Each year, millions, with the best intentions, promise to make the New Year “the best year yet”. Resolutions are confidently written down without plans to make them work. Losing weight, saving more money, or starting a new business are all resolutions made and usually discarded before the New Year has turned a week old. After a rousing chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” has been sung, reality hits many that resolutions from last year are being recycled without accomplishing any of the goals listed.
Several years ago, I stopped making resolutions of things I wanted to do in the New Year. My lists of lists were out. I began focusing on a word to define what I wanted to achieve in life instead of lists of resolutions. In 2008, because of the election, the words hope and change were everywhere. Our country was feeling hopeless and many were begging for leadership that would inspire them to change. I had bought hope and change letters and plastered them all over my office wall. I was hoping for big changes in my life. The elections of 2008 did change how our country was defined around the world. Many Americans never thought they would be alive to see the historic day. 2008 changed my how I defined what I wanted in life and what I wanted from my life. I began to be focused and intentional in every area of my life.
In 2009, my word choice that year was pray. I was on bended knees daily. Because of my prayer life, I saw the word pray everywhere I turned. I saw the word on bumper stickers, on billboards, on tee shirts, and key rings. One day, I saw the word on a hot air balloon floating over park. At that point, I realized what I focused on in life, was where I put my energy. My energy output determined what I got out of life. If I wanted positive outcomes, I had to focus on them. Intentionally. Choosing a word as my focus vs. writing down a list of ‘wants’, was beginning to make sense to me. I went to God in prayer morning, noon, and night determined that my resolutions I sought would come through HIM.
When I read through my journals from 2009, the outcome of my year of prayers was not a “fixed” person but a woman who had become more discerning in life and who grown into a prayer warrior. There were changes in my life but the biggest change was how I defined my prayer life. Amen.
Because of the previous year, my word choice in 2010 was family. That year, the health of my grandmother, mother, and father took drastic turns. My children also threw me a few curve balls along the way. With the word family boldly nailed to my wall, my family was my focus, mentally and physically. I made no apologies to anyone. I was not just praying daily but I was in a constant state of movement from one family situation to another. 2010 seemed as if crisis was the word I chose. By the time 2010 ended, I knew the importance of having frank conversations with family members about their wishes if they are unable to take care of themselves without hemming and hawing. I also shared my wishes as well. Years before, I would have considered those conversations off limits but now I call it being responsible. When you know better, you do better.
2010 was a year of putting out family fires. In 2011, I sought peace. Mind, body, and spirit. I wanted nothing to do with drama; personally, socially, or professionally. I did not avoid conflicts but I did not embrace them either. I had one Christmas tree that year. All of the ornaments had the word peace on them. In 2011, I said the word peace every day. The more I said the word, the more God showed me contention that needed to be addressed. Ask and it shall be given, right? I took an inventory of people in my life, including family, and looked at my extracurricular activities, and drew boundaries. If my activities were not necessary for my survival and were not meeting real needs by serving others, those activities were curtailed or cutoff all together. Almost instantly, peace in abundance came to me as I put my time and energy into doing things that were truly benefiting others and gave me a sense of purpose. The more I looked for peace, the more I saw my personal goals come together. As I cut out strife and confusion, the more opportunities were revealed to me. Being focused allowed me not to allow distractions to block a blessing. In the summer of 2011, I began producing, Living Your Best Life radio show. I was given more than I ever hoped or imagined.
In December of 2011, a friend and book club member, Catherine Ramsey, wanted to give books for Christmas gifts to a Girl Scout Troop. Being avid book readers, the club embraced her idea and set about planning a party for the Troop. I dressed as my favorite character, Ms. Santa, I read to the Girl Scouts. Catherine asking me to read to the girls led me to choose the word read to focus on 2012.
In 2012, I began reading at elementary schools regularly and visiting a nursing home monthly. No matter how packed my schedule was, nothing interfered with me sharing adventures from a book with my special friends. Visiting my favorite schools and nursing home was me being intentional with my volunteer time. I took my time with them seriously and so did my special friends that I was reading too.
Most of 2012 seemed to involve reading books in one aspect or another. From being in a book club with women I have grown to respect and admire greatly; to numerous authors as guests on Living Your Best Life; to attending book signings around the country; to traveling with the First Lady of TN, Crissy Haslam, as she promoted her reading and early education initiatives; to being asked to co-author a book series with Milestone Publishing that feature co-authors, George Foreman and George C. Fraser; to close friends opening a book store, Eastside Story; my personal passion for reading books had taken on a life of its own. I read every genre too; faith, children, mystery, art, history, how-to, fix-me, fix-him. You name the subject, I read it. I was not reading to read, I was reading because I actually love reading. My focus on books took me from reading to others to being read by others. Milestone Publishing asked me to write several more books. I was also given the green light to produce two more radio shows for XM Radio. God is good!
Now, I am seasoned with better understanding about my word I focus on each year. I have learned that when I chose a word, my word choice petitions an action from me. The word pray meant praying prayers. The word hope meant believing change would happen. As I look back at how each word brought transformation in my life, I realize how each year prepared me for the next chapter of my life. Each year, some more excruciating than others, was in deed my best year.
This year, 2013, the word give speaks loudly to me. Several phrases kept repeating themselves over and over; “Give abundantly;” “Givers gain;” “Giving and Living;” and “Too much is given, much is required;” “Never give up.” “Forgive as you have been forgiven”. "Living and Giving".
I do not know what is in store for me but I love the foundation that each word has given me to face the challenges and the excitement of a New Year. Will you join me on my journey? Chose a word and embrace it in 2013.
An edited version of this story was first published in the Jan/Feb Issue of Mocha Market Magazine.