Since 2016, I have chosen 3 words to guide me through the year, rather than doing a New Year’s resolution. I find the words somehow lead me to new ideas and actions. Often they are reinforcing thoughts important to me, but there is real power in “sending the message out to the universe.” I distinctly remember in 2017 my word “authentic” continued to come back to me when other people would say to me things like, “what I really like about your work is it feels so authentic.” Yeah, that happened at least twice that year.
Once again, I spent time on my December day-long retreat to think about 2021 and the 3 words I want to guide me this year. As I reflected on 2020, I felt that my two words “rebalance” and “strategic” guided me well.
“Philanthropy” did not live up to what I had hoped. I did provide more pro bono career coaching and I had begun to do some career development workshops for the local Boy’s and Girl’s Club and then Covid hit and put an end to that. I did volunteer at the local food pantry once, but was uncomfortable with the close quarters it required…I am just not ready yet.
I reviewed my journal for the year looking for themes and words that repeated themselves. No surprise, COVID was repeated many times but there was quite a bit of writing about anxiety as well. With the pandemic, social injustice, and the divisive elections, my life seemed to have an undercurrent of anxiety all the time. 2020 is best viewed in the rear view mirror, I believe.
After much thought about the past year and where I want to be in the next year, I have landed on these three words to guide me in 2021.
Understanding ★ Kindness ★ Be
Understanding ★ As I think about our divided nation, I struggle with understanding the many friends and family who are so different from me politically. I try hard to see their perspective on so many issues, from Trump vs Democrats, mask vs no-mask, and more. I hope that this word will begin to guide me toward learning how they think, what they think, and what motivates them, in order to find some common ground.
The blatant social injustice that is going on in our country hurts me deeply. I have tried to better understand how I have been a part of that injustice in the past and currently, and what I can do to help change it in the future. I have made it a practice to read on this topic, watch TedTalks that enlighten me, and follow people who are speaking about this, like Baratunde Thurston and others, as a way to help me understand the issues. Understanding the issues is the first step in being able to make change.
Kindness ★ “Be kind to one another” is how Ellen DeGeneres ended her talk show for years. It is a simple statement and simple to follow her advice. Along with understanding people, I feel like the word kindness will guide me forward even when I don’t understand. Maybe it will help me understand people better, maybe it won’t, but if I lead with kindness first and always keep it at the forefront of what I do, it will help me be a better person.
There were times this year that I didn’t feel kind towards everyone. There were people saying and doing things that offended me and my first reaction was negative. I want my first reactions to be kindness first. 2020 was a very difficult year for so many people, financially, socially, mentally, and more. I want to do whatever small things I can to be kind to others and hopefully make their day a little bit better if I can.
Be ★ This word spoke to me. I rejected it initially thinking it was too small and did not carry the meaning of my three words over the years. But then I realized the power of this word in guiding me daily through 2021. I want to be present more. I want to be in the moment at all times. I want to be authentic in how I approach life…in all things I do.
For me the opposite of this word is the “shoulds,” the “want to do’s,” and the “maybe’s. ” As I thought about all the times I say to myself I “should” do something or I “want” to do something, I hope to take those future oriented words and convert my thinking to the present…to be here, wherever that is and with whoever I am with. I want to be me at all times.
Those are my three words for 2021 and below are my three words for the past five years. I have printed them off and tape them to my bathroom mirror, the fridge, my photocopier in my office, and I will begin each journal entry by writing them down before I start journaling. This way I start each day thinking about these words to guide me.
Here are my words from past years. I don’t think they truly ever go away. They were important to me then and still are now, as a clue to who I am and who I want to be.
2016 – Health ★ Mindfulness ★ Focus
2017 – Intentional ★ Authentic ★ Wellness
2018 – Reach ★ Capacity ★ Consistency
2019 – Reflection ★ Purposeful ★ Gratitude
2020 – Philanthropy ★ Rebalance ★ Strategic
Do you choose three words each year?
Would you like to try it this year?
If you do, please share them with me.
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a weekly email for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching.
He is the author of A Field Guide for Career Practitioners: Helping Your Clients Create Their Next Move and the recipient of the 2020 Kenneth C. Hoyt Award from the National Career Development Association.
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