As yet another year comes to an end, many of us feel compelled to use the start of 2019 to reflect on how 2018 went. If we achieved set resolutions, it can feel positive or negative, depending on how you frame it. Although I no longer set resolutions like I used to when I was younger, I understand the appeal and the motivation behind the practice.
Resolutions help you start off the new year on track, achieve goals that have been looming over your head, or maybe even “force” you to try something new. Unfortunately, oftentimes resolutions come with feeling bad about ourselves if we don’t achieve them, which can then deter you from pursuing that goal or change in the first place.
With that in mind, let me introduce a different concept that may help you create a guiding force throughout the year without the pressure of hitting a bunch of benchmarks (note: if resolutions work for you, keep it up - no need to fix what isn’t broken!).
One of my cousins approached me shortly after the New Year last year and shared her “Word of the Year” concept. Each year, her and a bunch of her friends each pick one word that they want to focus on for the year. She asked me if I’d like to participate, and if so, what would my word be. Surprisingly (I tend to mull this type of stuff over), I immediately had the word ‘patience’ pop into my head and I determined that’s what I would practice for the next year.
Before I further explain the benefits of doing this versus resolutions, or just in general, I’d like to share my “Word of the Year” experience with you all so you have a better idea of how it might play out in your lives or what you might want to change if you decide to participate.
What I like so much about this practice is that it you can really focus on something more abstract, yet meaningful. I suppose I could have said that “I resolve to be more patient” as my resolution, but that wouldn’t grab me as much as framing it in my head as “This year, my word, my life, and my growth will be centered around patience.”
I decided to choose patience because I am anything BUT patient: anxious, Type A, want things immediately, lack patience for others, etc. I am a nightmare in the patience department. As a result, my mental health truly suffers, as do some of my closer interpersonal relationships. I also know that in order to be happy in this life it is helpful to be mindful and practice mindfulness when it comes to the present moment. If I’m so busy being impatient and wanting to get to the next item on my list or the next accolade or whatever “next” there is, I’m in complete opposition of being mindful, and by extension, happy.
Was I Successful?
I was not as successful in learning how to be more patient and enacting it in my daily life than I wanted, but I definitely improved. At the very least, I recognize that patience is something I need to work on, so now I will continue to do that. Through meditation, mindfulness, therapy, and identifying areas and situations that bring out my impatient tendencies, I slowly grew over time. I figure I’ve spent almost three decades being impatient, so it’s probably going to take at least a few years to even the scales.
Given that I still need to get better with patience, I’ve also decided that it will be my “Word of the Year” for this year too, along with flexibility. I think the two compliment each other pretty well, so I’m excited to see what growth is in store for me in 2019. While I do have my zen moments, I’m still a fiery, 100% Italiana, Leo (yes, I believe in astrology ;)) from New York (I use this list of traits a lot when explaining myself, but come on! The cards were stacked against me when it comes to patience haha), after all.
Benefits to “Word of the Year”
Of course, these benefits are subjective, but hopefully, they make sense! I found that picking a word was more fluid than resolutions because I didn’t have to hold myself to a rigid goal and/or plan to achieve success, but I still could if I wanted to. I also feel like focusing on a word and developing that skill or state of mind might lead to achieving other goals, like a domino effect, or vice versa (e.g., I want to be more patient -> I must meditate to achieve this goal; I want to be more empowered -> I picked up weight training to feel stronger; etc.).
Additionally, I enjoyed that I could fully personalize how I wanted to fulfill my dedication to the word ‘patience’ - I listed up above that I employed practices like mindfulness and meditation, but maybe for someone else it might involve their relationships with their children, or spending more time with an elderly parent, or really, any other way you can think of how our patience can be tested.
In my opinion, I find this practice to be more holistic than the type of resolution that I might pick for myself (e.g., don’t eat processed foods, lose X amount of pounds, learn a new instrument). If I can figure out how to be patient, that is going to make me a happier soul while on this planet far beyond what a low-level resolution that I would make for myself would be.
Lastly, and similarly to creating a resolution buddy, you can get a group of friends together to support one another, regardless of whether you pick the same words or not. You can all hold each other accountable in a way that works for you!
So, my readers, here’s to another year! I hope it is your best one yet :) For me, I am crossing my fingers that I will develop into a more flexible and patient being.
If you think you might want to pick a “Word of the Year” for yourself, share it in the comments below if you feel comfortable! I’d love to hear what you choose!