My Three Words for 2018

I have never felt that New Year’s resolutions were effective. Instead of guiding me throughout the year, they tend to be lofty goals that are typically unreachable.

As an alternative, I began following the lead of Chris Brogan several years ago, and chose 3 words for the year to keep me focused and on task, giving me a lens through which to view my choices and decisions. My three words make me more productive and thoughtful in how I live my life.

Past words have included “connect,” which opened me up to build a network of trusted friends and colleagues both online and in person. Words like “moment” and “journey” have helped me focus more on the present. “First-down” helped me celebrate the small wins and progress toward larger goals.

My three words are my screen saver on my computer so I see them each time I turn it on, and I find them a reminder of the things to which I need to pay attention.

My three words for 2018:

ACT, FIRST-DOWN and FINISH.

ACT is a reminder to stop planning and ACT. I spend so much time planning ways to improve and complete, that I sometimes never actually start getting things done. ACT will remind me that I need to do something rather than hang back.

FIRST-DOWN is a football reference, and this is the first time I have used a word more than once. First-down was so effective last year, that I felt it important to continue it in 2018. This word combats my perfectionist tendencies, and helps me make small progress on projects and tasks, in realization that the small steps are important toward reaching a goal. Often, a quarterback will attempt a long pass for the touchdown, when all he needs to do is get the few yards for the first-down and then the team has more plays and more time to score. I don’t always have to have things perfect or have it finished, but it is important to move the project or the process forward a step at a time. Before long – it will be completed. SCORE!

FINISH reminds me that the important thing is to finish. It’s inconsequential if I start projects at work or home, and they just end up being overlooked later. The key is to start AND finish – if the project is important enough to plan and start, it should be important enough to finish up. If not, then I need to consider saying no.

What are your three words for 2018?

My Three Words for 2017

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three-words-2017

Choosing three focus words each year helps me avoid the failure that inevitably accompanies the practice of making New Year’s Resolutions.

Following the lead of Chris Brogan, a few years ago I began choosing three focus words to take me through the year (Read about Chris’s three words for 2016 here).

What I have found is that the words keep me focused and on task, give me a lens through which to view my choices and decisions, and they make me more productive and thoughtful in how I live my life.

Past words have included “connect,” which opened me up to build a network of trusted friends and colleagues both online and in person. Words like “moment” and “journey” have helped me focus more on the present.

One practice that Chris Brogan recommends is to look at them daily – each morning – to start the day with the right focus. I made the mistake of not revisiting them frequently this past year and they slipped out of mind. I have made the graphic of the words the background of my laptop – so I will see them every time I turn it on!

 

My three words for 2017 are DO, FIRST-DOWN and SEE.

DO means more than just action – it’s making sure that my actions are authentic. It comes from a quote from University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban. He says, “What you DO speaks so loudly. It doesn’t matter what you say, it’s what you DO. Put more focus on the DO.”  It’s easy to get caught up in the talk, but you must do what you say you will or people will realize you don’t mean it. There is also a tendency for a planner to spend so much time on the plans and the possibilities, that the work never gets done. Spend more time DOING.

FIRST-DOWN is another football reference, but it combats my perfectionist tendencies. Often, a quarterback will attempt a long pass for the touchdown, when all he needs to do is get the few yards for the first-down and then the team has more plays and more time to score. I don’t always have to have things perfect or have it finished, but it is important to move the project or the process forward. I often fail to start something because I am afraid I won’t finish, but it’s important to start and just move it forward a step at a time. Before long – it will be completed. SCORE!

SEE makes me more aware of my surroundings and of the present. I get so in a zone that I forget to notice the people I need to, the scenery going by, and the life that is whirling around me. I need to slow down, be more in the moment, and enjoy each day and all that it brings. I want to end the day with memories and no regrets – instead of not even knowing what I did all day except stay busy.

What are your three words for 2017?

My Three Words 2016

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three words 2016

For the last several years, I have followed the lead of Owner Media Group’s Chris Brogan in choosing three focus words to take me through the year instead of making New Year’s resolutions that I will just break within a few weeks. (Read about Chris’s three words here)

Most years, these words have been invaluable to my growth as a person and as a leader, including such terms as “connect,” ‘moment,” and “journey.” They have helped me build a network of trusted friends and colleagues both online and in person, and stay focused on the present rather than get so caught up in the planning and future that I miss what is happening now.

My words for 2015 were PRACTICE, PAUSE and NOURISH, and I admittedly let myself lose focus of their power, ending the year overwhelmed, distracted and exhausted. After some time to regroup, I’m ready to start 2016 with new purpose and determination to view my world through the lens of my three words, and let them help guide me so that I make more sound decisions and more productive actions.

My three words for 2016 are WHY, HERE and MARGIN.

WHY is probably the best place to start when I think about my life, dreams and expectations. Before planning or doing anything, there should be a clear reason why that action or direction is important or needed. “Because it’s always been done that way” or “just because” are not viable reasons to do anything at all, especially since we have only limited time and energy. On larger projects and decisions, it is critical to identify the “why” before moving ahead, and then to use that as a touchstone to ensure I’m staying on track.

HERE reminds me to be present in the moment, not planning ahead, reliving the past, or distracted by anything else. When I am having a conversation, I want to be focused on that person and what is being discussed. If I am planning a project, writing, or working, that should be all I am doing – not multi-tasking. To be HERE demands my full attention and focus.

MARGIN helps me think in terms of boundaries since I tend to blur the lines between work and personal life as well as rest and busyness. I need to think of the different parts of my life like the margins on a page. But more than that, I need to learn to build margin into my schedule. Rather than overbook myself, it’s important to allow time for those unexpected interruptions, tasks that take longer than anticipated, and even time after a meeting or conversation to make a few notes that allow me to remember and utilize what was discussed. Margin will be the buffer that allows me to switch gears and not be rushing around all the time.

What are your three words for 2016?

Finding your balance

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Photo courtesy of Cheryl (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Cheryl (Creative Commons)

It’s so easy to lose your sense of balance in life and work. Your projects and tasks become so overwhelming that you can’t see the end of your list. You feel like you are spinning your wheels or continually adding things you need to do instead of finishing and marking anything off.

It can feel like you have to completely focus on the work to the exclusion of everything else. Head down, tune out the world, just get things done.

But that is probably the last thing you need to do!

One of my three words for this year has been PAUSE (read more here). I realize that I have not kept my emphasis on my three words like I should have this year, and by letting that slide, I have allowed myself to get off course and out of balance.

Pausing can be taking a break to walk around the building and clear your head after an hour of intense work. It can be going out with friends after work to have dinner or see a movie, or maybe going to a game on the weekend to completely unhook. Maybe for you it’s heading to the gym or for a run after work to burn off some steam, or just spending a quiet evening at home with your spouse and kids.

Whatever it is that breaks the cycle of all work will help you clear your brain and allow you to be even more effective when you do get back to that project. Plus, it helps you maintain those other important parts of your life, like relationships and health. After all, life isn’t all work.

What do you need to do to PAUSE and find your balance?

Getting my brave on

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Photo courtesy of Mary and Tobit (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Mary and Tobit (Creative Commons)

I have come to realize lately that while I don’t think I am a brave person, I do have moments and acts of bravery. And I can tell you that I’m focused on intentionally finding more of those brave moments going forward because they make such a positive impact on my life and attitude.

I think we all have the potential to be brave inside us, but that quality doesn’t always come out in everyone. Some of us have to actually consciously put bravery on, almost like putting on a garment.

But what power there is when we do “put our brave on”!

In his book, It’s Not About the Tights, bestselling author Chris Brogan describes bravery like a superhero’s cape. I love the image of the cape because it is not something that you would normally wear, and the thought of it is extraordinary. You would definitely feel differently wearing your cape!

Whatever it is that you fear, it is important to “put your brave on” to face it. It might be giving a presentation, having a difficult conversation with a co-worker or family member, or making a huge decision.

Instead of letting that fear rule your life and limit your choices, take a deep breath, fasten on your cape, and face up to whatever makes you cower in distress. Intimidation is one of fear’s tactics, but with your brave cape on, you have extra support in staring it down and gaining the upper hand.

Picture how a child would put on his cape, grab his toy sword, and go charging into the face of the imaginary monsters.

Now go get YOUR brave on!

How do you make time to read?

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Photo courtesy of Mo Riza (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Mo Riza (Creative Commons)

Amazon has got me pegged. I am not a big shopper, and I don’t often go to the mall and buy clothes or shoes or things for my apartment. But boy, do I love books! When I get an email from Amazon telling me about the latest new book, it’s hard for me to resist.

As an avid reader and former bookseller, I love a good read, and while I said I’d never replace real books with anything electronic, I confess that most of what I buy lately is for my Kindle Fire, which is a little tricky, because at least with real books, there are limits to the size of bookshelves and places to stack them. With my Kindle, the “virtual bookshelf” is endless, so space is not much of an issue.

My problem now is that I have all these wonderful books, with more being downloaded nearly every week, and I don’t have time to read them. Maybe I should rephrase that – I don’t MAKE time to read them.

One of my three focus words (read more here) this year is NOURISH, so nourishing both mind and spirit is a key part of my focus. Lately, I tend to relegate reading to something I do just before bed, and it’s usually a mystery or other fiction. It often takes me weeks to finish a book because I read a few pages before falling asleep and then end up having to re-read part of it the next night – you get the picture. I find it hard to just sit and read on a weekend afternoon or after work one evening because it “feels” like I’m goofing off. There are surely more important things that I need to be taking care of.

But actually, there is not anything more important than expanding my thinking and learning new things or ways to approach things. Reading for development needs to be a priority, and not something to feel guilty about.

I need to be sure I’m filling my bookshelf with more than just murder mysteries (although I can still learn about writing styles and ways to turn a phrase from fiction writing). I seek books that challenge me to think differently, to act differently, to be a better person.

I also need to not just read them and go on. I’m bad about reading and thinking, “oh that’s a great way to think about that,” and then promptly forget about it. One of the advantages of reading on Kindle is that I can highlight sections and go back and easily review my notes electronically. I need to revisit these sources of inspiration periodically to reinforce what I learn.

Incorporating these ideas into my life and PRACTICE (another of my three words) is important too. If I don’t build on my learning and experience, then I’m wasting my time reading it in the first place.

How do you make time for reading?

My Three Words for 2015

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three words 2015I have never been good at resolutions, and to me, picking something(s) that I will start fresh on January 1 is just setting myself up for failure. Besides, I am more interested in becoming a braver, stronger person who lives out her mission rather than just meeting some arbitrary goal.

So for the last few years, I have chosen three focus words that guide me every day. Following Chris Brogan’s lead (read more here), I have discovered that my three words have been instrumental in my growth and development as a person, accomplishing things I never thought I could, and stumbling on true happiness in the process (read about last year here).

With great excitement, I am ready to share my three words for 2015:

NOURISH, PAUSE, PRACTICE

NOURISH means more than just food because it applies to nourishing my soul, mind and body. I have a confession that I am not a foodie, and often eat mainly to fuel my running. I want to learn to feed my body in ways that are more healthy and interesting. Instead of the same meals all the time, I want to explore new ingredients, new ways to prepare things, and new flavors. I also want to nourish my mind and my spiritual self by discovering new authors and topics, even if they make me uncomfortable. Sometimes the best way to learn new ways to think or understand is to be challenged. Connecting with people is another way to nourish myself, whether that is online or in person, through conversations or activities.

PAUSE reminds me to rest – to stop and to take a break. I am on the go pretty much all the time, and struggle with the idea of rest. Pause helps me remember that I do need to step back periodically to refresh and renew myself.

PRACTICE is a love/hate word for me but holds great depth of meaning. When I was little, I took piano lessons and then in college, I took guitar lessons. I currently play neither piano nor guitar because I hate to practice – I find myself wanting to just be good at things, but it doesn’t work that way without practice. Yo Yo Ma is the best cellist in the world and he still practices 3 hours a day, so who am I to think I can be even average at something without practice. Anything you want to do consistently and well must be practiced daily. Practice applies to all areas of my life, from spirituality, to fitness, to mindfulness, to writing, to owning my choices and decisions.

I look forward to the new opportunities and challenges headed my way this year, and feel confident that my focus on these three words will help me excel.

What are your three words?

Living through my Three Words

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3 words 2014My three focus words serve as a touchstone for me, a way to course-correct frequently in order to stay on target for improvement. They keep me grounded. They keep me focused.

This year, my three words have been MOMENT, BALANCE, and DIRECT (read more here), and what I have found this year that is different from past years, is that they have been more a part of me. Usually, I stray and have to make a conscious effort to revisit the words periodically. But I find myself living them out this year, a part of every day and everything I do.

The other difference this year is that all three have been equally important. Usually one word will rise above the others as more impactful, but these words have worked together with even more power than I could have imagined.

DIRECT has been the starting point, and has led to better decisions of what to do and not do, what to continue and what to step away from. Whether related to work, church, or personal decisions, I have felt more in control by staying focused on directing my actions instead of letting my life be managed by others. There is great power in that word, and even though it means facing my fears at times, it also results in a happier mindset because I know that I am controlling those things I can control.

Directing leads to more BALANCE, and being more cognizant of how I’m using my time. Yes, I work a lot and have a lot of commitments, but I have also made sure to spend time reading, enjoying family and friends, and resting. Balance also plays into my fitness, with more weight training and stretching instead of just running. Even my food habits have been more balanced, and I have begun cooking a little more and making sure my meals are healthy and delicious, not just quick.

The other piece of each of these actions has been to live in the MOMENT more often. No, not always. There are still days when I can’t tell you what I did, or where the time went. But more often than ever before, I’ve been more aware of experiences, and noticed more by staying in the moment instead of thinking about what’s to come or dwelling on the past.

As I start choosing my three words for 2015, I will continue to live through these words, but the new ones will add an additional layer of focus and intention. I am amazed at the process because it is almost like the words choose themselves – I will hear or read the same word often and it seems to stick with me. I’ve had a running list since summer, and some just resonate more than others and get left on the list while others fall off. By January 1, I will have made my decision and will post the new words for the new year!

What three words will you choose for 2015?

Directing your day

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Photo courtesy of John Spooner (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of John Spooner (Creative Commons)

Does your life feel like you are flailing around in the surf being dragged by whatever current happens to be strongest?

Sometimes I feel like waves of responsibility and burden are crashing over me, dragging me away from where I’m wanting to go. It’s easy to sink into victim mode and feel like I don’t have any control.

But honestly, what is really happening is that I’m letting others dictate my life instead of directing myself.

Instead of letting the current sweep me away, it’s time to take some action. Time to be brave and get my power back.

One of my three focus words this year is DIRECT (read more here), and I realize I have done a poor job of directing. But that is shifting as I make some positive changes in how I approach each day.

I’m actually starting it the day before because I’m targeting the 2-3 main things I need to accomplish and writing them down. I use a couple of different apps for task and project management, but I find in this situation, somehow pen and paper work best.

I take a few minutes before I leave work for the day, and I review what I accomplished (or didn’t) that day, and what is critical for me to complete the following day. Those few things make my list.

I leave the list right in the center of my desk in front of my computer, with any materials needed for those tasks or projects clipped to the note. That way, it is the first thing I see the next morning, and everything I need to get busy is right there.

Is it fool-proof? No way! I’ve been doing this for about a week or so, and most days I finish maybe one of the things on the list and possibly start the others. But that is one more thing finished than I would have without the list.

Suddenly the waves seem calmer, just lapping at the shore.

How do you direct your day?

Wrangling time – Part 2

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Photo courtesy of Canadian Pacific (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Canadian Pacific (Creative Commons)

Time is precious, and there is nothing worse than getting to the end of a day or week and thinking that not only was the time a blur, but you are exhausted, frustrated and unfulfilled. When all you do is look forward to the weekend or “downtime” – it’s critical to gain a new perspective on what to spend your time on in the first place.

I’ve been exploring ways to waste less time (read Part 1), but the second part of that equation is to be more intentional about what I want to spend this new-found time on.

What I have realized is that I want to be more focused on doing things that support my mission.

I am currently taking Chris Brogan’s The Owner’s Path online course (affiliate link), and the first step (on which I have been stuck for weeks) is to define your mission. In later weeks, we revisit and revise it, but this initial exercise has been key to getting me set on the right route.

One thing I have noticed is that no matter how long I spend on some things, if it fits in with my mission, then I feel satisfied and energized.

My mission, in its current version, is “To fight Fear and live with no regrets, creating positive experiences for myself and others through my actions.”

So wasting time watching mindless TV or scrolling through my Facebook feed does not fit my mission. That explains why I feel out of sorts after spending even 5 minutes at that.

But the time I spend writing and editing my blogs each week – does fit my mission, and I feel satisfied and happy afterwards.

When I work making matches in I Run 4, the organization I volunteer with that pairs runners with those who cannot run, I am completely engaged. Hours pass without even a thought of being tired as I create these relationships  that can be life changing. I love fielding questions and hearing stories of how supported and uplifted the buddies feel and how motivated the runners are.

When I can shorten the time I spend on the non-mission related tasks, then I have more time to spend on the things that really matter. I love the feeling of ending the day knowing that I made a positive difference in someone’s life. That is a good way to spend my time!

Does the way you spend your time reflect your mission?