You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about their “word” or their “theme” for 2018. Some of you might be annoyed by all this chatter and some of you might be inspired by it.

Heck, by the time this is published, some people may have forgotten all about those words they picked for the year! Possibly not. You see, picking a theme or word for the year isn’t the same as a New Year’s resolution.

Resolutions are usually about stopping something or starting something. Something specific.

“No more chips for me!”

“I’m going to quit smoking.”

“I’m hitting the gym 5 days a week from now on.”

Resolutions are often about habit change.

Finding a word or theme for the year is about creating, through any means possible, the year you want to have. It’s about finding the word that will inspire you when you’re down, that gets you back on track when you feel lost and that you rally around when you achieve a milestone.

So, how do you do it? How do you find your theme or word? How do you focus your year?

As with most paths to success, it’s a matter of pattern discovery. Take a look at the patterns of your past. Look at the patterns of what you want to create and what you’ll need to do to make it a reality.

So, how do you find the patterns? You can’t get patterns without data. When it comes to creating your focus for the year, data can be the memories, thoughts, feelings, and goals rolling around in your head.

There are 3 questions I encourage people to ask themselves in order to surface the data they need to find the patterns that will point them to their word, theme or focus for the year.

But first, it helps to do a little dreaming.

The first time I came up with a word for the year was in January of 2016. I was fresh off the break up of my marriage. I had been separated for a little over a month and was sitting in a pew at Seattle Unity Church. Besides weddings and funerals, I had been to church only a handful of times in my life. On this crisp Sunday morning it was not lost on me that this was my third time in that church in three weeks.

My first visit was on Christmas Eve. Due to the separation, my ex-husband was with our niece and nephew at my sister’s house. All of my friends were out of town. I was alone. I had never been alone on Christmas Eve. Then, a new friend aware of my situation invited me to go with her to the Christmas Eve service at Seattle Unity. My limited experience with church meant that I was a little nervous, but I was glad to be around people. And to sing. The singing felt good. At the end of the service they invited everyone to the Burning Bowl Ceremony the following Sunday.

So there was I was the next Sunday. As we entered the sanctuary, attendants handed everyone a piece of papyrus and a pencil. There was a thoughtful sermon and then we were asked to reflect on our year and think about the things we wanted to release so that we didn’t carry them into the next year. We then wrote those things down on the slip of papyrus, walked up to the front, had the papyrus lit on fire by one of the attendants and then we dropped the flaming papyrus into the bowl. Voila. Release.

OK, releasing those things wasn’t that easy, but having the intention of letting things go was helpful for what they invited us to the following week. The White Stone ceremony.

Yup. There I was again. At church for the third week in a row! We were warmed from the glow of Christmas. We had cleansed the past year with flames. It was now time to think about what we wanted for the upcoming year. As we walked into the sanctuary this time we were handed a small white stone, the size of a domino, and a small pencil.

After another thoughtful sermon we were asked to close our eyes for a guided visualization. A little dreaming. The the exercise was one I have experienced before, but that didn’t lessen it’s power.

We were asked to imagine ourselves at the end of this new year. We were asked to look back and see what we had accomplished in those 12 months.

I can’t say that my vision was all that exciting. I mean, I knew that I was separated from my husband and probably headed to divorce. So my year was going to be full of hard conversations, finding a lawyer, tallying up our marriage on a spreadsheet and dividing things up, building my part-time business into something that could sustain me, opening new credit cards and bank accounts, etc. But I knew I wanted to get through all of that. I wanted to wrap up the year knowing that I survived all of that. I also knew I wanted to deepen my relationships with those that mattered most to me.

“So, what would you need to do or be in order to create that year for yourself?” the pastor asked us. We were then told to open our eyes and write our word on the stone in our hands.

BOLD and BRAVE white stone

My words for the year in 2016 were BOLD & BRAVE.

I wrote the following words on my stone: “BOLD & BRAVE”

In order to get through the coming year with my most important relationships deepened I was going to have to be bold and brave. Bold enough to take the steps forward that I (heartbreakingly) knew I needed to take and brave enough to be real with my most important people. Even if “real” meant angry, sad, confused, broken down, depressed and scared.

And I made it through 2016. It wasn’t easy AND I had moments of fun, passion, excitement, pride, joy, and silliness. Bold and Brave brought me those things too.

Every Day Matters white stone

My theme for 2017 was EVERY DAY MATTERS

The lessons I learned in 2016 led me to pick “EVERY DAY MATTERS” as my theme for 2017.  As I made my bold and brave moves in 2016, I made room for goodness to happen in my everyday life. I realized that while the big events and trips and surprises are great, I wanted every day to feel good. Like cooking dinners with my girlfriend or reading books to my niece and nephew before bed. I also knew that getting where I wanted to go in my life and business was going to require me to have some every day practices like journaling, gratitude, reading books for growth, etc.

It takes reflection on your past to determine what you want your future to look like. I did just that at the end of 2017 to come up with my word for 2018. I looked at what went well, what I loved, and what was missing from 2017.

I looked at what I wanted to bring forward and create in 2018. In 2018 I will:

  • Create spaces for people to learn and grow
  • Find support for what I’m not good at and don’t like
  • Increase stability in my income
  • Find ways to stay connected with my people
  • Shore up my systems
  • Bring all the ways I work with clients into one place

The image that surfaced when I started searching for patterns was me in the eye of a hurricane with strands of ideas, projects and people all around me. I needed to bring all of these strands together. Alone, each strand might not make it, but if I could bring them all together, they’d be stronger together. They’d reinforce each other.

So my word for 2018 is “GATHERING”. Gathering people. Gathering ideas. Gathering data. Gathering support. Gathering strength.

This year, whenever doubt or roadblocks get in my way, I will ask myself how GATHERING can help me through. When I get frustrated and tired, I’ll think about how gathering can restore my faith or energy. When it’s time to celebrate a big win, I’ll look at how GATHERING helped make it happen.

Did you catch those 3 questions?

1. What went well in 2017?

2. What did you love about 2017?

3. What was missing from 2017?

Answer those questions. In writing. Get everything in front of you and see what you discover. Look for patterns until you can find the word or phrase that will be your compass, your focus, and your anchor for the year.

There are more questions that can help you. Click here if you want a copy of my Focus Your 2018 worksheet.

Here’s to you and all you want to create this year!


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