRUST this year, and take note that I declare them in a present tense and active voice. Because these are the things that are non-negotiable for me right now, not a future action or achievement.
1) I lean into the things that scare me, knowing those are the experiences that will make me grow.
2) I serve in ways that can make a significant impact in the lives of my family, our team and whoever else God puts in my path.
3) I enrich the health of my body, mind, and spirit so I can fulfill Priorities 1 & 2.
My Goals for the year, personally and professionally, must support my Priorities. They include:
- Experience a daily spiritual practice of stillness.
- Write every day before any other work.
- Refine and enhance the ways I serve our team and our LiveFullOut Community to maximize my impact and others’ potential growth, both personally and professionally.
Just as every year, in determining and declaring my WORD, establishing my Priorities and setting my Goals, I’ve had to do a companion exercise. To figure out what needs to be on my “Stop Doing List.” I’m a big fan of the business bible, Good to Great, in which Jim Collins argues that this list is just as important as our To-Do List. In fact, I know from personal experience that this process I’m taking you through is impossible to execute if you don’t concurrently determine what you’re going to stop doing. So I’m assigning you this list too.
For me I’m going to stop pushing back against the things that scare me, making up the excuse of having too many other things to do to focus on what the Universe is calling me to do. Why don’t we do the important things? Because they’re hard and scary. The voice I’ve allowed to be loudest this year is my inner naysayer.
“What if you write another book, but it turns out you’re just a one-hit wonder?”
“What if you stop trying to manage and schedule everything, and things fall through the cracks and the various balls you’re juggling drop and shatter into thousands of pieces?”
Well this year, the loudest voice will be my Heart Voice. And I’m going to take care of me first before anyone else, so I can hear that voice.
In the moments of stillness and clarity, here’s what my Heart Voice will tell me.
I know that life is not meant to be micromanaged.
I know from the countless conversations, messages and reviews what I can offer to others that makes a real impact, and can help them become more of the person they were designed to be, if they have the courage and the hunger to get there.
I know that writing that first book wasn’t ever about what people would think but the possibility that my words could help even one person. And I love to write and share and put my heart out in the world. It’s what gives me joy and a sense of purpose. So there are more books that must be written.
I know my intuition has never been wrong, and I’ve only gotten into trouble when I’ve chosen to ignore it. That when I allow the Universe to guide me, I end up in places that are even better, richer, deeper, more fulfilling than I could’ve imagined. The places that are exactly where I was meant to be at that moment.
My wish for all of you this year is that you quiet the negative voices, especially the one that can be the loudest—your own. And so that you find YOUR WORD, your priorities, your purpose and to trust that the Universe will guide you. And to trust that you’re uniquely amazing.
To send us off on this great adventure that is 2018, I knew I had to share with you the powerful message sung by the bearded lady in The Greatest Showman.
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
To LiveFullOut, I challenge you to be you this year. Unique and powerful YOU. Happy New Year!