“How long have you been choosing a word for the year?” my brother texted me.
I had just published this article about the un-resolution, a movement based on the book by Mike Ashcraft, My One Word. It’s about choosing one word to guide your focus of how you’d like to improve your life, instead of setting resolutions. Some of them are: Peace. Trust. Listen. Choose. Read. Learn. Boldness. Still.
When you choose a word, you bring clarity to your decisions. And it’s more realistic to maintain than setting goals that are pass/fail. It’s a good idea, and one I’ve thought about many years.
Key words in that sentence: thought about.
His question was fair and curious, but my answer was seriously lacking. Because that’s when I realized that in all my years of thinking about this, I had never actually chosen a word. Even though choosing is kind of the whole point.
(Chalk this up in the column of Good Ideas I Think About Doing. My Pinterest boards are full of them.)
My brother and his wife have been choosing Their One Word for years. They could each list of their last three years’ words, along with tales of how those years played out with the intended themes. It all seems so intentional and a little magical at the same time.
This led me to an important realization: It was time to choose a word.
Which led me to a second degree of self-awareness: I was afraid to choose a word.
Here’s the cycle I found myself in: “Come on, this isn’t a big deal. Just pick a word, any word. But not just any word, actually. Pick an intentional word. It matters, Trish. It’s a whole year of your life, and you don’t want to waste it, do you? No, of course you don’t. So pick a good one… but there are so many. What if I pick the wrong one? What if I finish the year and think I should have chosen a different word? What if I get bored with my word? Can I just pick one word a month, maybe? This is hard. Words are hard. Let’s just refill the diet Pepsi and put on lip gloss.”
(I could see how people might struggle with commitment issues. I mean, go through that mental spiral and replace ‘word’ with ‘spouse,’ and this is how people keep one foot out of their current relationships their whole lives through. Because geez. If you’re prone to overthinking, then decisions like this feel weighty to say the least.)
I found though, that I’m very good at choosing a theme upon retrospect. I can look back over the last few years and see what theme emerged that year, even if I didn’t choose it from the start.
2011: Breathe. Robb had died 9 days before that New Year, and my world became very small. It was all I could do to stay in the game.
2012: Heal. The first year was for my head to make sense of the truth of my reality; the second year was for my heart. That’s when I began to thaw and heal.
2013: Live. This is when I decided that my life hadn’t ended just because Robb’s life here had. I began to see who I could be in this new chapter, new season, new life.
2014: Write. This is the year I became an author, when the disciplines I’d long ago put in place now aligned with opportunity, and a dream came true.
2015: Believe. I began to believe in the possibilities of things I never knew I wanted. I began to see around the corner, to know that the circumstances could change and I could grow with them.
2016: Embrace. I embraced a new love, a new life, a new chapter, a new husband, a new name.
While that little exercise was fun and interesting and reflective, it only proved that I’m pretty good at looking back and naming. But that’s not the same as choosing with intent to move forward. (Back to the above cycle of questions marks.)
“It’s better to do something about one thing than nothing about everything.”
~ Mike Ashcraft
I made my list of possibilities as I stressed myself out.
I mean, it’s a fine list. As Peter said, “Babe, you can’t really go wrong with any of those.” He’s right. Any of those would make a fine 2017. But I’m an overthinker. I had to find The Word.
I texted my guru-word-choosing-brother.
Tricia: I can’t decide on a word.
Rob: What questions are you asking yourself to narrow it down?
(I seem to be asking myself what word I want to choose.)
Tricia: What do I want to do in 2017?
Rob: Well, there are two ways to approach the word. What do you want to do/accomplish?
Rob: Or, how do you want to feel?
Rob: What kind of person do you want to be?
Rob: Or is there a word that encompasses both who you want to be and what you want to do?
And then it came to me, like an audible word in my ear.
I’m pretty sure I gasped. Because that was it.
(Rob had said it would happen this way. He said you think and you think, and then the word just, suddenly, comes to you. And you know that you know that it’s the right one.)
Tricia: I found it. My One Word is Calling.
Rob: [Happy Face Emoji.] Make sure you are using the right form of the word. Nouns are hard. Try making it a verb. Calling can work, but try some other forms. Forms that cause action.
And then I abandoned the text thread (sorry, Rob), because I was caught in a mental word study of nouns and verbs, causes and effects, adverbs and gerunds.
Call. Called. Calling.
I scrambled for my Bible, dictionary app, and my journal. I needed to find every variation of this word, every definition, and every verse that held every variation of this word. I wrote it all down in a stream of consciousness that made my pen wobble.
I will call upon the Lord.
Call on the Lord, praise his name. Make known all over the world what he has done.
He has called you out of the darkness, into his glorious light.
He who called you is faithful.
He who has called you will make you strong, firm, and steadfast.
Make every effort to confirm your calling.
We pray that our God may make you worthy of his calling.
For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.
My One Word is Calling. In 2017, with my words, actions, decisions and commitments, I will embrace and pursue my life’s Calling.
There. I have a word. I cannot wait to see what it means.
Let’s do this thing.
(Happy New Year.)