For the past 6 years-long before it was a "thing" all over the place with bracelets and today show coverage-I've been choosing my one word for the year and asking all of you to do it with me.
I happened upon the concept in a random article I read in December of 2013. It was one of those times when something finds you at exactly the right time. I was looking for a way to kick off the New Year with focus and intention. I had long since come to believe that resolutions weren’t the ticket. I knew I wasn’t alone in having a pile of neglected disappointments and failures every year by around mid-February. Like so many of you, I was overwhelmed and overloaded, trying to grow what would turn into an 8-figure business, I was raising two little kids, trying to be a good wife and still have time for showers and work outs and sanity. I knew that if I didn’t create a way for me to know where to focus my time, attention, energy and emotions—and where not to—I was never going to be able to run this marathon. And even if I crossed the metaphorical finish line, I’d be so exhausted and sick and stressed and unfulfilled that it would render my success irrelevant. So when this concept of choosing ONE WORD to anchor my year found me, it gave me a starting point for how I could get more focused with my life.
Thankfully I was also savvy enough about my challenges and women all over just like me, to understand that simply declaring ONE WORD wouldn’t be enough. I knew that without establishing priorities for the coming year, how could anyone know where to spend her time? To say Yes to what really mattered, No to what didn’t, and the permission to stop Should’ing all over the place.
So as I ushered in 2014, I developed a practice that I’ve been following ever since, and I’ve been inviting all of you to do it with me. I’ve received countless texts, emails, voicemails, blog comments and handwritten notes over the years, sharing how much this process dramatically and beneficially impacted people’s lives. And now we get to do it again, together.
Here’s how it works. We each figure out the ONE WORD that encapsulates our intention for the next year. What we hope to work on, experience, accomplish, give and receive. It’s your guidepost, your mantra, becoming a part of you and your being throughout the next 12 months. And it’s not what you think it should be. Your ONE WORD must speak to your heart, your soul. Sounds pretty heavy, I know, but only you can determine what it is, because only you know what you truly want.
It’s important for you to understand that this ONE WORD exercise is so much more than a declaration. It’s a process. Once we figure out our ONE WORD, from there we can establish our Priorities that serve that word, and then set our Goals that serve our Priorities. I’m not talking about a habit you’re trying to start or break, like many resolutions. This process establishes our intention for the year, the focus from which everything else flows—our thinking, our decisions, our actions, our day-to-day living.
Every year tens of thousands of team members join me, but only a small fraction do the entire process. And I’ve heard from enough people to know that the likelihood that you’ll live in service to your ONE WORD—that you’ll grow in all parts of your life—is significantly reduced if you don’t do the whole thing—if you don’t establish your Priorities and set your Goals. Remember, simply declaring ONE WORD, posting about it on Instagram and Facebook and even sporting a hip metal washer bracelet isn’t going to enhance or change your life. Like everything else that’s worthwhile, it’s going to take digging deep, doing the work and being ruthlessly honest with yourself. Please do the work. If you do and get nothing out of it, you don’t have to do it next year. But what if it transforms the way you think, work, play, love and live? Would it be worth it?
If you don’t know what you really want this year this is the perfect opportunity to give yourself permission to be selfish (instead of selfless) and figure it out. If you’re having a hard time hearing what I like to call your Heart Voice—whether it’s to determine your ONE WORD or anytime throughout the year to stay true to you—I implore you to make sure to find stillness at some point in every day. It can be as little as 5 minutes, but it’s just you and your breathing. No screens or scrolling, no to-do lists, no multi-tasking. On any given day I find it through yoga or meditation or the Headspace App or sitting quietly in our backyard and observe nature and our dogs. The monkey mind quiets, the critics are silenced, and that’s when my Heart Voice can get through. So get still and clear your mind. I promise you, your heart is trying to tell you something. And that’s where you’ll find your ONE WORD that captures your intention for your life this year.
As for my ONE WORD this year, I fought what my heart was telling me for a while because I thought it was too obvious. Too copy-cattish, if you will. But I kept coming back to it. I was doubting it because of what others might think of my choice. Sound familiar? How many times do we all do this when making choices for our lives? But this is my year, my ONE WORD, and I know what’s true for me right now. BECOMING. Yep, Michelle Obama, #IAmBecoming too.
I read (or rather listened to) the former First Lady’s book; it was my favorite of the year. And no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, whether you were in favor of her husband’s policies or her initiatives, or what you thought you knew about this woman, I encourage you to read it. And not because she spends considerable time singing the praises of the town that raised me, Butte, Montana. But because you can’t help but be inspired, to understand more about America and to understand more about yourself.
The biggest takeaway from her autobiography is that throughout our lives, we’re constantly evolving, and growing. We have the gift of continually editing and rewriting the narrative of our lives by taking chances, reinventing ourselves, daring to dream bigger and wanting more for us and others. I identified so much with Michelle’s story. Not because I was born a black girl on the Southside of Chicago. But because I, too, used to be detail-oriented, check-the-box kind of achiever, who spent most of my 20s and 30s craving control, worrying about what others thought of me and letting too many should’s eat up my time. The most rewarding, successful and fulfilling part of my life happened when I figured out who I really am and what I really want, and when I gave myself permission to be my most authentic self—including my shortcomings, idiosyncrasies and imperfections. And like Michelle, it took a slightly odd, marches-to-his-own drummer, intellectual kind of guy who was drawn to a higher purpose to soften my corners, relax my rigidity and extend the deadlines on my to-do lists.
But here’s the thing, once you discover who you are and what you want and give yourself permission to be unapologetically authentic, you’re not done. You’re never done. Because life is an endless opportunity to keep discovering You and what you’re here to do.
This last year was a challenging one for me. Health struggles with a debilitating flare up of the Epstein Barre Virus, projects that had to wait because I only had so much energy, and business challenges that I had no control over. When my EBV got so bad that I was bedridden for weeks, I had to make my health my number one priority to heal. I had to let go of some goals and put a different deadline on others. But once again I learned that everything happens for a reason, and to TRUST (my ONE WORD last year) that life works out if we pay close attention to our Heart Voice and the opportunities to learn and grow being placed in front of us.
Even with the delays and deletions, I still found myself closing 2018 grounded, healthy, having more Mom Wins than losses, having served thousands of people in the best way I could, and celebrating a lifelong dream—inking a huge book deal with a publisher who works with best-selling authors I deeply admire. I learned that no matter what comes at us—the things in our control and out of it—the one thing we undeniably own is how we respond. What’s the story we tell ourselves about what’s happening and how we’re going to get through it and what it’s teaching us. I learned so much about myself in the last year because I was forced to slow down. I took big strides forward in BECOMING more of the person I was meant to be. I ruthlessly, blessedly edited where I spend my time and what I’ll tolerate, accepting where I add value and where I don’t. And it felt so good. And made me healthier. And, I believe, made me even more effective as a parent, a wife, an entrepreneur, a leader and a writer who’s trying to create another tool to help others #livefullout.
I was reminded, once again, that it’s far more effective and satisfying to focus on the critical few things that really matter to us, versus foolishly attempting to tackle all the possible goals we think we should or others think we should.
At 48, I’m still in progress, and my goal is to always be evolving. As Michelle wrote, “Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere, or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end….It’s all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.”
So for me this year is all about continuing that evolution and seeing where it takes me. Becoming more of who I’m meant to be, how I can better serve my family, our team, the larger human community. How I can better focus on my passions and what drives me—naysayers, doubters and critics be damned. And always remembering that what matters is not the size of the steps I take, but that I’m taking them. Every damn day.
Now to the rest of the process. Remember, once we have this overarching intention, we’re far from done. We get to establish our Priorities that serve our ONE WORD. And then we get to set our Goals that serve our Priorities. This process is so important because it provides you with a life instruction manual of sorts: if something doesn’t support your Priorities or serve your Goals, you don’t do it. You’ll only focus on the things that do.
But first, let’s make sure you understand the difference between Priorities and Goals.
Priorities are what’s most important and meaningful in our lives today. The values, beliefs, lifestyle, principles and standards. The things that we’re not willing to give up for anything. I think of them as the non-negotiables of our lives right now. And I always declare them in the present tense.
Goals are different. They’re a future-based end result or experience that we’re working towards creating and achieving. In other words, our Goals are things that haven’t yet been realized but we are committed to working to make them happen.
Here’s what’s so important about their relationship: if our goals don’t support our Priorities, we feel off, scattered, stressed and unfulfilled. It’s because we’re not living our truth. So I’m asking you to invest the time to really soul search your Priorities and then align your Goals with them.
And I’m a big believer that at any one time we can only focus on so much. So, each year I set a maximum of three Priorities and five Goals, and I encourage you to do the same. Unless you’ve found that elusive pill that gives you more than 24 hours in a day and no need for sleep. And if you have, I want some!
As you figure out your Priorities that serve your ONE WORD, know that you may be putting some others on the back burner in exchange for the ones that are most important right now. And that’s ok. Repeat after me: I cannot do everything. Go ahead, say it. And here’s another one you’ve got to believe: I’m not supposed to be able to do everything. C’mon, repeat it with me: I’m not supposed to be able to do everything.
So now I get to show you how this works.
I have 3 Priorities in service of BECOMING this year, and take note that I’m declaring them in a present tense and active voice. Because these are the things that are non-negotiable for me right now, not a future action or achievement I’m working toward. Then there are Goals I’ve set that serve each Priority.
Because I know if I’m not healthy, everything else turns to shit.
I have 4 Goals to serve this Priority:
Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. This is a continual struggle with my night-owl, entrepreneurial, mom-who-just-wants-peace-and-quiet-time self. But it’s essential to my health.
Stick to my plant-based diet. I started eating this way last year when I was so sick, after finally acknowledging what I’d known for years and what John’s medical training had taught him—the fewer animal products we eat as humans, the healthier we’ll be. You can call me a flexitarian, a mostly-vegan, but I don’t like labels in general, so when people ask, I simply say that I eat mostly plants. I know that EBV doesn’t like it when I eat 90% whole food plants, no refined sugar, no eggs and no dairy. And since I’m committed to keep kicking that virus’ ass, making sure I’m able to eat what my body needs every damn day is non-negotiable.
Make time for stillness and reflection every day. As I’ve already mentioned, I know it’s essential for me to be able to hear my Heart Voice so I know what I want and have the tools to keep things in perspective, make tough decisions and keep stress at bay in my full and blessed and often chaotic life.
Build back my physical strength and endurance. I still don’t have the full strength and endurance I had before I got so sick, and I want it back. But not through exercise I know is no longer good for me. I’ve accepted that the likes of Tabata classes and kick boxing are the opposite of what my body needs and I’ve had to silence the voices in my head that tell me I should be doing workouts like the CrossFit or Orange Theory Insta stories I see. I’m really happy for those folks and am cheering them on, but I’m listening to my body every day and it’s telling me how it wants to move. I’ve become obsessed with Yoga—power and hatha—and I also love long walks and functional workouts that are gentler on my body. And wouldn’t you know, my bod is responding in a way I haven’t seen since long before kids.
The more time I put into making my body, mind and spirit as strong as it can be, the more effective I am in the rest of my life. Period. If you’re telling yourself that you don’t have time to take care of you and your health, in a few minutes I’m going to argue that you do.
On to my other two Priorities, and the Goals that serve them.
I’ve always been there for my family, sometimes more or less, especially when I was in the process of building the foundation of what would become a ginormous business. But this year, I want to take full advantage of the luxury of deciding where every bit of my time goes, and where and when I need and want to be for my family. Even if it means saying No more often. And I want to do it all in a much calmer way.
I have 4 Goals to serve this Priority:
Put away my phone more. It serves no one to be connected 24x7, and I’ve learned it’s actually bad for our health, well-being and productivity, and horrible modeling for our children. I was attached to my phone less in 2018, but I must do even better this year. I can still have plenty of time to be present on social media, email, Marco Polo, texting and there for all of you—while still trying to master the art of Insta stories—if I confine my phone use only to pockets of time throughout the day. One in the morning, one midday and one at night. And when it’s not one of those pockets, I won’t be checking this palm-sized crack fix. My brain deserves better, and so do John, Nate and Bebe.
Have more unscheduled time together on our family calendar. Or as my husband likes to call, “just hanging out.” It’s so easy to be over-scheduled and overcommitted, so I’m going to help the kids, John and me say no to more extra-curriculars, events and commitments. If I don’t, I’m teaching the kids to be over-committed and stressed out instead of focusing on what’s really important, which must include down time and add time for spontaneity.
Involve the kids more in their life logistics. I want them to learn how to be organized and proactive, and I want to be less resentful of having to do it all.
Don’t let the little things get to me. Things like a mouthing off 10-year-old who thinks she’s 25. In other words, I’m bringing something I preach in business all the time to my parenting. I always coach not to be attached to the outcome of any one conversation. So when a mom-kid interaction doesn’t go how I hope, I’ll of course reflect and refine. But I won’t let it put a big cloud over my day or send me into a mild case of batshit crazy.
I know I don’t know everything, I’m not good at everything, and I’m certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. But nine years into this entrepreneurial adventure, and thousands and thousands of messages, comments, posts and emails from team members and readers has shown me where I can make a difference. Where my voice and my thoughts and my strategy are most helpful to others. And this year I’m going to focus solely on those things, BECOMING even better and more valuable to those I’m privileged enough to serve.
The first Goal is to Be authentic in every single thing I do. I’ve learned that’s the only way for me to be my most effective.
I’m going to keep the rest of my Goals that serve this Priority to myself for now, but I promise you’ll see them in time. Know they all revolve around serving those who are willing to consistently work and stretch and grow to design the lives they really want.
There you have it, the blueprint of my year. It’s not complicated; it simply takes time and digging deep.
And just as every year, establishing my Priorities and setting my Goals has required a companion exercise. I’ve had to figure out what needs to be on my “Stop Doing List” to make sure that I have the time to focus on the things I really want. You’ve likely heard me refer to the business bible, Good to Great, in which Jim Collins argues that this list is just as important than our To-Do List. In fact, I know from personal experience that this process I’m taking you through is impossible to execute if you don’t concurrently determine what you’re going to stop doing. So once again, I’m assigning you this list too.
You’ve already heard that I’m going to stop being tethered to my phone. I’m also going to stop putting pressure on myself to respond to everyone right away or keep track of everyone on social media, knowing that if someone I care about and who cares about me has important news, he or she will call or text me. I will stop chasing people who don’t return my calls or texts, who don’t say thank you, who say they’re going to do something and don’t. And I will stop getting caught up in other people’s negativity or sky-is-falling tendencies, reframing those conversations with facts and reason. And if I can’t, I’ll simply remove myself.
My wish for you as you dig deep to find your ONE WORD, establish your Priorities and set your Goals is that you remember you’re BECOMING too. We all get to rewrite our stories every year. Hell, every day. Think your past performance dictates your future prospects?
Think that someone like you doesn’t get to experience success like someone like me? Or that you don’t have what it takes? I call bullshit on all of it, and I challenge you to write a different story about who you are and what life holds for you. I adore this quote from Cheryl Strayed that I hope will touch you just as much:
“Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”
Each of us gets to write the story of where we’ve been and where we’re headed. I could’ve said about last year, “I didn’t get done all I wanted to do because of that damn virus.” Instead, my story is, “I learned so much more about who I am and what I need and to trust God and the Universe, and I’m stronger, wiser, braver and more powerful because of what I experienced.”
As you let go of the things that didn’t serve you in 2018 and reach for the new you, remember this: the old you got you here, to this day. The old you survived every challenge, every disappointment, every heartbreak, every failure. The old you is stronger, wiser, braver and more powerful. So embrace her, applaud her, forgive her, love on her and bring her into the new year not to become a new you, but a better version of you. A more efficient, focused, self-loving, fulfilled version of you.
I want to leave you with some words I wrote in December that are very dear to me. Our family traveled to Israel over the holidays for Nate’s dream bar mitzvah. At a bar or bat mitzvah it’s customary for the parents to tell their son or daughter some words of wisdom. Among other things, I wanted to share with Nate on that monumental day that where we focus our time, energy, thoughts and actions defines our life and who we are. So I gave my son a list of the things I hope he focuses on in his life, and I know that some of them are perfect to send you out into the great, exciting unknown that is 2019.
I hope you focus less on being perfect and more on taking risks and giving yourself the freedom to fail, because it’s in our mistakes, missteps and full-out failures that we learn the most about life and about ourselves.
I hope you focus less on doing things to elicit praise and more on doing what will serve your passions.
Focus less on feeding an image of what you think others expect of you and more on feeding your imagination of what you are here to do and what your life can look like.
Focus less on checking the boxes and achieving status and more on the satisfaction that comes from living your truth in all parts of your life.
And may you always remember that the one thing that you have that nobody else has is YOU. Your voice. Your mind. Your heart. Your vision. Nobody else gets to write the story of your life but you, and I know it’s going to be one hell of a story. I’m excited, honored and privileged to watch what you create.
Now let's get to it!