Most days my head would hit the pillow and I would wonder, what did I really accomplish today?
What was wrong with me, why couldn’t I keep up, and perhaps more importantly, why did I keep trying?
Every morning I would wake up and tell myself that today would be the day that I focus on what was really important and not waste my time chasing every shiny object that appeared on the internet.
But five hours later I would inevitably wake up in a haze of tweets, memes, and caffeine.
Around this time, a friend of mine recommended a book he had read called “One Word” by Jon Gordon, which recommended picking a single word that represents what you want to work on the most that particular year.
I really liked the idea of having a focus word to remind me of what’s really important in the larger picture versus what might seem important on any particular day.
Now the only problem was deciding on which word to choose.
This is no small task because, as it turns out, I have a boatload of things to work on in my life, so how could I possibly decide? What goal do I choose to work on, and can I really afford to let the rest of them slide for an entire year?
Eventually I realized that if I was going to stick with just one word a year, I was going to be 83 before I finally get my shit together.
Let’s face it, one word is for people who are fairly close to having their act together. One word is for people who may just need a little help focusing their attention and pointing them in the right direction.
Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people.
No, if I had any hope of fixing myself, I was going to have to at least double or triple up my words. If I was really being honest with myself, I would need at least a dozen or so words just to get things started.
Now of course I realize that having a bucketful of words is not exactly what the authors had in mind and kind of defeats the whole purpose of focusing all of your energy into one word, but c’mon, I’m not getting any younger here and I’ve got a lot of work to do.
Not to mention the fact that a lot of the “one words” I read about in the book seemed a bit vague and ambiguous. I understand that you may need to take some poetic license when your trying to fix your entire life in one word, but some of the words like “trust”, “build”, “change”, and “sparkle” provided me with more questions than answers.
Maybe I just lacked the necessary imagination to get the most out of “sparkle”, but I felt like I needed something slightly more specific. So I thought I would compromise and try it with 3 words*
[*Actually it turned out to be 6 words, but who’s counting.]
For whatever reason, three words seemed like a manageable number to me.
I didn’t want this to be another endless to-do list, but more of a list of priorities I’d focus on each day. So after giving it some thought, I brainstormed a list of words and then narrowed them down.
In the end I settled on six words — 3 words for doing and 3 words for being.
The first 3 are focused on things I should be doing and what I would like to accomplish each day.
“Create” — Did I create something that didn’t exist before either through my writing or something else?
“Connect” — Did I make a meaningful connection with someone else today either online or off?
“Inspire” — Did I do something to inspire or encourage someone else to continue on their own path?
The second 3 words focus more on the mental work, or the things I’m working on inside my head. These words aren’t really things for me to do, but more a reminder of the person I would like to become.
“Expand” — To leave my comfort zone by expanding my knowledge, my skills, and my friendships
“Embrace” — To
have develop patience and accept where I’m currently at in the process.
“Persist” — To keep moving forward even when obstacles appear or I can’t see the way.
What are you trying to accomplish these days?
I’m not just talking about things like getting more clients, creating more stuff, or getting more traffic to your website. I’m talking about big picture stuff like doing things you have always wanted to do and becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be.
Take a moment to come up with some words that will inspire you. Here are a few to get you started:
Balance — Faith — Give — Gratitude — Patience — Purpose — Commitment — Forward — Learn — Risk — Courage — Opportunity — Generous — Persist — Ask — Love — Passion — Connect — Renew — Forgive — Pray — Remember — Determined — Respect — Outwork — Dedicate — Care — Appreciate — Organize — Consistent — Drive — Believe — Create — Challenge — Discipline — Share — Thankful — Support — Express — Growth — Strength — Smile — Inspire — Affect — Focus — Finish — Recharge — Start — Listen — Write — Joy — Trust — Overcome — Encourage — Empower — Start — Develop — Faithful — Action — Detail — Team — Exceed — Perform — Today — Discover — Prepare — Impact — Expand — Peace
Once you have your words chosen, you may want to share them with those closest to you, not only to show your comittment, but also to allow your friends and family to offer you their support. Write them down, paint them in a picture, or post them on your website (or on this one in the comment section below)
Do something to make them real.
I know one writer who wrote his words on a small seashell he found on a beach. He carries it with him every day in his pocket, and every time his fingers brush up against it, it reminds him of the words printed on it. I posted mine near my computer in order to remind me of what I am there to do.
Look at your words often, reflect on them, but most importantly, put them into action.
Don’t make this into another empty soul-searching exercise that eventually disappears once the excitement has worn off. Words have the ability to posses real power, but only if you act on them.
Find one (or three) that mean something to you and then find a way to make them a part of your life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still exhausted and there are plenty of days that I go to bed wondering if I’m completely wasting my life.
My words, however, are a reminder of who I would like to become. It’s a goal worth striving for even as I stumble over myself day after day.
It’s okay because I know tomorrow I will begin again.
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.