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Forget New Year’s resolutions, find your word for 2018 instead

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So here we go again. Another year is about to close and another blank page is about to roll out in front of us. Will this be your best year? Have you set your new year’s resolutions yet for 2018? How did you go with last year’s? Did you start that jogging routine? I certainly didn’t.  The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they set us up for failure. I’ll loose weight, or, I’ll stop overeating,  puts pressure on us to set unrealistic goals. Remember that guilty feeling when you have to admit defeat one month into the new year because you still don’t go to the gym three times a week, despite the expensive membership? For most of the year we feel like we have let ourselves down.

But there is another way to approach the blank page that is about to unfold. Each year we are given the opportunity to write another chapter of our personal narratives. Anything is possible. Of course we can’t predict everything that will happen in the new year and we are beholden to our routines and responsibilities, but we can ask ourselves “What do I want to achieve this year?” What do I want to emphasise this year?” “What parts of myself do I want to nurture this year?” etc. In other words, we can set an intention for the year ahead.

How I started setting a word for myself

I spent several years on the slippery slope, trying to re-invent myself as a freelancer, after tragedy had turned my life upside down. It was the proverbial blank page.  Every year I’d start with a firm set of new year’s resolution. I would write the first draft of a memoir and I’d set up a copy writing business while traveling the world living the lap top lifestyle. I’d do all of it at the same time. Each year, I felt defeated in the face of my New Year’s resolutions.

Two years ago I discovered the practice of choosing a word instead. It changed my life. Like all good things, I learned about this practice at a yoga class. It was the first class of the new year and instead of setting an intention for the class, the teacher invited us to think of the word that best expressed the intention we’d set for the year ahead. ‘LOVE’, ‘STRENGTH’ and ‘EVOLVE’ echoed around the room. I remained silent. I had no clue what my word might be.

All through savasana, my mind kept on stretching and twisting. Why had I failed so miserably at my New Year’s resolutions for the years following my bereavement? Suddenly there was my word. I had lacked CLARITY. For the years after my husband’s death I had been running on the spot trying to catch up with my New Year’s resolutions. Year after year I’d set unrealistic goals. I was exhausted from so much running. I needed CLARITY in order to move forward.

I shouted CLARITY into the yoga hall. I wrote it on a piece of paper and stuck it on the wall above my computer.  I didn’t need another list of New Year’s resolutions. I needed to set an intention and stick with it. And you know what? Clarity came to me before the first quarter of the year was up. That was in 2016. This year my word was GO and it’s been one hell of a busy year!

Why choosing a word is better than a New Year’s resolution

Setting a word is a way of manifesting an intention for the year ahead. Rather than imposing another set of rules on yourself, a word inspires and empowers. It will become your personal mantra. You can meditate on it, you can write about it in your journal, but unlike a New Year’s resolution, you can’t break it. It’s neither a set of goals, nor a set of rules. It’s an invitation to feel inspired to do what connects you with yourself.

My word in 2016 empowered me to take a pragmatic approach. I had to identify and clear away the obstacles in my path, so that I could be ready when clarity chose to visit. My obstacle was an ageing beachfront home in Far North Queensland that needs constant care and attention. It’s my anchor and my home. It’s beautiful, grounding and vastly distracting.

So last year I took the radical step of renting my home out on Airbnb and setting myself up in Hoi An, in Central Vietnam. Living in a rented home means I don’t need to worry about the cracks in the wall or the peeling paint. I go back to Australia once a year a four week marathon of annual maintenance, and for the rest of the year I am free to focus exclusively on my work.

Two months into 2016 I had enough clarity to see exactly what I could do with my skills. And that’s how this website was born. 2017 was about stepping into action, the word was Go as in go forward, make it happen. Build a website, create a retreat, develop an online course and connect with your online tribe. It’s been one hell of a busy year.

How to find your word for the new year

So far each year my word has found me. Like any good idea, my word came to me during savasana, during a beach walk or a bike ride. Inspiration is intuitive. It comes to you at the weirdest times. Your job is to be awake to it so that it doesn’t slip by unobserved.

Think of your word as a motto, a theme, even a mantra. What will the new year be about? How will you nourish yourself? What does your heart need? Where are you headed? Are stepping away from something? Are you stepping towards something? How will the new year bring you closer to living a joyful and authentic life? Or maybe you are on the top of the world right now. How can things get even better for you?

To find your word, allow yourself to sit still and listen deep inside. Try to feel your way towards the word that will be your theme for the year ahead.

How to find your word for 2018, bonus exercise:

If you draw a blank, try this technique: take a piece of paper or open your journal on a fresh page. Write down 5 things your are proud of in 2017. Then write down 5 things that you feel didn’t go to expectation in 2017. Now freewrite for 10 minutes about what you would like to achieve or change in 2018. How do you want to use the new blank page that is about to roll out in front of you to shape the narrative of your life? Now distill this down into one word.

Do you want to break old habits? Maybe you want to stop eating sugar, maybe you want to wear less black or maybe you want to do something more radical like sell all of your belongings, become a minimalist and live in a van? Does the word CHANGE sum it up? Is it about time you made more time for yourself and did what is good for you? How about NOURISH? Do you feel weighed down by too much clutter, or maybe you carry unresolved pain and anger around with you? How about “LET GO” (let’s not be a stickler, two words make one theme).

If you need a bit of help, check out Susannah Conway’s 5 day online mini-course, “Find Your Word” to guide you towards your word.

What’s your word for 2018?

I’ve already found mine. GROW is the natural progression from GO. 2017 was all about stepping into action and setting up my online presence, trying things out, making plenty of mistakes and learning from them. It’s been a very busy year, but the seeds have been planted. Now. like a Vietnamese farmer, before I can harvest, I will need to nourish and  GROW what I have sown. I think 2018 is going to be another busy year.

What will your word be for 2018? Or maybe you prefer old fashioned New Year’s resolutions?

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Don’t be shy, join the conversation in the comments.
I’d love to hear from you!

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6 replies
    • Kerstin
      Kerstin says:

      Beautiful intention for 2018. So important. I find as I age I feel more freedom to have that courage. Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Reply
    • Kerstin
      Kerstin says:

      Not sure what you mean Denise, there is Susannah Conway’s free 5-day e-course “Find your word,” which comes with lots of worksheets. Hope this is what you are asking for 🙂

      Reply

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