As each old year draws to a close, I like to choose a word or phrase that captures my intention for the new year. How do I intend to live?
For many years I chose a single word — Simplicity or Joy or Mindfulness — something that sounds very unassailable on paper! But it didn’t usually have much sticking quality. I decided I needed something more specific, hoping that would make it more compelling.
I dubbed 2011 the Year of Living Superficially, as an antidote to my tendency to be too serious.
It may have worked, because in 2012 I quit my church work to focus on writing. I felt the need for direction as I sifted through writing projects. I had trouble knowing which project should be my focus so I chose this phrase: “Close the Loop.” Surprisingly enough, I could implement this with housework, which sounds like drudgery, but was really transformative. I began by challenging myself. If I started a load of laundry could I actually “close the loop” by getting those items dried and put away? As I became more conscious of open loops, I began to see them everywhere: my piles of papers not dealt with, the unworn clothes in my closet, the projects I had not finished. I became aware that these were open loops that sapped my energy. It’s no surprise that this became a year of purging!
My 2013 phrase was: “Be Lighthearted and Gracious.” My mental image was a fluffy white feather. I had completely immersed myself in one writing project — the work that became my memoir. The phrase was helpful, particularly as I had to spend so much time reliving painful memories and writing about the topic of sexual violence.
My 2014 phrase was “Do the Work.” Now I had so much work in progress that I felt overwhelmed. How would I ever get the writing done? The task seemed impossible. But I wanted to finish, desperately. The work was an open loop I needed to close. I realized I had to just put my nose down and see the work through.
My 2015 phrase was “Love the Work,” as I realized that when one phase of work ended, another appeared. I now envisioned myself as a writer, vocationally, and embraced the writing life as a gift. The opportunity to exercise my creativity would be enough reward, no matter what else might happen.
My 2016 phrase continued the theme, only I embraced both the sweat and the beauty: “Love the Work, Do the Work.” And after 5 years of sustained effort, 2016 became the year that my memoir was published.
2017 became “What Are You Waiting For?” It helped me capture a sense of urgency about my work, and I needed that.
Are you looking for a word or phrase to capture your intention for the year ahead? I suggest you make it fun. Let it speak to your gut. Harness it as inspiration.
I wish you well!