One Word. Twelve Months.

A new way to think about your New Year.

I stopped making resolutions last year. It wasn’t just because I always failed at keeping them (which I did) and not because I think they are a bad idea (which I don’t). The New Year always feels like it deserves inspired meaning, which is exactly why I stopped making resolutions. I found a better way: Instead fretting over well-intended promises that ultimately end up broken, I choose a single word. One that will serve as an anthem of sorts for an entire year.

Yes, one word for 12 months. Think about it: There’s no tracking of a to-do list, no guilt over unmet or forgotten goals, and no unattainable expectations. You are simply setting personal tone for the year ahead. And, as the days present different challenges, you will see your word from an ever-changing perspective.

Photo from the blog ‘Patches and Paws’An old friend sold me on this. She’s a writer for the AP with a brilliant vocabulary and a voracious appetite for all things quirky and nerdy and odd and puppy-dog-cute. Several years ago, she stumbled across the concept of “Word Of The Year” and wrote a blog post on it. In a black and white photo, she spelled out her word for 2010 in Scrabble tiles — “Sparkle.” It was a perfect fit.

So, here’s the challenge, should you choose to accept it. Pick a word. Any word — noun, verb, adjective. Write it down. Use Scrabble tiles. Put it on a chalkboard. Get a tattoo of it. (Or not.) Whatever you do, as the days pass and the seasons change, think of your word and see how it fits in your life. You might be surprised, and you won’t feel guilty (or as guilty as usual) about falling behind or forgetting.

One word. Twelve months.

Back in January 2012, after an emotional and tense year, I took my friend’s advice and I stopped with resolutions. I simply chose a word. I pondered on it for several days, because picking the right word is always crucial to me. “Free” just kept coming back, over and over again. I was longing for a sense of myself, aching to be truly free. So, there it was: Free, my word for 2012.

As winter thawed into spring, I realized I was holding to it. As in late May or maybe very early June, when I was laying on my belly on bodyboard, floating in the Atlantic. A bit of salt water ran down my face into my eyes. As I ran my hand across my face, I stared out the open, endless sea. And, I remembered. Free. I felt free.

Because “free” wasn’t a quantitative goal, there were no promises to be broken or apologies to be made. (Read: I didn’t feel guilty for a change.) This word had become my sense of things, a state of mind, body, and soul. I lived it, which is far more than I can say for any resolution I ever made.

So, now that I am free, I need to choose my path. A road that is really my own. I have to believe in my own compass — and that’s my word for 2013. Compass.

My life needs direction, and the choosing is up to me alone. I know I am at a fork in my path. One direction is smoothly paved, with standard-issue lighting and proper signage. Out of the corner of my eye, however, I also see a narrow dirt trail leading away. No lighting and no security. But a childlike voice in my head reminds me that a little bit of adventure is good for the soul.

The challenge that lies before me is quite simple: Do I have the courage to follow my compass?

One word. Twelve months. Go.

Article © 2013 by Stephanie Fowler