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Do These 3 Things to Guarantee a Year of Massive Growth

Each year I choose 3 words to guide my year. A look at how my 2017 words held up, and what they gave me.

This is Part 1 in a series sharing my lessons and reflections from 2017.

The Tradition of My Three Words

Since 2011 I have followed Chris Brogan’s tradition of choosing 3 words to guide my year. In the past, I have shared those words publicly on New Year’s Day.

I’m not quite ready to reveal my 2018 words. After leading my year-end reflection ritual twice in the last 10 days of the year, I’m just digging into my personal process. Stay tuned here for the reveal in the coming weeks.

As part of my year-end review, I like to evaluate how my words held up over the year. Some years, my words really did not really serve me, and I was eager to move on from them. Other years, the words created a strong guiding force. And some years could be defined by any of the words I chose.

2017 fits into that last category.

So before I move forward, let’s take a look back.

The Context for My 2017 Words

First, some context. My 2016 words were: Voice. Energy. Grace. I loved these words so much that engraved my iPad with them. They form part of a mantra of sorts:

Live your truth.
Voice. Energy. Grace. Trust.

Conspicuously displayed on the back of the device I use for most of my writing, they continue to serve as a guiding force for my work. I will admit that I was reluctant to move on from them.

It took me a long time to come to my 2017 words; I had never struggled in that way with my process. I reminded myself that it would defeat the purpose of the exercise to choose random words; better to be “late” with my choice than to choose words that were not aligned with my desires.

My 2017 Words: Release. Open. Trust.

My 2017 words were:

Release. Open. Trust.

The question is:

Do they stand up looking back the way I hoped they would when I was looking forward?

I am proud to say that they do. It looks like taking my time to select the right words paid off. Any one of these words could define my life in 2017. Let’s take a look.


2017 was a year in which I learned to let it all go. I released my expectations of other people, and those that I felt others had of me. I even released some of the expectations I had of myself.

I stopped caring so much about what other people think about what I do and what I say. I released myself from the need to conform to what other people think I should be and do, and even to what I think I should be and do.

In my second attempt at decluttering my home (a project I started in 2016), I finally made substantial progress. I released more than half my wardrobe and other possessions. I got rid of old furniture that I haven’t liked for years. Over 2 years after first having the spark to sell my home, I took the first steps toward releasing it by putting it on the market.

I continued with my release of things that weren’t serving me. Most famously, I stopped checking Facebook for an entire year (2016 gets some credit for this one). I stopped listening to podcasts (sorry, everyone whose podcasts I love).

Something I thought might never happen: I stopped watching TV — I haven’t turned on my TV since May 29. I was a prolific TV-watcher, so this was huge.

I released attachments to form — i.e., what something would look like to be a “success” or meet my expectation for the goal. I released my need to know “how it will work out,” or even if it will work out.

Recognizing that control is an illusion, I released my need to control every situation or other people. I released my need to know the answers or share the answers. I released the need to do it perfectly, or the “right” way, or the “best practices” way. Releasing the need to “do it all” on my own, I learned to ask for and receive help.

For years, I lived deep beneath layers of masks and armor. They were my protection, and also my prison; they kept me separated from myself and from others, they kept my heart locked up, hampering my ability to love and be loved. In 2017, I released that suit of armor.

I released the need to make other people comfortable by pretending that everything was “ok” or “fine” when it didn’t feel that way to me. I released the need to reign in my emotions to what made others comfortable. I released the expectation that I should only speak about happy things because that’s what people want to read or hear. I learned to live for myself.

I released the habit of escape. In allowing myself to be with the pain of emotions, I released them. In cultivating a consistent practice of self-love and self-compassion, and deepening in the skill of forgiveness, I released toxic anger and resentment that had been building in my body.

In 2017, I shed the identity that I had outgrown. I shed relationships that no longer served me. I released the need to make others happy at the expense of my own well-being.

I released a lot of debt — both financial and emotional.

I released the safety lines on new tricks on the flying trapeze and on the trampoline. I released thousands of words and thoughts bottled up inside me and previously restrained in my digital archives.

Most of what I released I did from a place of desire and intention; I wanted to get rid of those things. But not always. Certain friendships faded. And my Grandpa died.

Through all of it, I learned that we find freedom only when we are willing to let go.

(I’ll share more lessons in a future article.)


Through all of the releasing, I opened.

I opened to a new way of living and leading: a more feminine way, not dictated by clocks and calendars or the hectic pace of the hustle.

I opened to possibility and to the divine plan.

I opened to love and intimacy in new ways. I opened to the magic of shared experiences.

I opened my heart. I allowed myself to go within, to examine what was there, and then I opened it to others. I opened to the depths of feelings I never before knew how to feel. I opened to emotions that were not always pleasant but were always necessary.

I opened my soul. I allowed myself to be vulnerable, to be seen in my truth. I allowed others to see all of me, in my rawest of raw states, so that perhaps in my experience they would find a light to light their path. I opened myself fully and completely to being in mystery.

I opened my home: to houseguests, to the world through my first live broadcasts, to potential buyers, and to the women who participated in my first sacred circle.

I opened my deepest wounds to clear them out. I went into the deepest of the deep places, going so far that the only way to emerge is to come through the other side.

At times, I broke open so much that it felt like my heart was beating outside my chest like all of me was exposed. The experience was often uncomfortable and scary, overwhelming and painful. I sometimes wondered if I had broken open too much.

In the end, I came to learn that we cannot love fully unless we open. What we refuse to examine and acknowledge in our own experience becomes a block to experiencing true intimacy and connection with others. The depths to which we are willing to feel are the depths at which we are able to heal.


There can be no release and no opening without trust.

In 2017 I resolved to put in place the structures necessary for me to finally expand my business in the way I had envisioned for the past few years. (More on this to come soon.)

This next iteration of my business requires a deeper level of awareness and a higher level of consciousness. This required me to pull back in order to move forward. It required me to go deep within, often for long stretches, shutting out the outside world.

I had to hold space for myself like never before. I knew I had to say no to clients now so that I could do the work necessary to a place where I can serve more effectively in the future. This necessarily created a lot of tension: financial flow, expectations, the inevitableness of disappointing people.

Time and again, I was called on to trust: in the divine, in others and in myself. Most of all, in myself.

When I faced fear and doubt, I replaced it with trust and faith. I incorporated new rituals and expanded others.

I learned to ask for help — requiring me to trust others.

I shared more of my writing than ever before. In a nod back to my 2016 words, I shared my authentic voice and spoke my truth, trusting that truth is like a bat signal: it will resonate with those who can hear it. I trusted the unseen world of the internet with some of my deepest and rawest emotions and most intimate experiences.

As I released thousands of words into the wild, I trusted they would land with the right person who needed to read or hear that message at that time.

I learned to listen to the voice of my inner wisdom and trust her guidance. I learned to alchemize fear into faith.

Through this past year, through the darkest of times, I found a way to ground in trust.

I learned that trust is what creates the roots of my tree. The more I grounded in it, the more I was able to stand through the storms of chaos that ripped through the year.

Through a deepening in my self-trust, I found a resilience in myself that I never saw before. With every storm, my trust grew deeper roots.

As I cultivated a deeper level of trust, especially in myself, I learned that resilience isn’t just the ability to bounce back from the storm, but the ability to remain standing in the midst of the storm, as if the storm wasn’t even happening. At times, that’s how I felt: political, environmental, and cultural storms raged around me, and I stood in the middle of it, calm and centered, rooted in trust.

How Do You Measure Your Year?

The year did not unfold as I planned or visioned; they never do. For all I wrote this year about how the year was rough and throwing me for a loop, from this perspective, it’s starting to look like it was a spectacular year.

My words held up. They held me. They shaped me. They guided me through a year of massive growth.

These words served me well.

In a year of trial by fire, they rose to the occasion, and through their guidance, I rose.

If you’re looking for a year of growth, this is a winning formula:

Release. Open. Trust.

How do you frame your year looking forward? Do you look back to see if your strategy worked? What lens do you put on to view your growth? I’d love to hear what you do. Please share in the comments.

Thank you for reading. This was originally published on my personal blog at