photo by Wave

Which 3 Words Will Shape Your Year?

Well, it’s that dreaded time of year when resolutions are made and broken faster than a date on Tinder.

Sometimes a jump start is what we need to move in the right direction.

In this vein, Jenny Xenos, a fellow coach whom I met on a cruise two years ago shared an approach that I liked right away. She’s been kind enough to let me share it here, and you can read more in her blog post. What I like about her approach is that it’s simple, quick and fun!

Jenny plays a game where she chooses three words to shape her year. Words that express how you want to feel and have a deeper resonance and a ripple effect that makes it easier to come up with goals or actions that stick. I spent a few minutes on New Year’s Day playing her game and came up with three words of my own. Here they are:

Physical. Intentional. Alive

But what do they mean? Let me explain. Physical is about feeling good in my body and out there in the physical world. I had a few aches and pains that I finally started to take care of, but in the meantime, my exercise schedule went by the wayside and now there’s now more middle-age spread spreading than I would like. So, this word captures my desire to feel good in my physical body and to move about and exercise more. The second part of it is that we live in a physical world and exploring natural beauty is high on my list of things to do because it’s where I connect most deeply with my highest self. So feeling good physically will allow me to hike, climb (gently), and skip over streams…that sort of thing.

Being intentional is about making choices that are aligned with my values and path. Jenny makes a good point about there being so much good stuff out there to consume that we can get overwhelmed. So, for example, I will be more intentional about how much time I spend on Facebook, reading articles, or watching Netflix. No matter how fascinating ( or distracting) these things can be, they come at the expense of other things I could be doing.

Please note, this is not an endorsement to be productive every moment of the day! I think productivity and getting things done at the expense of well-being is overrated and can be stressful. Instead, it is about slowing down and making intentional choices that resonate more deeply. It’s about making conscious choices that may very well include watching something on Netflix or spending a few minutes flipping through my Instagram feed mindfully.

This leads me to my third word: alive. This is a hard one to describe but it’s really about being in the unfolding now. Let me dissect that. Most human beings, including myself, spend too much time living in the past or fantasizing about the future. But our lives only happen now, in this the present moment. The more we can connect with each moment the more a sense of aliveness.

Whether I’m sipping a cup of green tea, conversing with a friend, or walking down the street, I can do so as mindfully as I can, paying attention to what is happening around me. Another part of being “alive” is accepting everything as it happens and being resilient in the face of unpleasant experiences. Being alive does not mean feeling good all the time, though feeling great or ecstatic or excited or curious or joyful are all very much part of being alive.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

There’s one more crucial piece to being alive and that is captured in the quote by above. Thurman reminds us that what makes us come alive is the richest ground to dig to find out whom we’re meant to be and how we can best serve others.

So, there you have it. Three simple words I can easily remember that I want to shape my year ahead. I’ve written them down in my journal and will create an online vision-board to save on my phone.

Now, you may be asking: how do I get to my three words? Well here’s what I suggest. Find some time when you’re relaxed and don’t have anything on your agenda– that includes any tasks or having to be around other people. Have a journal handy and just ask yourself the question: What three words do I want to shape my year? As Jenny writes: “Don’t over think it. Just feel your way into it…” This is exactly the right approach, for this game is about being intuitive rather than analytical.

Think of it as brainstorming. Just write down whatever words pop into your head without judgment. Keep writing until you’re done. Depending on how many words you’ve got you may find that some are similar and can be crossed off your list.

When you’re down to about nine to eleven words (you may have fewer), I recommend that you stand up and say each word out loud to yourself. That’s why it’s good to do this exercise on your own, so you won’t be disturbed or risk getting strange looks, pets excluded. When I did this, I noticed that I would express certain words with more enthusiasm than others. I repeated this and lo; certain words just seemed to energize me more. This meant I had to drop some words I was initially more attached to, but this is why saying them out loud is crucial–the words will resonate from a deeper place than if you “think” them. After repeating this for three rounds, I had my three words in about a minute.

Now, write down your three words and say each one out loud. After you say each word just see what comes up for you in terms of the meaning they convey. It may be an image, an action, a feeling or a sense of purpose. I’ve shared what came up for me with my three words and they nicely integrate a whole bunch of different things that have been bobbing about subconsciously, and through this game, floated to the surface.

I think the whole exercise took me about half an hour, so it’s not a huge time commitment. If you’re not sure you have the right word, don’t worry too much about it. Sleep on it, and I can assure you that the right word will reveal itself when you’re ready for it.

Anchored by my three words, I am now able to think through some actions, or ways of being that will align with my true self. Even if you haven’t got it all figured out (who does?) the universe, a young child, or even that grumpy work colleague, will deliver what you need. Sometimes it will simply be a reminder to stay true to what matters most to you. At other times, you might be called to embrace a broader concept of what your chosen words mean for you.

However they show up, they bring with them opportunities for growth and change that can make the year ahead your most fulfilling yet.
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Having a person who can hold a space for you and help you stay true to what matters most is invaluable. Sometimes this means holding up the mirror and letting you know, without judgment, that you’re off course. This person also holds you accountable and encourages you to take risks that you would find challenging to embrace on your own, but that will help you shape your year–and your life–the way you want, whatever your circumstances or stumbling blocks. Such a person is called a coach and is your ally. I’m a trained coach. If you’d like to explore working with me to have the life you want now, and not put it off any longer, email me now (yassir@yassirislam.com). Jenny Xenos can be reached here.