The Significance of Choosing a Word or a Theme for the new year
Depending on when you’ll read this blog post, you might just have ushered in a new year, or perhaps you’re gearing up for the next. Regardless, it’s a time when many of us engage in a meaningful ritual – selecting a “word or theme for the new year.” This tradition, more than a quaint practice, serves as a guiding beacon through the year’s journey. It’s akin to setting the GPS for your yearly travels; it’s not just about where you’re headed but how you choose to navigate there.
In my own journey, this practice has been a cornerstone. In previous years, my yearly themes like “People or Purpose” have served as daily reminders of my strong people-pleasing tendencies. “I’m in Love with My Future,” one of my all-time favorite themes, painted a daily outlook of the amazing journey ahead, instilling optimism and excitement. “Back to Work” was a nod to the collective struggle post-pandemic, and “Grateful Beyond Measure” to remind myself daily of the countless blessings, are just a few examples.
So, why does this practice matter, at least to me? Selecting a yearly theme or word provides me with a sense of focus and direction–an anchor in the vast sea of life’s possibilities. It’s a tool for goal setting, personal growth, and professional development. It offers a way to streamline decisions, align actions with values, and keep sight of your overarching aspirations.
Yet, you might also wonder, “Maybe this is just another fleeting trend?” Does it bind us in chains of unrealistic expectations?
Engaging the Conscious and Subconscious Mind
Psychologically, the process of choosing a word or theme is grounded in the power of mindfulness and intention. Both concepts are rooted in the science of how our brains work.
Mindfulness — Breaking the Autopilot Mode
In our daily lives, many of our actions and decisions are made almost automatically without conscious thought. Mindfulness disrupts this pattern by bringing our attention and awareness to the present moment. When we practice mindfulness, we engage our conscious mind actively, focusing on our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Doing so moves us away from an unconscious, reflexive mode of operation to a more deliberate and aware state of mind. This heightened awareness is crucial when choosing a theme for the year, as it enables us to connect with our true intentions, desires, and values. In the context of selecting a word or theme for the new year, this means carefully considering what truly matters to us rather than making a hasty or superficial choice.
Intention — Crafting your Blue Print
Setting an intention is akin to programming your subconscious mind, steering your thoughts and actions toward your chosen focus. Our subconscious mind plays a crucial role in shaping our behavior and decision-making processes. It’s constantly at work, interpreting and reacting to situations based on past experiences and learned behaviors. This aspect of the mind is less about deliberate thought and more about instinctive, automatic responses. When you set an intention, you’re essentially programming your subconscious mind. This process involves more than just making a conscious decision; it’s about aligning your deeper, often unspoken, desires and beliefs with your conscious goals.
Crafting Your Compass with the Right Word or Theme for the New Year
WHAT TO DO
- Reflect Deeply: Spend time in introspection to understand what truly matters to you.
- Align with Goals: Ensure your word or theme aligns with your personal and professional objectives.
- Be Realistic: Choose a theme that is achievable and resonates with your current life situation.
- Seek Inspiration: Look to books, art, nature, or mentors for ideas that spark your interest.
- Write it Down: Document your thought process and final choice to solidify your commitment.
- Embrace Flexibility: Be open to adapting your theme as the year progresses and circumstances change.
- Share Your Choice: Discuss your theme with friends or colleagues for additional perspective and accountability.
WHAT NOT TO DO
- Don’t Rush the Process: Avoid making a hasty decision without adequate reflection.
- Avoid Overambition: Steer clear of themes that are too grandiose or unattainable.
- Don’t Follow Trends Blindly: Resist the temptation to choose a theme just because it’s popular.
- Don’t Neglect Personal Relevance: Avoid picking a theme that doesn’t genuinely resonate with your personal values.
- Don’t Set It and Forget It: Avoid choosing a theme and not integrating it into your daily life.
- Don’t Ignore Intuition: Don’t overlook your gut feelings about what theme is right for you.
- Avoid Negativity: Steer clear of themes that foster negative mindsets or outlooks.
Daily Anchors: Keeping Your Word or Theme for the new year in Active Practice
However, I bet you are well aware that as we navigate the relentless currents of daily life, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the compass we set for ourselves. In the whirlwind of our routines, the best of intentions can quickly fade into the background, overshadowed by the urgent demands of the moment. Life, with its unpredictable twists, can shift dramatically in milliseconds – a sudden work crisis, personal challenges, or even global events can disrupt our focus and divert us from our path. To counter this, we need practical, innovative strategies to keep our yearly theme not just in memory but in active practice. By embedding reminders of your word or theme for the new year into the fabric of your everyday life, you can better hold onto that guiding star, even amidst life’s most tumultuous storms.
- Custom Phone Wallpaper: Design a phone wallpaper that features your word or theme for the new year.
- Screen Saver on Computer or TV: Set your computer or TV screen saver to display your word or theme or pick images that represent it.
- Calendar Reminders: Set daily reminders in your calendar or on your phone to reflect on your word or theme each morning.
- Custom Journal: If you’re a journaling enthusiast, order a journal with your word or theme printed on the cover.
- Bookmark Creation: If you’re an avid reader, create a bookmark with your word or theme, which you’ll see every time you read.
- Themed Artwork: Create or purchase artwork that resonates with your theme, serving as a visual reminder in your living or workspace.
- Personalized Stickers: Design and order stickers with your word or theme to adorn your computer, laptop, notebook, or car dashboard, keeping it in sight at all times.
- Customized Accessories: Wear a bracelet, pendant, or other accessories that mention or symbolize your word or theme.
- Email Signature: If you can, include your word or theme in your email signature. This not only reminds you of your theme but also shares it with others.
- Social Media Integration: If you can and want to share, use your theme as a hashtag in your social media posts or create a dedicated post each month about how you are living out your theme.
WONDERING ABOUT MY WORD OR THEME FOR THE NEW YEAR?
Now, you might be wondering about my choice for the upcoming year, 2024. Do you? Really?
This year, my theme emerged from a deeply thought-provoking experience. It was during the Trusted Leader Summit, an event I had the honor of speaking at and attending. Among the many insights shared, one particular moment stood out to me—a CEO’s recounting of his last conversations with his father in hospice. It was a narrative that struck a chord, not just for its emotional depth but for the profound question his father posed to him after he shared some of the common worries related to his work:
“What on Earth are you chasing?”
But it wasn’t just the question itself; it was the nuanced way it was presented by the CEO, encouraging us to emphasize a different word each time we ask ourselves this question:
- “WHAT on Earth are you chasing?”
- “What ON EARTH are you chasing?”
- “What on earth are YOU chasing?”
- “What on earth are you CHASING?”
This question, in all its forms, resonated with me, leading to a realization that I didn’t have clear answers to all its variations. Therefore, for 2024, my journey is to discover these answers. It’s a theme that invites exploration into what I am genuinely seeking in life, professionally and personally. It’s a quest for clarity and purpose, a year dedicated to understanding the depths of my aspirations and the essence of my pursuits.
For you, I hope this theme inspires a similar journey of discovery. Whether you’ve already chosen your word or theme, or are still in the process, may it lead to meaningful reflections and purposeful actions.