Quarterly theming, an alternative to New Year’s Resolutions

Tom Tate
Tom Tate
Jan 5, 2017 · 3 min read
Photo Credit: Hope House Press — https://unsplash.com/photos/PJzc7LOt2Ig

I think the art of theming is a mystical life hack that very few people take advantage of.

A few years back, my aunts and a few family members were choosing their “one word” for the year. I thought this was an interesting concept. The idea was that reflecting on the single word would provide guidance, direction, power, and understanding in their life for the entirety of the year. I didn’t buy into it.

Then, at some point last year, I was listening to my favorite podcast on productivity, Productivityist Podcast, and host Mike Vardy was talking about his THREE words for the year, and how all of his projects for the year aligned around those words. I later found out that this practice was popularized by Chris Brogan. That made me a bit more excited. I could visualize how these words would not only impact the metaphysical/spiritual realm, but also permeate into personal, professional, and relational pursuits.

These words keep you on the path, and I’m a firm believer that the key to success is focusing on the path.

I still had a problem with the annual themes. Mapping out a whole year is too ambitious. I think it’s fine to set an annual goal, something to achieve. For me, life is too uncertain. I don’t know what’s coming my way. Family crisis, health issues, money probz, new house, new baby… you never know.

After years of setting annual goals, or resolutions, and not hitting them, I’ve changed my method. Long-term goals are unattainable for me unless I have reliable systems to sustain progress, and short-term goals to break up monolithic projects.

So, I did something fairly logical. I decided to apply the “Three Words” method to quarters, instead of the entire year. I started this last Fall, and so far, I’m really satisfied with the results.

Here were my words for Q4, 2016.




And here are my words for Q1, 2017.




They may not mean much to you, but that’s okay. They carry a lot of weight for me.

I won’t take the time to explain what they mean and how they’re guiding my efforts (probably best saved for another post,) but you may have noticed a trend. I’ve chosen to go down the alphabet.

These constraints… being forced to choose a word that corresponds to specific letter really forced me to think hard and dig deep to come up with the most powerful words. It would have been easy to just say, Create. Love. Faith., or Health. Productivity. Finances. Digging deeper yielded more meaningful words.

This is a new system that’s working for me. I wanted to document it and pass it on as a solid alternative to big rock resolutions (not that there’s anything wrong with those,) and wish you a wildly productive and fruitful 2017.

This post originally appeared on my recently revived, but forever in progress blog.

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