Choosing a Personal Word for 2018

It’s January 31st. How are your resolutions going? According to statistics, almost half of you who have made resolutions this year have already given up on them.


I did not make any resolutions this year. I can’t remember the last time I did so. When I was younger, the resolutions I made for myself were never realistic and I undoubtedly failed before February arrived, so I gave up on the whole charade.


Instead, I’ve decided to try something different. Rather than creating resolutions to change my habits, I have chosen a personal word to guide my life choices for the year.



Choosing a Personal Word for the Year


Why choose a word instead of making a resolution? A word can provide a broad overall lens to give you perspective during your goal- and decision-making processes throughout the year. It guides your focus and provides a sense of cohesion in the choices you make.


There are many different ways to choose your word for the year. You can start by first being inspired by some words, writing down your goals, and then pairing a word to match their overall theme. A Pair & a Spare has a great printable that can help you. Another way is to ask yourself what you need, write down a word list, and then write down your goals. Blessing Manifesting has a guide to help you choose your word in that manner.


How I Chose My Personal Word for 2018


I didn’t do either of these methods. My word came to me spontaneously and instinctively while driving home from work. I was listening to Simon Sinek speaking on a YouTube video. He talked about a study about gifted students.


According to Sinek, gifted students are constantly told how great they are for the accomplishments they’ve achieved by merit of their intellect. The study showed that these students suffer later in life because they are afraid to take risks and lose their position as being the best.


In fact, Sinek says it’s the average kids who are more successful because they are praised for their effort rather than their perfection. In their endeavors, there is never an ending point for them because they are taught that there is always room for improvement.


I was one of those kids who strove for and achieved the perfect academic score. I got straight A’s in high school and graduate school (but not college – I got my first C there). You show me the target and I am going to hit it. Sleep, healthy eating habits, and exercise be damned. When a big assignment was due, I was all in.


There are many problems with the mindset I shaped over the last twenty some years. First and foremost, I never thought about why I was going after the A. Somehow it validated me, even if I didn’t even like the subject I was studying. My reason for achievement was externalized rather than internalized.


Secondly, due to the external validation, none of my achievements meant that much to me personally. When I was a child, I did not dream of getting straight A’s. I dreamt of being a writer, a lawyer, or an interior designer. My dreams followed my interests, not the arbitrary levels of success set by other people. But I fed off the praise I received for getting good grades, and eventually my self-worth came from how well I did in school rather than how well I did in working toward goals of personal interest.


In addition, I gained a sense of entitlement. I thought that if I followed all the directions, wrote my answers in black or blue ink, and dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, I deserved to be successful. I expected being a good student to equal success and recognition in the workplace. My mindset was, “I played by rules and met every goal, now give me my reward.” I have since learned that’s not how life works.


By being content to do only what is needed to get that A in school or Highly Effective rating in my teacher evaluation, I never allowed myself to fail. My most persistent dream from childhood is to see my name on the spine of book, and yet I have spent more than twenty years since the conception of that dream actively not writing. I didn’t have enough life experience, I didn’t have enough time, I didn’t have the right idea, I didn’t know how to write a book… The excuses were bullshit. I was afraid to fail. I am afraid to fail.


In that car, listening to Simon Sinek talk about gifted students’ fear of failure, I knew what my word had to be. Risk. This is the year I will risk failure. I know I’m good at school. Now I want to see if I can be good at life, too.


My Year of Risk


What does a year of risk look like for me? Here are the goals I created using the personal word of risk as a guide.

  • Career: I will use new teaching strategies that are not in the curriculum. These will undoubtedly fail the first time I do them and I will learn from those experiences.
  • Friends: I will try new activities and meet new people to expand my social circle. I will meet people who won’t want to be my friend, but I will also meet people who will want to be my friend.
  • Health: I will do new exercise routines and try new healthy recipes that take me out of my comfort zone. I might not like all of them, but I will like some and will be working toward the healthy lifestyle I have already begun.
  • Personal Style: I will try on clothes in styles I have never considered before. I will look ridiculous in some clothes, but I might find a few gems I would have missed.
  • Personal Growth: I will learn to meditate. I will struggle at first and will want to quit, but I will eventually find fulfillment from my sessions.
  • Personal Interests: I will start a blog and publish my thoughts. Some people won’t like what I have to say. Other people will. It doesn’t matter, because I am practicing my writing.

What’s Your Personal Word?


The beauty of choosing a personal word is that you can do it at any time of the year. Have you chosen a personal word for the year? If so, what did you choose?

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