Finding Direction in the New Year: When one word just isn’t enough

Have you ever picked a word for the year? It is a popular year end process. Picking a word for the year is a great way to focus your mind and goals for the coming year. It helps create more life-clarity too! I’ve done it several times, but as a visual thinker a word for the year sometimes just isn’t enough for me. I’ve found that picking a word for the year is just too limiting, too narrow, when I am seeking direction for my future. Have you also had a hard time coming up with just one word to guide your next steps?

Don’t settle for just one word for the year. Pick a guiding concept instead!

For several years now, I have expanded my year end reflection beyond just a word for the year. I look for a concept that will guide me through the coming months. This process of selecting an annual guiding concept is a great way to start goal setting for the year. A guiding concept creates a solid foundation for any resolutions or goals, not matter the size or focus of what you want to accomplish.

I’ve met other people who also don’t like to stick with just a word for the year. Instead they pick guiding concepts like a famous quote, a song or even an image. It doesn’t really matter what form it takes as long as the concept really resonates with you in powerful way. The key I’ve found is to pick one to start with and allow yourself to add to it in the future.

You may have picked something like this in the past, or perhaps it is a new practice for you. Either way, this practice is a great way to transition from one year into the next!

Examples of my recent guiding concepts

I selected the phrase “slow down” for 2018. I picked this while doing a very slow walking meditation on December 31, 2017. I was strongly impacted by the feeling of moving so slowly. While physically inching my way along the Oregon coast that day, I was overwhelmed with how different it felt to move slow. Why? Because I spend so much of my life in a hurry! I was not okay with this being my habit! I really wanted to try to change this about my lifestyle. What better than to commit to finding ways to “slow down” for an entire year? 

The year prior, I picked just one word for the year, “Invest”, trying to stick to the popular practice. I couldn’t stick to just that one word though and decided on several ways I was going to “invest” throughout the year. I had recently moved and started some new responsibilities so I really wanted to invest in my local community, my business, my relationships and in myself. Looking back over the whole year, it is amazing to see all the ways I invested in these four areas throughout 2017.

Ten years ago, I picked Psalm 143: 8-10 as my first guiding concept in 2009. This was such a profound experience that this verse still guides me today. It was easy to memorize this prayer for daily guidance. The prayer has become part of me and my daily morning routine. 

I have truly been blessed by this habit of picking a guiding concept for the year. I know you will be too! 

So how do I pick one? It is really about “finding” it, or letting the idea “find” you. Most years it takes me a week or two to decide on a guiding concept and walking is one of my favorite “hunting” techniques.

Taking a walk to find your guiding concept

Reflective thinking is great to do while walking outside if at all possible. I have shared my research on the benefits of walking in green spaces before. The fresh air and greenery that normally comes with walking outside will really help get your creative juice flowing.

To start, you’ll want to pick the type of guiding concept you want to use for the year:

  • A word (which is definitely okay!)
  • A phrase
  • A quote/verse
  • An image
  • A song

Once you’ve narrowed down the type of guiding concept you think you want, you want to start thinking about the idea it will contain. You might ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Is it an action or more of an attitude?
  • Is it focused just on me or other people, or both?
  • Is it serious or light-hearted?
  • Is it already familiar to me or brand new?
  • Is it in reaction to some part of the previous year?

Be willing to slow down in your search for a guiding concept

Give yourself time to select your guiding concept.

It took me about a week to decide on the word “Invest” for 2017. For 2018, I thought I had settled on “Grace & Power” about mid-December. Little did I know how strongly I would be impacted on New Year’s Eve by the walking meditation. In that moment I knew I had to change my guiding concept for 2018.

Sometimes this need to change to a different guiding concept happens so hold your idea loosely at first. Most years it takes me several weeks to settle on the one that feels right. Be patient with yourself. Let yourself find it, or be found by it like happened to me a year ago on the Oregon coast.

When you feel that sense of confident excitement while thinking of a certain guiding concept, I think that is how your heart and mind are letting you know you’ve found the right one for the year. It will resonate with you and just feel right, even if it is a bit scary or a bit challenging.

Start with a walk, and see where your thoughts lead as you consider the types and questions listed above. If you haven’t settled on a guiding concept by the end of your walk, just jot down the ideas that came to you when you get back. I bet when you look over those ideas a few days later, at least one will be a little more appealing then the others!

Documenting your guiding concept

Once you’ve picked your guiding concept you might want to find a way to document your choice. This past year I created a chart where I could record pictures and words that described how I slowed down for the month. In January I created 12 boxes, one to fill in each month.

When I thought I would focus on “Grace & Power” I colored an amazing owl thinking it would be my mascot for the year. Owls an amazing animal. They are both powerful and graceful, a very hard combination to master. I used the finished owl to decorate a calendar at a friend’s end of year workshop in early December.

Even though I switched my guiding concept after finishing my work of art, I really enjoyed looking at my colorful owl all year long. This calendar hung by my desk at home reminding me of my initial guiding concept for the year. Even though I had decided to focus on slowing down, I enjoyed looking at this image all year.

I am a creative and crafty person. I love to make things of all kinds. I’ve found that the creative process is a great way for me process my thoughts. For 2017 I used a bit of art journaling to help me select and define my guiding concept. I wrote about it and my process in a blog post How Art Journaling Helped Create Clarity: #Invest2017. Creating some type of visual for your guiding concept can really help keep it around you throughout the entire year! There is no correct way to document your guiding concept or word for the year. How ever you do it will help you focus on your goal!

Want some help coming up with your guiding concept? I’d be happy to help! Contact me and we will get you started!


Post originally posted by Jessica Lynn Johnson for JLJ Coaching Services on 12/29/18

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