“Take care of your words and the words will take care of you.”
– Amit Ray
For the seventh year, I’m sharing with you the concept of One Word. I was introduced to this idea at the end of 2015 by my colleague and friend Jeanie Burke. It involves choosing one word to express your resolutions/hopes/wishes/goals for the coming year. I’ve been amazed at the impact of this seemingly simple exercise.
There’s a lot of information available on the One Word concept. My research indicates the idea became a movement due to the writings and work of Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page, and you can find more information on their website Get One Word. Simply put, instead of making a list of specific resolutions, which are often abandoned or forgotten by February, choose one word as your theme for the coming year.
What’s the possible impact of choosing one word? What’s been my experience? Keep reading to find out.
The word I chose for 2016 was … DARE. I wanted to push against some of my self-created boundaries, challenge some of my fears, and knock on more doors simply to see what was on the other side. With the word DARE humming in the back of my mind, I: got meetings with senior VPs at one of Canada’s largest banks; did my first “keynote”; hired a virtual assistant; attended DreamForce in San Francisco (along with 169,999 other people – yikes!), and the list goes on. Throughout the year, every time I hesitated over an idea or potential opportunity I said to myself “DARE” and amazing things happened.
For 2017 I chose the word LEARN. One thing that became crystal clear to me throughout my year of daring, was that I needed to know a lot more about a lot more things! The word “learn” comes from Old English meaning “to get knowledge, be cultivated; study, read, think about” but also from the Proto-Germanic meaning “to follow or find the track”. So through my studying, reading and thinking, I aimed to identify my path for 2018 and beyond. I began with researching and then crafting a 3-year plan (with the assistance of Stephanie Coldwell and the support of the Centre for Women in Business). And it worked again! With a focus on learning throughout the year, I attended more workshops, events, webinars (including a life-changing, 100-day marketing seminar with Seth Godin) than ever before. And when things got stressful or failed completely, I asked myself, “What can I learn from this experience?”
My word for 2018 was IMPERFECT and it makes me laugh to write about it now. The intent was to acknowledge my perfectionist streak and prevent it from getting in my way; I intended to move past “But it’s not perfect.” to “Here it is. What do you think?” And I did do this, launching several new courses as well as forcing myself to make and share video content. But the real power of this word appeared more in my personal life. During the year I juggled responsibilities as a daughter-in-law, caring for my mother-in-law and the family as they came to terms with her dementia and the necessity of moving her to full-time care, along with my responsibilities as wife/partner/friend to husband David, whose diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s began to impact our daily lives in surprising (often hilarious) ways.
In 2019 I settled on the simplest of words – BE. And this little word brought with it peace. I was challenged at home, as dementia took centre stage, continually creating moments of joy … and frustration. I often found myself completely overwhelmed, feeling frozen in the moment and unable to do anything. Then I’d remember my word – BE. I told myself, usually out loud, that all was well in that moment. That I was safe, smart and capable, in that moment. That whatever decision I made, in that moment, would be the right one. What happened? I found a magical space, a space where worry, stress and self-doubt vanished. I’d heard and read about this space for years, practicing both meditation and yoga believing these were the keys to be-ing. And while they are certainly an important part of the journey, finding my own “be” happened because I be-lieved in its existence.
This led me to my word for 2020. Again it was another very simple word that comes from the Old English and means “not closed down, raised up” and also “exposed, evident, well-known, public”. The word was … OPEN. In 2020 I wanted to remain open … to change, opportunity, input, advice, help, ideas and possibilities. I couldn’t have chosen a better word for what became, for all of us, a year filled with the unexpected.
My first very clear memory of 2020 is of a chilly Saturday morning in January. I was out early, getting groceries and listening to the news on CBC. There was an interview with a family in lockdown in Wuhan, China. I remember thinking, “How difficult. So glad that won’t ever happen here.”
The next moment I likely won’t ever forget took place at noon on Friday, March 13. I had just finished a two-hour, in-person workshop and was walking to my car, checking my email. In the space of a few moments, my booking cancellations added up to $21,000. I was too astonished to be frightened.
Being OPEN became the best way for me to walk through 2020. Like you, I was open to wearing a mask, restricting my time with family, friends and colleagues, and changing how I work with clients. This openness brought me some of the most exciting work I’ve ever done. One project, with a tight deadline, involved creating a customized national training program for hundreds of consultants in both official languages. Also, by working with graphic designer Amy Harrison, and with the assistance and endless creativity of my colleague Linda Daley, I began the launch of my new brand, InspireConversation.
I was also open to the constant change Alzheimer’s brings into my world. As my husband’s disease accelerates, each day holds a new challenge for him and for us. Fortunately, I’ve always enjoyed a good challenge. It’s impossible to be perfect in this situation but being “open” allowed me to find surprising opportunities to learn new skills and love someone beyond what I thought possible.
In 2021 my word was THANKS. I aimed to truly acknowledge the circumstances, people, organizations and companies that contribute to my blessed life.
I’ve developed a deeper clarity and understanding of my great privilege and good fortune. I’m the first generation in my family to go to university. I have more financial security than my parents (or my grandparents) ever thought possible. I’ve continued to have clients who keep returning, allowing me to enter my 35th year as an entrepreneur. And there are always neighbours and friends who bring meals, show up for walks, enjoy long conversations. There are colleagues who help with projects, offer stellar advice, and genuine support for every part of my life.
My intent with this one word was to show up here and confirm that I had personally thanked 365 people. Hmmm. I’m not confident this was accomplished. The daily routine of thanking someone disappeared quickly in the bustle of life. And I did not keep a record of the thanks I delivered. As I write this, I’m a bit disappointed. I believe I shared “thanks” at least 365 times, but likely several people received it multiple times. What I know to be true is that throughout the year I never took anything for granted, from long walks with close friends, to a freezer full of meals, to the support of colleagues on projects completed. I will include a special shout-out to Steve Foran, Gratitude at Work, for helping me stay grateful.
For the year ahead – 2022 – my word arrived instantly. It’s ACCEPT from Old French accepter (14c.) or directly from Latin acceptare “take or receive willingly.”
The challenges I faced this past year were amplified by my lack of acceptance. Or put another way, an energy-draining resistance to current circumstances.
A discussion paper recently published by the newly established Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation states that “One in four Canadians is a caregiver for someone with a long-term health condition, disability or need related to aging at some point in their lives.” I am currently one of these four.
My husband, David, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2017. As in most cases of Alzheimer’s, the disease was impacting him, and us, long before the diagnosis. Today, while he is still very mobile and certainly knows who I am, he does need help with the majority of day-to-day functions and his language is quite limited.
We do have help – an amazing caregiver and family and friends that are incredibly supportive.
I remain the primary caregiver. And there have been so many moments this past year where I’ve resisted this reality. Here’s an example: I’m in the kitchen, catching up on dishes. Or I’m doing one more load of laundry. I’m thinking about what I’d rather (or should) be doing. Writing for this blog perhaps, or working on a new slide deck for an upcoming webinar. This creates resistance and it makes me cranky, impatient and horribly unfocused.
When I simply accept that I’m doing laundry and that everything else that needs doing will get done, I have more focus … and more importantly, more energy.
The word accept also applies to my acknowledgement of my own humanity. My best example, embarrassingly so, happened earlier this month. During the 15-minutes break of an in-person workshop, I checked my email. There was a message from another client saying, “Where are you?”
Yup … I had agreed to do another workshop that day but put it into my calendar on the wrong date. While this is only the second time I’ve done this in 16 years, it still feels lousy. But resisting the reality burns energy and creates more stress. I called that client immediately and said, “I have no words,” which I didn’t. I heartily apologized and we’ve rescheduled. (Let’s hope Omicron doesn’t get in the way!)
In 2022 I want to accept what is and what’s possible, what’s loving and kind, what’s creative and what inspires great conversations.
I look forward to sharing the results with you in December 2022.
So, what’s your “one word” for 2022? Please share in the comment section below. And … Happy New Year!