For the last three years I have done a personal reflection project called One Little Word®. If you’ve been following me for a while you have seen me write about it already. The idea, as it was conceived by crafting guru Ali Edwards, is simple: select a single word that captures something you want to cultivate in your life, something you want to explore over the next year. Make the word visible to you and allow it to be your guide. Here’s how I described the practice back in 2016:
“… you choose a word that speaks to you and the person you would like to become. It is your touchstone, your mantra, for the next 12 months. Broader than a resolution, your one word is a guiding principle for all areas of your life … Think about who you want to be a year from now. What traits do you want to cultivate? What do you want to accomplish?" (read the full post here).
I prefer this practice over new year’s resolutions, which are typically action-oriented and tend to make you feel like a failure if you don’t “do” them perfectly. There is no perfect way to “do” One Little Word®. My first two years I simply posted the word around my home and thought about it regularly. Last year I did an online workshop with monthly prompts. It’s had a profound impact on me regardless of the method.
My past words have been GOOD ENOUGH (2016), ACTION (2017), and BOUNDARIES (2018). My word for 2019 will be FEARLESS, and frankly it terrifies me! Before settling on it I considered a bunch of others, including authentic, true, simplify, and now. One evening a couple weeks ago this new word hit me like a ton of bricks and it immediately made me feel sick to my stomach. What would FEARLESS push me to do in the coming year? The thought freaks me out, but I know in my gut it’s exactly what I need.
Having participated in this project for several years now I have found I alternate between a bold, extroverted word and one that is more introspective. In 2017 my year of ACTION was just that: I took on big projects in my business and personal life and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. While that was beneficial in many ways, I ended the year feeling exhausted and burned out. That informed my choice for 2018 of BOUNDARIES, which forced me to pull back and reconsider all of my commitments. I did a lot of internal work looking at the activities, people, and jobs that were emotionally draining, and I made some changes. I took a big step back from social media in 2018 and am still figuring out how I want to engage in it. And I made decisions about the type of work I want to focus on in my business.
After a year of looking inward and setting more intentional boundaries, I am ready to push myself again. I've become aware of the major role fear plays in my actions (or, more accurately, inactions), and I need a kick in the ass to move past it. As a chronic perfectionist and over-thinker, I want to use FEARLESS as my guide to put more of myself and my work out into the world.
Once I have chosen a word I find it starts appearing in my life, or maybe I just start noticing it everywhere. A few nights after FEARLESS came to me, I was listening to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations with poet and cancer survivor Mark Nepo. In it, he read one of his poems:
Freefall - Mark Nepo
If you have one hour of air
and many hours to go,
you must breathe slowly.
If you have one arm's length
and many things to care for,
you must give freely.
If you have one chance to know God
and many doubts, you must
set your heart on fire.
We are blessed.
Every day is a chance.
We have two arms
Fear wastes air.
That was all the convincing I needed to make 2019 my year to be FEARLESS.
(I would recommend listening to the entire interview with Mark Nepo. You can do so here: Part 1 & Part 2.)
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