I didn’t do a Top 9 on social media to cap off this last year. It just didn’t seem right for me. But I did do a personal year-in-review. I kicked off the year with an exciting book tour, where I got to be with real people, in the real world. Then 2020 quickly showed its hand, and the downward spiral of disappointments, calendar deletions and derision kicked in. From getting pneumonia to sheltering-at-home with our kids, to contracting Covid along with my Bebe, to fighting long hauler syndrome. Gaining 12 pounds (which on my 5’2” frame is a huge hike), getting the worst haircut in a decade, constantly worrying about my isolated mom in her retirement community, letting go of friendships that didn’t hold up through all that 2020 threw at us, and receiving attacks and anti-Semitic slurs for publicly sharing about causes and candidates I believe in. In the words of King George in Hamilton, “Awesome. Wow.”
I often found myself clinging to the glass-is-half-full part of my nature inherited from my dad that’s served me so well all these years, grateful for all that we still have and all the silver linings. And I was constantly aware that there were millions upon millions who suffered far worse than I. But I do believe it’s important not to minimize our own losses, even if they pale in comparison to others’. And while I’m not a fan of wallowing, I believe grieving is an important part of the human experience. I knew that I couldn’t be fully present in the process of welcoming in a new year without taking time to mourn and to let go. So I did, by writing it all down and shredding it. Yes, I’m partial to the dramatic flair of burning such things, but I live in perpetually parched Southern California, and we live on a canyon, so I settle for shredding. I know that you’ve experienced so many hardships and frustrations and immense losses. If you haven’t already written down all that you want and need to let go, do it—today or tomorrow at the latest—and burn it or shred it or rip it to a thousand pieces. Whatever helps you leave all of it in the past and start anew.
Because that’s what we get to do each year – begin again. Look, I’m under no delusion that when the clock struck midnight on January 1 that it obliterated all the challenges. In fact, most of them are still with us. But we’re armed with more wisdom and insights than ever before, and I hope you’ll let me help you unlock yours.
Nearly a decade ago I stumbled upon the Word of the Year concept, long before it was all over the place and the cute washer bracelets existed. I found it during my attempt to tame my out-of-control, over-stretched, over-scheduled life. I loved the idea of figuring out the one word that would encapsulate the coming year for me. This would be so much more powerful than New Year’s resolutions, which usually end up as a neglected list of failures and disappointments by mid-February. It’s not just you and me who fail at resolutions; studies have shown that as few as 8% are actually kept.
But I also quickly realized that just declaring my One Word wasn’t going to be the magic elixir to get more out of life. And while it’s fun to post about a word and wear it on our wrists, to actually live in service to that word requires more. So I created a process that I take myself through every year, and ask you to do it too—my One Word Process. It was my desperate attempt to create an authentic and fulfilling life without being stressed, exhausted, scattered, bitchy and batshit crazy. And because I heard from so many of sale team and readers of this blog about how it’s changed their lives too, I made it one of the chapters in my second book.
Here’s how it works. First, you establish three Priorities that serve your One Word—the things that are most important and non-negotiable in your life right now. And then you set Goals that serve your Priorities—not ones that you think you should be going after, but what you want to accomplish.
It’s important to understand the difference between Priorities and Goals; I didn’t even know the difference until I was 42. I thought they were the same thing, but they’re not. Our Priorities are what’s most important and meaningful in our lives today. The values, lifestyle, principles, beliefs that are so important to us right now, and not serving them is non-negotiable. Our Goals are things that haven’t yet been realized, but they’re important enough to us that we’re committed to making them happen. So first, we have to determine our Priorities. Then, and this is a really important part, we have to set Goals that serve those Priorities. Because if we go after things that aren’t aligned with what we really want, that’s when we feel stressed, scattered and unfulfilled. Whenever I’m feeling this way, I know that’s what’s wrong.
I hope that by the time I’m done with you, you’ll be inspired to take the extra steps and do my whole process. It will give you a roadmap of where to focus your time, attention, and energy. And it gives you permission to let go of everything else.
If you’re an over-achiever like me, you might think you’re supposed to have a laundry list of Priorities, but you’re not. I’m a big believer that we can only serve three Priorities at a time. And because they’re non-negotiable now, we say them in the present tense.
As for your Goals, some of yours may include quantifiable ones like job promotions or revenue or income goals, and that’s completely appropriate if it serves your Priorities. This year, mine don’t include any of that. Because after a dozen years of tirelessly working my ever-loving ass off, right now in my life, I’ve reached all my quantifiable goals. I don’t feel like I have anything else to prove—to others or to myself. That may look different next year, or I even might add something during my quarterly check-ins on my Priorities and Goals that I encourage you to do too. The point is to make sure what you come up with is real, that you silence your inner critic or any of the external noise that can influence you and create your roadmap for the year.
So let me walk you through what I came up with.
Although 2020 shocked and confused and disappointed the hell out of me, it also gave me a new level of clarity about who I am, what I stand for, what I want, how I want to serve and who I want to cling to. I’ve known what my One Word for 2021 would be since late October. I was on one of my long walks around the neighborhood with our labradoodle Sadie, the glorious fall sun beating down on us. I was listening to an episode of the Michelle Obama podcast. She was interviewing her friend and the host of NPR’s “All Things Considered”, Michelle Norris. They were, not surprisingly, talking about the pandemic, how it changed each of them and their outlook on the world, and what this moment in history means. Ms. Norris said something that touched me to my core.
"We are all going through a significant period of evolution, and it means that there's an opportunity in that,” she said. “It feels burdensome right now, because so much has been taken from us. But there's such an incredible opportunity, to decide how you want to show up in the new world. Because it will be a new world. And my greatest hope is that we don't reach for normal, that we reach for better.”
Don’t reach for normal. Reach for better. That rang so true to me on that October morning, and still how I feel today. I want Better. Better thoughts and control over my emotions. Better treatment of this body I’ve been given. Better energy and light and words and work that I put out in the world. Better commitment to what I really want and what I know works for me. So my One Word for 2021 is BETTER.
Let’s make something clear: striving for better doesn’t mean being perfect. Once we learn lessons and triumph over challenges, it doesn’t mean that we won’t once again fall back into the patterns and behaviors that don’t serve us. I certainly did a lot of that last year. What it does require is an acknowledgement that we’re all works in progress, and we’re going to stumble and fall flat. It also requires that we’re more aware of our human-ness, our long-programmed predispositions and our Achilles heels. And that this awareness empowers us to course-correct faster and, yes, better.
In order to live better, it requires me to be smarter, more discerning, more disciplined and more free. That includes being better about how I spend my 8,760 hours in this year. I’ve coached and written a lot about what our time is worth and how to protect it and make sure we’re spending it on what’s truly important to each of us. In the last year I let far too many things that don’t serve me get my time and attention—comparison, competition, chaos, conspiracies, hypocrisy and negativity. In the pandemic I also found and rediscovered things I love, and it’s non-negotiable that I bring them with me into the new year.
Priority #1: I live every day with peaceful excitement about my life and everything in it.
Note the present tense, because this is non-negotiable now, and my inclusion of “peaceful.” I have no interest whatsoever in frenetic ups and downs; there was enough of that last year. And we had a year that took so much, that pared down our days. Even after the vaccines tame the pandemic, I want to keep my life pared down, filled only with the things that excite me, without the roller coaster, the drains and the distractions.
Some of my Goals to serve this Priority include:
Keep my focus on what I can control. This is an essential Goal for me. It requires me to let go of trying to control the world around me and any of the people in it. I’m still a recovering control freak, and I battle the delusion daily that I have the power over anything other than myself, my thoughts, my actions and the energy I’m putting out in the world. I have no control over the corona virus, how someone responds to something I’ve done or said or written, the actions or inactions of a team member, what our school district decides, the decisions or mistakes the people I work with make, or the things my kids do that no amount of urging or guidance will apparently change.
Keeping my focus on what I can control requires me to consistently ask myself throughout the day, “Is this within my control?” If not, I must redirect my attention and efforts back to what I can control—me. It also requires me to detach from anyone’s response to my kind gesture, my offer to help them with their skin or their bank account, my latest blog or even my attempt at a new dinner creation (ask John and the kids; I’m running a 50% batting average right now). I know I’m giving the best I’ve got at any given moment. That’s all we can ask of ourselves, and I will assume that others are too.
Unclutter my calendar and to-do list. This is one area I didn’t slack off with last year. I’ll continue to unsubscribe, unfollow, delete, delegate and respectfully decline without apology when it doesn’t serve my Priorities and Goals. And of course, no Should-ing allowed. Because if it’s a Should, it’s not serving what we really want.
Focus on the process. Ooh, this is an important one. It’s so easy to get caught up in the outcome. In the title or the prize or in the numbers—whether our monthly revenue or what the scale says. The truth is, through all I’ve worked toward and accomplished in my life, it’s the journey I’ve always loved the most. Everything I experience and learn getting from point A to Z, and then using it to help others along their journey too. When you’re an entrepreneur, success is defined by metrics, and it’s certainly important to understand what all the numbers mean, where you want yours to be and how you’re going to get there. But don’t let the numbers define you, and don’t think you failed if you didn’t hit the ones you were working toward.
When I released my latest book last January, everyone had huge hopes for it—my publisher, my publicist, my friends and me. My editor told me that out of all the titles she recently worked on, including those from many authors I deeply respect, she said she was most excited about my book. It was exciting. And a little terrifying. I felt a lot of pressure. You Can Have It All didn’t hit the New York Times Bestseller List, and it was a few hundred copies short of the Wall Street Journal’s list. And in spite of it being featured in top-tier magazines, cable news and morning shows around the country, my first book still outsells my second.
If I allowed myself to focus on the metrics, I couldn’t fully cherish the experiences this crazy, amazing adventure gave me: from the proposal and writing process; to working with my fabulous editor who brought out the best writing I’ve ever done; the countless conversations on my book tour with women who’ve experienced the very same struggles I wrote about and were hungry for life-changing tools; and that, after my dozen years as a PR pro getting my clients ink and air time, I got to be the interview subject. What a trip. The notes and posts and reviews from readers telling me how much my book impacted their lives wouldn’t touch me as deeply. And I wouldn’t have embraced all the invaluable lessons I learned about the publishing industry and more about myself and what lights me up and what doesn’t. Including that, for me, numbers have always and will always take a back seat to making a real impact on people’s lives.
What metrics are you working toward in your life? No matter what they are and what part of your life they fit into, I hope you’ll make the journey of getting there the most important part. Because I promise you that when you do, it’ll be the most rewarding part.
Priority #2: I give my body and mind what they need to be strong and free.
If I know anything beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s this: if I don’t take care of my body and mind, everything else goes to shit. And I’m willing to bet a sizable wager that the same is true for you. Part of my Half-Century Wisdom I’ve amassed is knowledge about what works for me. What keeps me healthy, strong and full of energy, clear-minded and able to focus and make sound decisions. What allows me to practice patience, kindness, empathy and able to lead with love. So my Goals to serve this Priority are all about recommitting myself to all those things, and it’s the Priority with the most Goals this year.
My Goals to serve this Priority include:
Move my body every day. Our bodies need to move and break a sweat every day, not just for the health of our bodies, but our mental well-being too. And since I’m still not 100% over Covid long-hauler symptoms, I have to ask myself what kind of movement I need on any given day. If my body is telling me I need a gentle yoga instead of the Tabata drills I saw on Instagram, I’m going to honor it. The point is to move.
Get 8 hours of sleep. I know this. You likely know this. But over the last year I fell out of my strict commitment to getting enough zzzz’s. I mean what did it matter? We weren’t going anywhere and what day was it anyway? And there was so much Netflix to watch! But I don’t like who I am and what I’m able to do without enough sleep. Even the greatest eye creams on the planet won’t counteract a sleep deficit. So my phone and iPad are once again banned from the bedroom, and if I can’t get to everything by 10 pm, I’m trying to do too much.
Eat whole foods and mostly plants. I know what works for my body, and that’s eating almost all vegan with a little seafood and grass-fed beef, no refined sugar, no gluten and very few processed foods. Well that got blown to shit around July. I stress ate. I buried my worries in baking (well, the baking wasn’t really the problem, the eating part of it was). I’m not really freaked out that I gained 12 pounds, or that there’s a whole lot of fabulous clothes I can’t fit into. I’m annoyed, but I’m not going anywhere to wear them any time soon. It’s that I don’t feel as good, I don’t have as much energy to pour into the things and people that I want to, I don’t enjoy my workouts as much. And here’s the kicker—I don’t feel as confident or as empowered as I’m used to. Which means I’m less inclined to channel my inner Bridgerton with John. (If you haven’t watched the latest from Shondaland on Netflix, I highly recommend. Oh. Em. Gee.) And, since I’m being really honest, I haven’t shared my before and afters of the latest anti-aging regimen I rep because in the after pic, my now full face with the bumps I get from sugar and gluten detracts horribly from the fact that my skin is brighter, firmer and smoother-looking.
I’m not panicking or obsessing, and I’m not rushing myself to get back into my book tour bod. In fact, I may never get back there, and that’s ok. And I’m not telling you what to eat. But if what you put in your pie hole during the pandemic has negatively affected your life and your ability to do the things you want to do and show up feeling the way you want to feel, you can change it. And it really does only take three days to lose the sugar cravings. Thank God.
Insulate myself from drama. Of course, drama isn’t going to disappear from our lives. But we have control over how much we let in our lives. Just living through 2020 was dramatic, but I’m not talking about that kind of drama. I’m talking about negative and mean people, gossip, folks who are upset with you but don’t want to have a conversation with you about it, and getting pulled into skirmishes in sandboxes you don’t even play in. I’m usually much better at this than I was last year, and I’m just going to give myself pandemic grace. But I’ve recommitted to a zero-drama policy. And I’m so excited about the extra time and space and light it’s going to fill my year with. Imagine how much extra time and space and light you could fill yours with if you adopted the same policy.
Connect every day with other humans outside of my immediate family and my business. One of the things that got me through last year, and that I want to keep after the pandemic is over, are daily exchanges with friends and family. And social media doesn’t count. It’s amazing how an actual phone call or a voice text exchange every day gives me a much-needed break and makes me feel connected beyond who’s in our house and what’s going on in my business.
Priority #3: I make a positive impact on the lives of others.
This is really what my life’s work has been about—at least the parts of it that have been the most fun and fulfilling. To growing my team and working with my customers. To the books and blogs I’ve written, the talks I give and the causes I’m devoted to. Throughout my careers, whenever I couldn’t connect my time, effort and energy to a positive impact on others, I became woefully unfulfilled, frustrated and, consequently, not very effective. It happened to me as a lawyer, and in the parts of my PR work that seemed inconsequential. And when I lose sight of the people I get to serve through my business, and instead become mired in all the stuff that has nothing to do with positively impacting my organization or my customers, that’s when I lose my way and lose my passion. And no one gets the best of me.
So My Goals that serve this Priority include:
Devote my business efforts solely on what moves the needle. This includes leading by example and bringing the team together for useful, efficient, no-fluff trainings and work sessions, All this without getting distracted by anything else that crops up, which requires me to stay in my lane. I’m not the corporate compliance department, I can’t respond to every message or email or tag airing frustrations or requesting help and information, and I certainly can’t drag anyone toward what they say their business goals are. I can inspire you, but only you can find your motivation.
Get more involved with the causes I care madly about. I have several that I’m enormously passionate about, some of which are universally embraced—like the fight against hunger—and others that are highly charged issues like racial and social justice and common-sense gun legislation. I have the time to really dig in this year, in ways that transcend financial support. After this last year, I’m no longer concerned with the repercussions. I talked about issues important to me, and I lost followers and people I thought were friends, people I’ve served for years sprinkled nastiness around my social media, and unfiltered hate dropped into my inbox. But that’s ok. I can’t control that.
I love a multitude of ideas and viewpoints and fact-based debates; in fact it’s one of the few parts of practicing law that I actually enjoyed. And I try like hell not to put people into boxes and hope others will resist the urge to do that to me. For example, people who take the time to ask are often surprised that even though I believe there should be public gun safety measures, we’re a gun-owning family, and John and Nate have had a blast taking gun safety classes together and going to the shooting range.
I love what Glennon Doyle said in an episode of The Dissenters podcast, “Everybody wants purpose and people. Well, if you actually sit with what pisses you off, that will be a big red arrow pointing you towards your purpose. And the amazing thing is when you get to that place, you find your people.”
I will no longer censor myself from sharing all I am, all I’m passionate about and the facts that support it. If any of that makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to ask yourself why. And if what I’m involved in and the facts I put out in the world make you mad or inclined to shoot off a comment that’s snarky at best or scathing at worst, then I’m not your people.
I don’t know all the ways I’m supposed to serve while I’m on this Earth, how I can make the world a better place. And that’s ok. I know there’s no need to be in a rush to figure out all that we are and all the reasons why we’re here. The important part—the essential part to living—is to take steps every day to figure it out, to fuck fear and act and speak and try and explore. I know that’s what will bring us where we’re supposed to be, serving those we’re meant to serve.
Now it’s your turn to declare your One Word, your Priorities and Goals. I promise you, it will be worth the time investment, especially if you look at them every day and make sure you’re staying true to what’s really important to you. And if you want to learn how to relentlessly edit your life so you can actually focus on that stuff, how to protect your time and your emotions, to develop habits that will serve you, to take control over technology, embrace quiet, live authentically, practice forgiveness, #FFEAR and most importantly, love yourself, I wrote it all down for you. No, it’s not a New York Times bestseller, but it’s a roadmap how to build the life you really want—whatever that means to you. And I do think it’s better than my first one.
Although 2020 was relentless, it showed us how resilient we can be, if we allow it. I hope you’ll join me and not wish for normal, but for BETTER. Your better, whatever that is. And in the wise words of Harry Styles, may we treat people with kindness, starting with ourselves.
After you’ve done this important intention-setting (yes, you have time; in fact, you having enough time depends on it), I’d love to hear what your One Word is and your Priorities that are non-negotiable for your life right now (remember, put them in the present tense). Light up the comments with all 2021 holds for you, and then get to it!